×

TV Review: ‘Complications’

With:
Jason O’Mara, Jessica Szohr, Beth Riesgraf, Lauren Stamile, Ronreaco Lee, Kevin Tighe

Taking a dark detour from the blue-sky environs of “Burn Notice,” USA and showrunner Matt Nix reunite on “Complications,” a dreary drama about a suburban ER doctor who, Hitchcock style, is drawn into a web of gang warfare and violence. Jason O’Mara stars as the emotionally scarred physician, with the series deriving its title from the escalating consequences that arise due to a single impulsive act. Problematic in its depiction of dark-skinned bad guys, the 10-episode season (the entirety of which was made available) conjures its share of tension, but feels increasingly strained, until it’s finally clear the patient can’t be saved.

In his note to critics, Nix cited a personal experience with being victimized by crime, but the show uses that basic idea to take off in a different and more dramatic direction, about an ordinary guy — albeit one quietly at his wit’s end — being thrust into extraordinary circumstances. In this case, it’s O’Mara’s Dr. John Ellison. In the two-part premiere, he’s still grieving the loss of his young daughter when he witnesses the drive-by shooting of a young boy, who turns out to be the son of an imprisoned drug dealer. John bravely grabs a discarded gun and opens fire on the attackers, quickly earning himself a reputation as Dirty Harry, M.D.

The excitement, however, doesn’t end there. With the gangs at war, the boy’s life remains in jeopardy, and his father’s henchman charge the doctor with the task of keeping the child alive. In this, John is aided by one of his nurses, Gretchen (Jessica Szohr), who has her own share of extracurricular problems.

Meanwhile, John conceals what’s happening from his wife (Beth Riesgraf), which only adds to the growing rift between them since their personal tragedy. Much of this is explored through flashbacks, while Nix also finds time to follow cases that come into the hospital, with John frequently having to concoct elaborate excuses to explain the double life he’s suddenly leading.

Although there are plenty of upstanding minority characters around work, the African-American and Latino gangs that clash throughout the show seem plucked from the 1979 movie “The Warriors,” with John as the embodiment of good. He may not quite leap into Charles Bronson mode, but he does prove surprisingly resourceful, and can handle a gun, when necessary, as well as a stethoscope. Simply put, though, the good guys of color don’t come close to balancing the bad.

O’Mara sympathetically brings plenty of intensity to his character’s plight. Yet “Complications” still has a way of smacking the viewer over the head with its intentions, from literally spelling out the meaning of its title to overtly connecting John’s determination to save the boy to his own inability to have done the same for his daughter. And while Nix obviously had something to say with this show, he might have been too close to the material to diagnose the excesses, while the network was perhaps too grateful for past service to prod such changes.

Whatever the underlying cause, the operation doesn’t appear to have gone as planned, leaving behind a series that too often feels like an episodic version of “Death Wish,” only with scrubs instead of trench coat.

Popular on Variety

TV Review: 'Complications'

(Series; USA, Thurs. June 18, 9 p.m.)

Production: Filmed in Georgia by Flying Glass of Milk Prods. in association with Fox 21 Television Studios

Crew: Executive producer, Matt Nix; co-executive producer, Michael Horowitz; producers, Craig Siebels, Buddy Enright; directors, Nix, Scott Peters; writer, Nix; camera, Uta Briesewitz, Bart Tau; production designers, Jonathan Carlson, Danny Davila; editors, Russell Denove, James Kilton; music, Jeff Russo; casting, Gayle Pillsbury. 120 MIN.

Cast: Jason O’Mara, Jessica Szohr, Beth Riesgraf, Lauren Stamile, Ronreaco Lee, Kevin Tighe

More TV

  • Starz Logo

    Starz Orders Horror Comedy Pilot 'Shining Vale'

    Starz has put out a pilot order for “Shining Vale,” a horror comedy which hails from “Divorce” creator Sharon Horgan and “Trial & Error” co-creator Jeff Astrof. The prospective series is about a dysfunctional family that moves from the city to a small town into a house in which terrible atrocities have taken place. But no one [...]

  • Bethenny Frankel at the showtime Emmy

    Bethenny Frankel to Exit 'Real Housewives of New York' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Bethenny Frankel is stepping away from the “Real Housewives” franchise. Variety has learned exclusively that Frankel is poised to exit Bravo’s “The Real Housewives of New York” ahead of its upcoming twelfth season. Frankel first joined the acclaimed reality series back when it premiered back in 2008 before exiting the series in 2010 during the [...]

  • Dolly Parton

    BBC Commissions Dolly Parton Feature Documentary

    The BBC has commissioned a feature length documentary about country music legend Dolly Parton, it announced Wednesday. The documentary, tentatively titled “Dolly’s Country” will air on BBC Two this fall as part of a season of programs dedicated to country music. The broadcaster announced earlier in the day that it had acquired Ken Burns’ upcoming [...]

  • UCP to Develop Ann Shen’s 'Bad

    UCP to Develop Ann Shen’s 'Bad Girls Throughout History' as Anthology Series

    Universal Content Productions (UCP) is developing an anthology series based on Ann Shen’s book “Bad Girls Throughout History: 100 Remarkable Women Who Changed the World.” The project will be titled “Bad Girls,” with each episode featuring a different influential woman throughout history, including famous figures like Ada Lovelace, Rosa Parks, Mata Hari, and Ruth Bader [...]

  • Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro attends a

    Bolsonaro LGBTQI Outburst, Subsidy Freeze, Stirs Outrage

    Ramping up the drive into censorship in Brazil, its Minister of Citizenship, Omar Terra, has suspended a call for applications for governmental TV funding – until new criteria are established for its application. The country’s secretary for culture, Henrique Pires, who reports to Terra, has resigned in protest of the incentive freeze. The suspension, for [...]

  • Shanta Fripp Claudia Milne Jon Tower

    'CBS This Morning' Names New Director, Managing Editor and Senior Producer

    “CBS This Morning” has made three key staff appointments as the show’s new leadership team settles in. Shanta Fripp, an 18-year CBS News veteran, has been named director of the weekday broadcast. Claudia Milne has joined CBS News from ProPublica as managing editor while Jon Tower has been upped to senior broadcast producer. “I’m thrilled [...]

  • Sean Spicer DWTS

    Sean Spicer Will Make Six Figures for 'Dancing With the Stars'

    Sean Spicer could waltz away with a nice payday if he wins “Dancing With the Stars.” According to multiple sources, contestants on the ABC competition series make $125,000 for the show’s rehearsal period and their first two weeks on the air. If they make it to week three and beyond, they begin to earn additional [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content