Three Rivers
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Three Rivers

It has happened to all of us.ust as you start getting into a new television some studio executive decides that the ratings are insufficient to justify its continuation. Never mind the nature of the shoe might require some build up or it might take some time for the audience to become invested in the series. If the numbers fall below some predetermined cut off it is gone. The story might have gone on to great heights. Just look at Star Trek which fought against ratings right from the beginning. Now at least we can usually wait a couple of months and the program will show up on DVD. Unfortunately this is not always the case. Some show might not even receive that opportunity. One shoe that lamentably fits that criterion was ‘Three Rivers’. It was a medical drama like so many that have come and gone before it but like the real world medical profession it chose a specialty. In this case all the cases had to do with transplant surgery. The series had a great deal of potential but it was cut off before it could find its voice. I missed a couple of episodes and waited for the DVD but it never was announced. Then it showed up on streaming video services including Amazon. The good thing about that is the episodes were reasonably affordable, comparable to a DVD season set and if you have a device like Roku then you can watch in 1080p high definition with Dolby 5.1 audio. That’d video up to high definition standards accompanied by audio that puts all your speakers through its paces including the sub woofer. This is a hybrid between DVD and Blu-ray and best yet it doesn’t take up diminishing shelve space in you expanding collection. Mine is rapidly heading towards 10,000 discs so unless TARDIS technology becomes available soon cloud storage is in our futures. Besides the saving considerations I’m find streaming video to be an increasing valuable source of entertainment. Even with all those discs at my fingers tips not a day goes by that my Roku doesn’t get a workout. Without it I could revisit a worthwhile series like ‘Three Rivers’; it isn’t the best medical show to air but it deserves better than being relegated to a fond memory and a footnote in TV history.

Human organ transplantation is still serious medical procedure but within our lifetimes the procedure has grown form an event worthy of global headlines to a procedure performed on as daily basis. The techniques and support services has grown incredibly in 1967 when Dr. Christiaan Barnard first placed a human heart damaged beyond help with a healthy one donated by a recent deceased patient. ‘Three Rivers’ is a medical procedural series that focuses on the fictions ‘Three River Medical Center’ located in Pittsburg. The main difference in this series is as each episode introduces you to the perspective patients you know up front somebody will have to die. The show remains strong enough in its convictions to not try to gloss over the fact that for every story of lives miraculously saved by transplantation there is a family grieving the death of a loved one. To their credit the writers were always respectful of this fact and treated the circumstances surrounding the family’s difficult decision to donate the organs with care and proper gravity. There is a common misbelieve that is also subtly handled; trauma patients in a transplant center are primarily seen as perspective spare parts. This is directly addressed by the central characters on several occasions but more importantly the transplant surgeons are depicted as doing everything possible to save every patient, even if their death would benefit several potential recipients. Donation only brought up when there is no longer any modicum of hope for the trauma patient.

The Three Rivers Medical Center is the home of one of the planet’s most elite team of transplant medical professionals. Leading the team is the one considered the best transplant surgeon in the world, the renowned Dr. Andy Yablonski (Alex O'Loughlin). Also on deck is surgical fellow Dr. Miranda Foster (Katherine Moennig) and surgical resident Dr. David Lee (Daniel Henney). Assisting the procedures is senior surgical nurse Pam Acosta (Justina Machado) and the new to his job transplant coordinator, Ryan Abbott (Christopher J. Hanke). It is his job to keep track of potential donors and procure the best possible organs for the recipients on the waiting list. Overseeing the unit and the head of the transplant committee is Dr. Sophia Jordan (Alfre Woodard).

In general the stories are episodic with the cases contained within a single episode. Much of the character development extends throughout the entire run slowly unfold providing insight to their backgrounds and personalities. Miranda is driven by the specter of her late father who was a famous surgeon and helped to found the facility. Andy has a shady father usually one step ahead of the law while Lee is a dedicated lady’s man. The one patient that persists throughout most of the series is Kuol (Owiso Odera) who traveled without a penny to his name seeking a heart from the great Dr. Yablonski. This character becomes a sort of mascot for the group. One particularly poignant guest appearance is by Mandy Patinkin as a man dying from Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's disease) who wants to cease extraordinary life support and donate as many of his organs as possible.

In each episode there is typically a moral dilemma that must be faced. Sometimes it is the surgeons; other times the families of a recently deceased patient. The factors are present and always delicately handled never melodramatically overwhelming the story. This balance is rare in any program making it a shame this one was not afforded a proper chance at survival. The series did feature some familiar faces. O'Loughlin played a vampire in another one season wonder, "Moonlight’ while Moennig stared in ‘The L Word’ throughout its run. Academy Award nominee Woodard brought her considerable talent to this series but unfortunate the studio still killed it.

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