Review: Trauma 1×1

What if Jerry Bruckheimer made Casualty?


In the US: Mondays, 9/8c, NBC

Here in the jolly old UK, we have a programme called Casualty. It’s set in a busy A&E department (aka ER) and has been running for over two decades, yet is even more formulaic than House*.

Basically, each episode starts with a load of normal everyday people going about their business. Nothing seems out of the ordinary, and then… something really ridiculous happens (car flips over while stationary, man swallows Amazonian tree frog while walking a dog, woman attacked by TB-crazed badger in the middle of a cinema) that results in horrific and terrible wounds, requiring the immediate arrival of an ambulance full of brave paramedics – who then spend most of the time agonising about their soap opera-like relationships.

Trouble is Casualty is very badly written, very badly acted and looks appalling since the budget’s about £2.50 a week.

Well, hey ho and away we go, America has its own version of Casualty with two big differences to ours:

  1. The cast is hotter
  2. The production values are better

But that’s it’s. Otherwise, they’re the same “dumb as a box of hammers” show.

Like an adrenaline shot to the heart, Trauma is an intense, action-packed look at one of the most dangerous medical professions in the world: first responder paramedics. When emergencies occur, the trauma team from San Francisco General is first on the scene, traveling by land, by sea or by air to reach their victims in time. From the heights of the Transamerica Pyramid to the depths of the S.F. Bay, our heroes must face the most extreme conditions to save lives, and give meaning to their own existence in the process.

From executive producer Peter Berg (Friday Night Lights), Trauma is the first high-octane medical franchise to live exclusively in the field, where the real action is.

Cast and credits
Derek Luke (BOONE)
Cliff Curtis (“RABBIT”)
Anastasia Griffith (NANCY)
Kevin Rankin (TYLER)
Aimee Garcia (MARISSA)
Billy Lush (SAM)
Jamey Sheridan (DR. JOE)

Executive Producer/Writer Dario Scardapane
Executive Producers Peter Berg (Friday Night Lights), Sarah Aubrey (Friday Night Lights)

Executive Producer/Director Jeff Reiner (Friday Night Lights)

Is it any good?
For a while, I thought there was hope for the show. It started off with the traditional “what could go wrong here?” Casualty moment that went wrong very quickly, interspersed with clips of the paramedics in their normal “wait position” (usually having sex in the ambulances it seems). The call goes out then off go the cocky paramedics, who through their sheer awesomeness and brain power manage to save the poor victim of the undisclosed accident.

But then, just before the title sequence, it all takes a complete left turn, and suddenly you’re thinking that despite the sheer, visual effects-heavy bombast and crassness of the first few minutes, we might have a different show on our hands. It might be smarter than we thought.

And in a lot of ways, it is. Away from the accidents, the screwed are paramedics are moderately interesting. As the title suggests, a lot of them are recovering from a trauma in their own ways (imagined invincibility, desperate need to save people, screwing around – pick your poison), and they’re relying on each other to help them through. It’s proper drama when it does this. Nothing desperately original, but well done, all the same.

But against this reasonable dramatic background, we have that same old Casualty stupidity that can’t be escaped. Look, it’s a great big road accident. Everyone piles into each other, but they’re unharmed, even when they’re near the exploding tanker.


But wait! Little boy in the SUV has just had his throat penetrated by a flying nut. Because that was the most likely outcome of that accident, wasn’t it?

So we have this strange mix of drama and “if Jerry Bruckheimer did Casualty” accidents that show off how great those paramedics are. What a show.

Of the cast, Anastasia Griffith is worth watching, Cliff Curtis feels like he should be off impersonating Elvis somewhere and Derek Luke’s okay. But it’s still a show you’re only going to watch if you fancy a game of “who’s next?” and miss Final Destination.

* Or House used to be anyway


  • Rob Buckley

    I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.