In Heartbeat, Melissa George stars as brilliant heart surgeon Dr. Alexandra Panttiere, who can transplant hearts in the surgery room and break them in the hospital hallways. You know from her confident stride down a sterilized corridor that she must also be a rule-breaker, but just to make sure you get it, a character is wheeled on to utter the line, “When it comes to rules and procedure, they only apply to you when they suit your needs, Alex.”
Dr. Alex — a single mom with two children and an ex-husband the show really wants you to know is gay — has at least two guys panting after her: current boyfriend Dr. Pierce (Dave Annable) and her former mentor and ex-boyfriend Dr. Jesse (Don Hany). Given the fact that Heartbeat tries to present Alex as a feminist role-model, it’s unfortunate that she is defined almost entirely by the men around her. At one point she says to Dr. Pierce, “Aren’t I a good thing? All the sex you want, and you don’t even have to put a ring on my finger.” To help any viewer who might be confused by this, she raises a finger to illustrate what one looks like.
Melissa George has proven to be a very good actor in the HBO series In Treatment and the slightly underrated The Slap, but this star showcase does her no favors. The show, created by producer-writer Jill Gordon, is based on real Los Angeles heart surgeon Kathy Magliato, whom I hope received a lot of money upfront, because Dr. Alex doesn’t invite favorable comparisons to any doctor with dignity, and I would guess this series will not have a very long life.
I won’t mention D.L. Hughley (who plays an understandably morose hospital psychiatrist) because I like him as a performer, or Jamie Kennedy (who plays a doctor whose salient trait is that — not making this up here — he smells bad), because… well, Kennedy might look for another job after this one.
Heartbeat airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on NBC, after a sneak preview Tuesday at 9 p.m. on NBC.