TNT isn’t a natural home to new drama. The network, once a home to pro-wrestling matches, managed to cancel just about every original drama series it commissioned before they’d even got to the end of the first season (cf Babylon 5: Crusade), with the slight exception of Witchblade.
All that’s a thing of the past. It now has shows like The Closer, which are chugging along nicely, a new minimalist catchphrase, “We know drama”, and another original series called Saved.
On the one hand, TNT should be applauded for its bravery. Saved verges on HBO-territory here, dealing with a paramedic, Wyatt Cole (Tom Everett Scott), who has a gambling addiction and a crappy existence. There’s no comedy, no moment of revelation when the hero realises he has to change his life for the better. He just lurches from one crisis to another, unwilling to do anything that would get him out of the gutter he knows.
Neither are there any other likeable characters. The paramedics he works with aren’t especially nice either. His ex- is moving in with another man – but is perfectly happy to cheat on him with Cole. His former High School friend who’s now a moneylender is still willing to have him beaten for failing to pay his debts.
On the other hand, on the strength of the pilot, all this doom is more or less the sum of the programme. Just as some shows are shallow for only dwelling on happy things and never letting the dark hand of reality sneak in and tarnish them, so it’s possible for others to be shallow for only dwelling on the misery. Aside from the occasional vein of black and teasing humour, the mood of the show is only ever misery or blank neutrality, designed to fill the gaps until the next bit of depression. It leaves you feeling a bit uninvolved as a result.
It’s a promising show though, with more than enough to keep the interest if they manage to flesh out the secondary and main characters some more. Directorially, it manages to avoid most of the clichés of ‘dark’ tales, avoiding the constant Se7en midnight and rain that so beset other shows that think they’re deep. When it’s not inspecting the disaster area that is Cole’s existence, it’s inspecting the disasters that he has to attend to in his job. With each victim he comes across, we get a potted photo romain of all the events in their lives that led up to this point – Casualty in an eye-blink if you will. The technique starts to become a little tired by the end of the show, but if the producers impose some self-discipline, it could become an effective visual trademark that’s actually reasonably disturbing.
All in all, one to keep an eye out for in future if the wind catches their sails just right,.