“This is how it happens. You leave it all behind. Everything you love. Everything you know. You belong to the hospital now. And all you can do is hope.”
Joining the ranks of the myriad of medical dramas populating the television landscape, Saving Hope: The Complete First Season offers a twist on the usual formula in the form of a spirit on the show. But although NBC cancelled it after its first season it was picked up in Canada so this is not the end.
On the eve of their wedding Dr. Charlie Harris (Michael Shanks, Stargate SG-1) and Dr. Alex Reid (Erica Durance, Smallville) are in an accident which leaves Charlie in a coma. He spends the thirteen episodes of Saving Hope: The Complete First Season as a spirit wandering around Hope Zion Hospital where they both work.
Saving Hope: The Complete First Season does a good job of setting up an ensemble. Aside from Alex and Charlie Alex’s ex-boyfriend Joel (Daniel Gillies, The Vampire Diaries), neurologist Shahir (Huse Madhavji, Call Me Fitz), his boyfriend/nurse Victor (Salvatore Antonio, Paradise Falls), internist Maggie (Julia Taylor Ross, Missed Connections) and psychiatrist Gavin (Kristopher Turner, The L.A. Complex).
The problem however is turning this show into an ensemble dilutes what makes it special, and that is focusing on the relationship between two people on either side of a coma. Further mucking up the works is the sort of generic nature of the other characters; at least I found them to be doppelgangers of Grey’s Anatomy. Goran is the McSteamy of the show, Shahir is early Christina, Maggie is Lexie and Gavin is George.
The medical cases explored are interesting but never more so than when they tie back in to the overall arc of Charlie trying to get back to Alex or Alex trying to understand something about Charlie. And unfortunately Saving Hope: The Complete First Season sometimes meanders off course, bringing the peripheral characters in for spotlights which don’t always feel deserved or which fail to bring an emotional payoff. I connected to Alex and Charlie and when the other characters weren’t supporting them I found my attention wandering. There simply wasn’t enough time during these first thirteen episodes to make me care about every single character and it felt at times as though I was being force-fed their presence.
Saving Hope: The Complete First Season takes place over three months of time within their world and I thought it was paced well, filled with a lot of little touches to help emphasize how Alex’s life changed when Charlie entered the coma as well as little moments from Charlie which emphasized his happiness at being close to Alex. It was a very deliberate choice and I felt it worked.
I thought Durance and Shanks were extremely well cast for their parts, with a genuine chemistry. The season finale left me anxious to see where the show was going, as it ended in a place not explored by any other medical drama I could think of and that’s saying something.
I am at a loss about recommending Saving Hope: The Complete First Season. I won’t be able to get the second season for a while yet and that’s assuming the Canadians release it on video. I would be disappointed to learn where we left off was not in fact where we picked up, a real concern since the show was taken to Canada. I enjoyed the first season but mostly because it set up a really interesting premise to follow next season.
If you hate lens flares you will hate Saving Hope: The Complete First Season. There are a lot of lens flares. Like enough to make JJ Abrams feel jealous. That’s the only quibble I have with the video feed. Otherwise it’s the same cool, slightly desaturated palette you see on most currently broadcasting shows. There’re a couple of audio tracks and the Dolby 5.1 is more than enough to cover the needs of this set.
The special features are a short BTS featurette as well as longer interviews with Durance, Gillies and Shanks.
Saving Hope has been given new life by the Canadians, for whom the show was the highest rated summer program in 2012. So while there may be a search you will (hopefully) be able find it if this show appeals to you. I’m going to say hold off on purchasing until you can be assured of obtaining the future season(s). The first season ends in a place where you’ll be frustrated if you don’t know whether or not you’ll see the continuation.