Heartland Review

Heartland Review

Heartland, an original one-hour medical drama about an organ-transplant

surgeon, his work and his family premieres on June 18th, 10 ET/PT on TNT.

The surgeon, Dr. Nathaniel Grant (Treat Williams), is the pioneering,

workaholic chief of the renowned (and fictitious) St. Jude’s Transplant

Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Regrettably, Heartland is an original series in name only, since it borrows

liberally from features of several popular TV shows. It combines House’s

brilliant, but idiosyncratic and flawed doctor of desperately ill patients

with Grey’s Anatomy’s focus on the doctors’ melodramatic and intertwining

personal lives.

As in House and Grey’s Anatomy, the surgeons in Heartland only have one or

two patients per episode and have endless time to sit in their patients’

rooms, hold their hands and watch them sleep. If only…

Also, Heartland capitalizes on the phenomena of “seeing dead people,” à la

Medium, et al. Specifically, Dr. Grant briefly sees the deceased organ

donors occupying the bodies of his recipient/patients, similar to the

closing shots of the murder victims in Cold Case.

Dr. Grant’s devotion to his patients and his intense commitment to his

cutting-edge work has caused the end of his marriage to Kate Armstrong (Kari

Matchett), who is also the organ donor coordinator of his transplant unit.

Or perhaps it was Grant’s affair with young Nurse Jessica (Morena Baccarin)

that did in the marriage.

Inexplicably, Grant and Kate continue to work together at St Jude’s, despite

their volatile relationship, as does Grant’s girlfriend, Nurse Jessica.

Further complicating the relationship between Grant and Kate are their

child-rearing responsibilities to their teenage daughter, Thea (Gage


Rounding out the ensemble are two other transplant surgeons in the

unit—the young, green Simon Griffith (Chris William Martin), Thomas Jonas

(Rockmond Dunbar), who returns to St. Jude’s after 14 years and with whom

Grant shares an uneasy relationship, and Nurse Mary Singletary (Danielle

Nicolet). Dr. Bart Jacob, well played by Dabney Coleman, is Grant’s

crotchety but loveable mentor and is himself a transplant candidate.

In addition to the character introductions, the pilot and first episode

explore the transplant process: convincing the donors’ families to make the

donation, selecting appropriate recipients and the medical politics involved

in the selection, and finally, the difficult surgery and recovery.

Unfortunately, the predictable, trite and tear-jerking story lines and

scripts of these episodes of Heartland detract from the shows’ potential to

capture the dramatic and miraculous qualities of organ transplantation and

the extraordinary second chance at life it gives to the few fortunate


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San Francisco ,
Emily S. Mendel, a writer and photographer, has been a regular contributor to culturevulture.net since 2006, where she reviews theater, art, film, television and destinations. Ending her 30-year law practice has given Ms. Mendel the time to indulge in her love of travel and the arts, and to serve as the theater reviewer for berkeleyside.com.