ABC (Sundays, 10 p.m. ET)
Now in its first full season, this hour-long drama about doctors and interns in a Seattle hospital has achieved the status of breakout hit. Why? Bedside manners, baby. It’s the one show where the ambulances pull in blaring the siren song of love.
Over on FOX, House stars Hugh Laurie as an irascible medical genius who always seems to have some awful, brilliant diagnostic hunch rattling around in his brain. On NBC’s ER, they’re still reeling off symptoms and conditions like rappers at a poetry jam. On Anatomy, though, medicine is practically an afterthought to all these good-looking young doctors—except, perhaps, as some nagging clinical footnote to a larger romantic rite of passage from youth into adulthood. This has been borne out most recently, and sexily, by the triste, frustrated affair between intern Meredith Grey and her superior, Dr. Shepherd. They’re played by Ellen Pompeo and Patrick Dempsey, both attractive in a weathered way that goes well with Seattle damp. They have more chemistry riding up in an elevator in their scrubs and lab coats than most people naked together in bed. Bed, unfortunately, has been out of the question lately: Dr. Shepherd has decided to try to reunite with his wife (Kate Walsh), a fellow doctor who has the cool forbidding glamor of an Hermès saleswoman.
Pompeo and Dempsey are backed up by a superb supporting staff. Sandra Oh, as an intern frantic with the ramifications of dating a surgeon of her own, is belligerently yet also appealingly neurotic. And Chandra Wilson is bluntly wise as Dr. Bailey. She’s the only one here, in fact, who actually seems focused enough to know which end of the scalpel to hold.
Sci Fi (Dec. 5-7, 9 p.m. ET)
Say you’re assembling a team to get to the bottom of the mystery of the Bermuda Triangle, that great nebulous swath of less-than-terra firma fabled for swallowing up planes and ships. In this six-hour, three-night miniseries, a shipping tycoon with spectacular piles of dough and a slippery personality hires for just this purpose: 1) an oceanographic expert—check; 2) a meteorologist with a cowboy-adventurer streak—okay….Also, a psychic and a reporter who works for a not altogether reputable tabloid. What are they gonna find? Batboy?
Off they go, anyhow, this group. There’s one good bit of creepiness, involving a little girl in an airplane underwater, and some quick-change, alternate-reality twists that are fun to ponder near the end. (There are plenty of special effects too, although incomplete by the time of my deadline.) But the narrative seems unduly baggy and stretched out, nothing so sharply defined as a triangle. More like a rhomboid.
Party | Party
Bravo (Tuesdays, 9 p.m. ET)
This eight-part reality series about American families knocking themselves out in celebration is amiable piffle, as basic and unpretentious as plastic utensils. The first episode follows two high-school graduation blowouts that cause a certain amount of maternal anguish—one woman warns her daughter that she’s heading for disciplinary “groundation”—but turn out okay. Future episodes promise to get grander (there’s a $200,000 bat mitzvah coming up), but here’s hoping the tone will stay the same. It’s still just a party, no matter how many times you repeat the word.
Showtime (Dec. 4, 10 p.m. ET)
Scrupulously steering toward suspense and away from sensationalism, this 10-hour miniseries about Islamic terrorists in Los Angeles is pretty unsettling nonetheless. It can leave a viewer brooding under a cloud of vague pessimism. For a few nights after, I wished Dick Cheney would tuck me in.
Michael Ealy, as an FBI agent named Darwyn al-Sayeed, goes so far undercover to create an identity with anti-American credentials that he allows himself to be planted in jail on a weapons charge. Released, he joins a terrorist group that includes a French skinhead who was converted by his Moroccan wife (although now she’s divorcing him), a Bosnian who saw his family butchered by Serbs and a blond, beefy American kid who hates his mother—a liberal academic with Sarah Jessica Parker hair. They’re led by Faris al-Farik (Oded Fehr), who passes for a Jewish community leader. If the group’s target mission is fully accomplished, he boasts, casualties could reach as high as 150,000.
Sleeper, which airs across eight nights over two weeks before a two-hour finale, probably gives Darwyn too many chances to remind us of his true decency—would he really take time to shut down a child brothel?—and gives him glimmers of nobility that undercut Ealy’s quiet performance. But the second half builds steadily and surely toward a potential meet-and-greet with the apocalypse. Worth watching.