”Let’s separate the men from the boys,” snaps a scornfully slick cardplayer in the opening scene of Saved. Ah, but the irony of the new TNT drama, starring Tom Everett Scott as slacker paramedic Wyatt Cole, is that it’s pretty tricky to separate the men from the boys. That well-dressed, grown-up-looking cardplayer shows his true infantile colors by sucker-punching big winner Wyatt (along with dropping out of med school, our adorable loser has a gambling problem); the pompous doctors that Wyatt must deal with daily are clearly masking inner shortcomings; in fact, it’s boyish Wyatt, with the uncertain future and sarcastic T-shirts, who we’re meant to believe may be the real man here. ”We do everything you do, we just do it at 60 miles an hour,” he informs a physician. And indeed Wyatt bonds with abused moppets, delivers babies, and saves a pretty fire victim (medical degrees are for suckers!).
If this complicated-dude-in-constant-emergency scenario sounds like Rescue Me, read on. Saved employs a gimmick similar to Rescue‘s talking dead. Whenever Wyatt lands a patient, we see a quickie how’d-we-get-here slide show of the person’s life. When Wyatt treats a deluded homeless man, we see a young guy who overworked, did drugs, and cracked up. This device takes but a few seconds, and unlike Rescue Me‘s interactions (which ultimately became intrusive), it adds a surprisingly poignant layer to Saved. Genuine is good, because the pilot episode — replete with lots of shaky camera moves and quick cuts?tries so hard it might as well end with a giant cat-juggling act and a Busby Berkeley dance number.
Between frantic ambulance calls, Wyatt, played by Scott as equally affable and shell-shocked, flirts with his doctor ex (The Family Stone‘s Elizabeth Reaser), mouths off to his famed doc dad (David Clennon), pays a visit to his velvet-fisted loan shark (Christopher Redman), and pep-talks his paramedic partner, Sack (Beauty Shop‘s Omari Hardwick), who shows up late to his son’s birthday party with the wrong present. Which brings us right back to the whole ”man” thing. Short of sponsoring a Robert Bly workshop, Saved couldn’t be more focused on this topic. At one point, Sack even utters the line, ”This thing is always about fathers and sons.” This thing, meaning, one supposes, life. It’s that self-seriousness that almost derails Saved, which wants credit for delving into the nature of life and death, fathers and sons, without really delving into any of these things. Male-angst music from Nirvana and Johnny Cash (”Hurt” seemingly now a go-to song for any weepy TV montage) provides a soundtrack for the images of despair, but Saved‘s ADD pace prevents any true emotion. Ultimately, it feels a bit immature?telling for a series that’s all about separating the men from the boys.