It’s time for another primetime hospital stint, but “Birdland,” specializing in psychiatric patients and headed by shambling Dr. Brian McKenzie (Brian Dennehy), seems unlikely to fill the bill. The opening chapter trots the characters out for show, but so far they’re not that interesting.
McKenzie’s having a liaison with Dr. Jesse Lane (Lindsay Frost), but they don’t seem romantically suited. Dr. Bergman (John Rothman) runs the show, but it’s the thankless and tired role of a stern, crack-down administrator.
Jeff Williams plays Dr. Niles, who isn’t too swift; Leslie Mann is a nervous Nurse Mary, who may belong in a psychiatric ward, but not as a staffer.
McKenzie has plenty of free time to do as he likes. For this inning, his major case involves a youth (Scott Michael Campbell) who’s had a severe negative personality change in the past four months.
McKenzie takes time — when he’s not at the racetrack — to follow clues to the boy’s past. John Savage effectively plays the young man’s dad. Natasha Gregson Wagner, daughter of Natalie Wood, steps in briefly but tellingly as one of the boy’s associates from the past.
With a whole psychiatric ward to deal with, writers Walter F. Parkes and Scott Frank so far don’t find much drama at Riverside Hospital, Oakland.
Director Peter Horton doesn’t pull much conviction from the action, and the use of an irritating hospital accountant (Diana Bellamy) for comic relief was an error.
British Columbia location shots stand in well for Oakland, and Andrew Dintenfass’s camerawork is fine. Other tech credits are good. “Birdland,” supplanting hiatus-bound “Moon Over Miami,” should lighten up. After all, this isn’t “St. Elsewhere.”
By a long shot.