Here’s the setup: An old, extremely poor hospital is kept afloat by the department of one doctor, a neurosurgeon. The fact that he’s able to keep the entire place afloat and is absolutely brilliant allows him to be a complete jerk to the vast majority of people he comes in contact with, be they patients or colleagues. He would certainly argue against any of his co-workers being referred to as “peers” as he’s so far ahead of them. The doctor in question is also troubled by his own inner demons and possible medical issues.
No, his name is not House; House isn’t a neurosurgeon, he’s an infectious disease specialist, but other than that, there are certainly valid comparisons to be made. In this case, the doctor in question is Doug Hanson, played by the generally superb Stanley Tucci, in CBS’s new medical drama, 3 Lbs.
Hanson is ably assisted by the “new guy” at the hospital, Jonathan Seger (Mark Feuerstein), and by Dr. Adrianne Holland (Indira Varma). Even though Tucci may be the star, the story is told mainly through the eyes of Seger — we are introduced to the hospital and its intricacies at the same time he is. Seger, if you will, plays the heart to Hanson’s brain. It quickly becomes clear that it is Seger’s job to explain to the patients the details of the surgeries and the diseases as Hanson is far too busy stoking his ego. Feuerstein plays his part well, even if his “fish-out-of-water” character feels moderately bland. It is unclear what earns Seger the right to be in this most prestigious neural program.
Hanson, on the other hand, is quite clearly made out to be the best in his field, and would happily tell anyone as much. Interestingly, this aspect of Hanson’s character is slightly lessened in the third episode of the season. He seems to greatly care for a return patient he treats in this episode. He still absolutely believes he can beat the odds and save a patient in a cutting-edge surgery, but he is happy to take the time to explain the procedure to her and even goes on a walk with her to do so, rather than rushing through it in his office.
This softening of his character so early on feels very much at odds with what the audience is presented in the first episode. There is a single scene in the premiere that indicates he treats some patients with more respect than he initially shows, but it doesn’t come out as one of the stronger scenes in the pilot. On the whole, this aspect of his character does make Hanson far more of a three dimensional individual instead of a gross caricature of a surgeon.
As for Holland, she is more interested in diagnosing and studying neurological diseases and disorders and attempting to avoid surgery (presumably much to Hanson’s chagrin). Her character is not as well drawn at this point as that of Feuerstein’s or Tucci’s. She does have a storyline in the third episode that revolves around her falling for one of her patients, but outside of that breach of ethics, and some flirting with Seger early in the first episode, we are mostly left to wonder as to her character. One hopes her personal life and character will involve to be more than just about those men she falls for (not that Seger’s or Hanson’s is much more at this point either).
The last of the four series' regulars is Dr. Flores, played by Armando Riesco. Though his part does grow moderately from episode to episode, at this point, not much about him can be determined at all, save that he exists. He doesn’t seem to do anything more on the show than monitor the vitals of patients and keep an eye on patients’ families.
The show is quite flashy, and opens with a fantastic computer-generated effect illustrating the neural problem of the main patient in the first episode. The second and third episodes open with similar scenes, and while they don’t quite elucidate the disease or issue, they do make for some pretty spiffy television. As it is stated early on in the series, Hanson’s portion of the hospital makes money hand over fist, allowing them to have the fanciest and finest of machinery to use and abuse. There are times when it feels as though the machinery exists far more for the televisual factor than for the medical benefit (touch-screen MRI/CT scan monitors, for instance). Even so, it does work on screen.
Between Tucci, Feuerstein, Varma, and its flashy look, 3 Lbs. certainly has enough going for it early on to intrigue audiences. It looks and feels like a fun, interesting show, even if I’m convinced much of the “cutting-edge” medicine is more pipe dream than practical. The first three episodes absolutely have the ability to captivate. The medical portions are not terribly dramatic at this point, the outcomes of the cases are clear well in advance of their resolution in the script, but there is still enough pomp and circumstance present to provide interest.
3 Lbs. premieres Tuesday night, November 14, at 10 pm on CBS.