'3 Lbs.': A Little 'Grey' Matter But Not a Lot Of Smarts

By Tom Shales
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Cranky Dr. Genius doesn't even say hello when his new associate, sensitive Dr. Dearheart, reports for his first day of work. As played by Stanley Tucci, the bald and brainy surgeon won't so much as look up and grunt at Mark Feuerstein's character, preoccupied as he is with the case of a lovely young violin player who dropped her bow and fell floorward right in the middle of a piece by her string quartet.

Anyone who might -- on some wayward if not perverse impulse -- be pining for yet another prime-time medical drama should be warned that there is absolutely nothing new about "3 Lbs.," which premieres tonight on CBS. You won't even find a male Dr. McDreamy on the premises, as on ABC's sex-saturated "Grey's Anatomy" (unless you count an early shot of Tucci in his underpants -- ugh). There is a gorgeous Dr. McLovely (Indira Varma) wafting about. Dr. McLovely, another brain surgeon who works with Dr. Genius's medical group, looks like a Vogue model, speaks with a tony British accent and gives examinations in her bare feet.

The title refers to the weight of the human brain, an organ with which the series pretends to concern itself but to which it holds little potential appeal.

If you haven't seen it all before, you haven't watched much TV, and even though Tucci is highly regarded, that doesn't make his character, Douglas Hanson, any less trite. Droopy Tucci's moods grow monotonous by the show's first commercial break, whether he's basking in his internal limelight or having a mournful flashback cued by water bubbles.

In the flashbacks, a little girl becomes a woman and back again, and when Hanson comes out of them, he looks tense and troubled -- not much of a change from his usual demeanor of gruff and grumpy. To keep him from being completely unsympathetic, writer Peter Ocko clunkily inserts a scene of Hanson being nice to a blind girl and her guide dog.

That and his flashbacks are the old quack's only vulnerabilities.

As the sensitive one (Jonathan Seger, who arrives at Hanson's brain clinic in the first few minutes), Feuerstein is all starry-eyed and soulful, making the doctor as obnoxious in a sappy way as Hanson is in his crabby way -- two equally objectionable opposites.

Varma is thoughtful and gracious and little more, and old reliable Griffin Dunne is saddled with the role of Jeffrey Coles, the meanie in the group because he's jealous of Hanson's reputation and tries to steal patients from him. It appears Dunne might have been written out of the show after the pilot and won't appear in subsequent episodes; more power to him.

In addition to the "Grey's Anatomy" influence, there is obviously a touch of Fox's "House," in which Hugh Laurie plays an outwardly misanthropic doctor who comes across as intriguingly complex, not the simple sourpuss played by Tucci. In addition, the opening scene in "3 Lbs.," which takes us on a quick trip through the stricken violinist's nerves -- from her shaking fingers all the way to her afflicted brain -- blatantly imitates the kind of inside-the-body "son et lumière" shows in which the "CSI" programs specialize.

Hanson might be enough to fill a few paragraphs in an old Reader's Digest "Most Unforgettable Character" featurette, but the thought of spending an hour with him every week is about as attractive as having (place name of your least favorite medical procedure here) with the same frequency.

In addition to the "A" story about the violinist and her mother, there's a "B" story about a nondescript man who is also having brain problems and whose son goes ballistic, much as the violinist's mom does.

It all plays as horribly posed and corny, and using Coldplay's affecting "Fix You" to accompany a montage sequence helps for only about three minutes. The significance of the song is obvious in context, but viewers who manage to slog through the whole hour might think that it's the show rather than its characters who need the fixing, and that's assuming a cure even exists.

When, by the way, does Jack Kevorkian get out of prison?

3 Lbs. (one hour) debuts tonight at 10 on WUSA (Channel 9).

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