This fall television season will be unlike any other as production shutdowns due to COVID-19 have left the networks scrambling to fill programming holes as they continue to figure out how to resume taping shows safely.
One option is airing shows that were acquired from other sources, which is the route NBC has taken with its first September premiere, “Transplant,” which comes from CTV, a Canadian TV network, and NBCUniversal International Studios. The show, which was extremely successful in Canada, tries to put a new spin on an overdone plot premise — fish-out-of-water doctor with unorthodox methods tries to adapt to a new hospital setting. And while the show is not bad, it doesn’t really succeed in bringing any fresh ideas to the table.
“Transplant” stars Hamza Haq as Bashir Hamed, a Syrian refugee trying to make a new life for himself and his younger sister in Toronto, Canada. When we first meet Bashir, he is working in a restaurant. But when a horrific truck crash threatens the lives of all inside, we quickly realize that Bashir is much more than a waiter/busboy. He’s actually a physician, trained in emergency medicine in Syria, where he was forced to work quickly without testing and imaging. When his skills save a renowned doctor, he’s given the opportunity to join the emergency department at Toronto’s top hospital. But his experience clashes with some of his colleagues, who prefer to be more analytical.
While adjusting to his new job, he must also adapt to life in a new country as he struggles to create a good home for his sister, while dealing with people’s opinions and prejudices of Middle Eastern refugees.
The first 15 minutes of the show are extremely intense as Bashir springs into action to save lives in the restaurant using scissors and a power drill. I can’t really tell you what he did with either of them because I had my eyes covered the whole time. It’s quite the introduction and makes you instantly root for him when the police start to suspect him as having driven the truck into the restaurant. But the rest of the hour never quite matches that intensity, and it quickly falls into the same-old, same-old pattern of medical dramas. If you’re a fan of “ER,” you’ll be a fan of this one, as there are several doctors who are carbon copies of familiar “ER” characters — Benton, Carter and Romano being chief among them.
While nothing about the show breaks new ground, it is still well-produced, new content during a time when network TV so desperately needs it. And that is something I can definitely support — even if I support it with my eyes covered part of the time.
“Transplant” premiered at 10 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 1, on NBC, but you can watch it now streaming on Peacock.