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TV Review: 3 Lbs. Series Premiere

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Whatever else you might think about it, you have to admit 3 Lbs. is an extremely cool title for a TV series. It's utilitarian, it's ambiguous, and it's mysterious enough to pique your curiosity. And when you find out the title refers to the average weight of the human brain, you're hooked, and all the producers of this series have to do is reel you in.

Or maybe not.

Actually, 3 Lbs. was pitched to the networks for the 2005-06 season, but didn't make the cut. Apparently, it was a darker, more cynical pilot with Dylan McDermott in the lead role. That's not unusual. Producers frequently rework pilots to get the concept on the air. It worked for Star Trek, after all. 3 Lbs. was re-written and recast, with Stanley Tucci replacing McDermott in the role of iconoclastic neurologist, and it was in the wings to be a midseason replacement.

That was before the fiasco Smith left CBS scrambling for a viable property to fill that prime time real estate. And so it is that 3 Lbs. has been bumped up to a 14 November premiere.

If this premiere episode is any indication, 3 Lbs. may sneak in to become a sleeper hit. The set-up is simple: an idealistic neurosurgeon, Dr. Jonathan Seger (Mark Feuerstein), lands a job at a renowned neurological center, finds himself at odds with the hospital's chief, Dr. Douglas Hansen (Stanley Tucci). Hansen has a nuts and bolts approach to his work, often referring to the brain as "wires in a box." Seger, on the other hand, sees the brain in a more spiritual way. As a balancing point, Dr. Adrianne Holland (Indira Varma), who may or may not have been physically involved with Hanson, makes it clear she finds Seger…intriguing.
The plot of this episode, involving a teenage violinist with a brain tumor, is secondary to the dialogue between the three principals. This is a story hinging more on the cerebral than the visual, more concerned with questions of ethics than splashy storytelling. It moves at a leisurely pace, unconcerned with the cliffhanger before the commercial break.

Viewers expecting something akin to House will be surprised when they view 3 Lbs. Where the former takes a cavalier approach to the medical mystery, 3 Lbs. focuses more on the frailty of the human element. It's more character driven than plot driven, and as such, it raises more than a few questions about motivations.

If 3 Lbs. doesn't get bogged down in proselytizing, it has the potential to be a provocative series. The pilot sets it up nicely, and one can only hope it remains true to its principles.

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About Ray Ellis

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  • rai seregor

    finally theirs quality tv that’s not on pbs