With “Third Watch,” “ER” exec producer John Wells attempts to transfer the same pulse-pounding chaos to the world of street trauma that he has managed to harness in the hospital emergency room. The result is something akin to “ER: Life on the Street,” following cops, paramedics and firefighters as they save lives and dodge bullets while navigating the urban jungle of Manhattan. As in “ER,” the folks here are unfailingly decent, earnest and heroic, but the interwoven stories feel an awful lot like Wells retreads from the get-go.
These are one exceptionally attractive bunch of public servants save for one, a done-it-all veteran cop named “Sully” Sullivan (Skipp Sudduth). He’s kind of paunchy and jowly, but it’s OK because he’s also cynical and jaded. The majority of the others would look right at home in Playboy or GQ. Nothing wrong with that, but it’s a little bit silly given the necessities of their jobs. Looking like models wouldn’t appear to rank all that high as job prerequisites.
Like “ER,” “Third Watch” (the title refers to the 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. shift worked by this crew) does an impressive job blending the tumultuous and the mundane, and illustrating the jarring shifts between their professional and personal lives. Helmer Christopher Chulack, who also exec produces with Wells, takes Wells’ opening script and stamps it with the same frenetic visuals and perpetual sense of bedlam that made “ER” such compelling viewing from its earliest days.
This may be seen as both blessing and curse, however. “ER,” you will note, is still on the NBC schedule. Making a second primetime hour with virtually an identical style and tone doesn’t seem terribly smart. Moreover, the roles of many of the protagonists in the “Third Watch” premiere play like urban cliches: the hardened veteran cop (Sudduth), his raw, bumbling partner (Coby Bell), the gun-shy rookie paramedic (Anthony Ruivivar) and the hotheaded maverick cop (Bobby Cannavale).
The actors (who also include “ER” recurring player Michael Beach, Kim Raver of the short-lived “Trinity,” Molly Price, Jason Wiles and hunky soap star Eddie Cibrian) all acquit themselves well.
The opening stories mix small talk with large drama, including a woman who goes into screaming labor in a subway car, an infant who gets tossed harrowingly from a burning building and a devastating mass shooting that concludes the hour.
“Third Watch” makes a highly credible attempt at the outset to ensnare the viewing masses yearning for another jolt of primetime adrenaline. But the guess is that the show will grow redundant and quickly fade away, particularly laboring in a thankless regular timeslot (Sunday night at 8) against “The Simpsons,” “Touched by an Angel” and “Felicity.”
Tech credits are sharp.