Roush Review: Tired Blood Flows Through ‘Heartbeat’

Heartbeat - Season 1
Colleen Hayes/NBC
HEARTBEAT -- "Twins" Episode 102 -- Pictured: Melissa George as Dr. Alex Panttiere -- (Photo by: Colleen Hayes/NBC)

Meet Dr. McBossy. And then consider fleeing in the opposite direction.

Not since The CW’s mercifully short-lived Emily Owens, M.D. have we encountered a doctor as preciously conceived and so instantly tiresome as hot-shot heart surgeon Alex Panttiere—smugly played by Melissa George—who might have reconsidered a return to scrubs after her ill-fated stint on Grey’s Anatomy back in the day.

Heartbeat is very scalpel-in-cheek in its campy and over-the-top approach to medical drama. The opening scene introduces an exasperated Alex in flight to a conference, where she contends with a bratty child kicking her seat—naturally, she threatens him with a long needle (unseen)—and predictably ends up doing emergency triage on the creep who took her first-class seat.

If the sight gag that caps this sequence doesn’t leave you in stitches, just wait. Alex the Great is just as hilarious when she bullies faceless interns and spits (without apology) on her colleagues in the hospital she rules as Chief Innovation Officer, taking on “high-risk, high-reward” cases to the exasperation of her snippily nagging boss (Shelley Conn).

Why, if you’ve never ever seen a hospital show before, this will all be so new to you!

More Roush Reviews: See What Matt Thinks About Other Shows

Heartbeat - Season Pilot

(L-R) Dave Annable as Dr. Pierce Harrison and Melissa George as Dr. Alex Panttiere

And get a load of Alex’s romantic life, which is—imagine this—something of a triangle, involving her adorable current doctor beau (Dave Annable, Red Band Society) and the hunky OR mentor (Don Hany) who suddenly reappears, still obviously smitten. There’s a reason this was originally called Heartbreaker, before settling on this more appropriately generic title.

Her home life is equally chaotic, as she raises two sons from a rocker ex who’s now gay and still dotes on her. My favorite character: her dog, named Cartman.

Though Alex herself is beyond abrasive, Heartbeat seeks to warm the heart when it turns to her patients and their Very Extreme Cases that yet somehow feel routine. In the pilot, Alex dexterously piggybacks two hearts inside the same body. In the episode airing Wednesday in its regular time period, Alex separates conjoined twins (nicely played by Justina Machado in a more convincing make-up than Sarah Paulson’s in American Horror Story: Freak Show).

Mawkishly manipulative when it isn’t being annoyingly self-satisfied, Heartbeat works off an overused prescription pad of familiar plot devices. Still, it might be just the fix for audiences who can’t get enough of the therapeutic slice-by-numbers comfort food offered up this season by shows like Code Black and Chicago Med. For me, this was like a narcotic, and I had to wake myself after nearly every act break.

Heartbeat previews Tuesday, March 22, 9/8c | Regular time period premiere Wednesday, March 23, 8/7c, NBC

Questions? Ask Critic Matt Roush!

TV critic (and occasional TV therapist) Matt Roush answers viewer questions and concerns in his Ask Matt column each week. Wondering about plots, characters and twists on your fave shows? Submit your query to Matt via the form below: