Seemingly working off a checklist of medical-show cliches — the Afghanistan vet; the number-crunching administrator; the gurneys racing down hallways; the “MASH”-like work-hard, play-harder mentality — “The Night Shift” feels aimed at those who might have found “Chicago Fire” too intellectually demanding. NBC is introducing the show amid a barrage of scripted summer fare, and stranger things have worked (especially with the more lenient requirements of the postseason), but for all the creative pulse that’s on display here, the network could just as easily have rerun a discarded series from the 1990s and labeled it “New to You.”
Just trying to describe the show can’t help but sound like quoting some generic “TV Development for Dummies” guidebook. The Afghan vet, TC Callahan (Eoin Macken), is introduced rigging an astonishing medical fix (naturally) under the equivalent of battlefield conditions, while clashing with the hospital administrator (Freddy Rodriguez), who actually talks about running the facility like a business.
Leading the good fight, meanwhile, is TC’s pal Topher (“Lost’s” Ken Leung), who nobly champions his staff as well as the rights of patients. And if that all seems relevant and timely in light of the Affordable Care Act, “Night Shift” manages to make it as moldy as the “Chicago Hope” pilot.
Set in San Antonio, and created by Gabe Sachs and Jeff Judah, the show steadily counts out the time through the night, making clear that increasingly weird things can happen around an emergency room once darkness falls. It also has the unintended effect, for those who find all of this a trifle tedious, to have one wondering, “Geez, how much longer until the dawn?”
Not surprisingly, the producers assemble a sizable, attractive and appropriately diverse cast, albeit without giving many of them much to distinguish their characters, who — whatever the color of their scrubs — simply blend together.
Granted, there is precedent for this sort of throwback achieving some traction as summer filler (witness ABC’s Canadian import “Rookie Blue”), and NBC will give the show a helpful push from “America’s Got Talent.” That said, “The Night Shift” is still an awfully weak blip creatively speaking — the kind of ho-hum exercise that makes it tough to keep one’s eyes open until 11 p.m., much less all night long.
So while San Antonio might be famous for “Remember the Alamo,” this Lone Star series (in more ways than one) could hardly be more forgettable.