CBS’ “Presidio Med” chronicles the lives of a hospital staff . . . from checkup room to lab to office to bedroom. The saving grace is the cast of regulars and guest stars who are brought in as patients (such as Ossie Davis in the series opener). Clearly targeted at women 25-50, the show is serious and teeming with sex appeal, but is still teetering on dull; basically, we’re looking at “Family Law” moved to a medical center.
Created by Lydia Woodward and John Wells, “Presidio” is full of elements from their other skeins, “ER,” “Citizen Baines,” “Third Watch” and the first show they teamed on, “China Beach.” The characters are presented through their work and then through personal crises; the group functions in a singular social and financial stratum.
Blythe Danner plays OB/GYN Harriett Lanning, who brings babies into the world at a startling clip. She’s patient and overly kind, and Danner gives her a substantial presence. In her first case of the season, a baby is born prematurely, and the young Jules Keating (Julianne Nicholson) is gung-ho about taking a rather risky procedure. As the hour progresses, Keating is hit with news that she may never have children and has to consider an operation.
Anne Deavere Smith plays Letty Jordan, whose role in the debut is to back up the seemingly lone male on the staff, Matt Slingerland (Paul Blackthorne), as he attempts to convince a football coach (Gerald McRaney) to forget about the season and get a heart operation. She is used in short bursts, but as she has done on “The Practice” and “”The West Wing,” she commands the screen.
Out-of-control plastic surgeon Jackie Colette (Sasha Alexander) is the loose cannon in this bunch — she’s fighting an HMO to get joint replacements for an 81-year-old woman, advising a teenager on a nose job and singing “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” as she performs liposuction.
Alexander does her best with what she’s given; were this actress and character given more room to roam, Wells and Woodward could have a winner along the lines of “Crossing Jordan.” On the second episode, Dylan Walsh plays a firefighter attempting to stoke romantic fires with Colette.
One downfall of the show is its jargon-loaded script. As the doctors debate medical procedures, whatever goodwill they’ve built up with the audience starts to dissipate into a level of confusion: What exactly are they talking about? “ER” had the same problem at times, but the nature of the characters consistently carried the show. Add to that the overly used line of “Do that stunt again and you’re gone,” and just when this show feels like its settling in, we’re hit with the lamest of cliches.
Technically, the program is like so many John Wells Prods. shows — lots of characters, plenty of movement and an air of seriousness. It’s a dicey proposition, however, to think Delany’s love drama and the revolving door of patients is enough to sustain it.
CBS is a getting a jump on ABC by premiering its San Fran hospital skein on Tuesday and then following up with the hourlong in its regular Wednesday timeslot.