September 2, 2020

SHOWBUZZDAILY Series Premiere Review: “Transplant”


TRANSPLANT:  Tuesday 10PM on NBC

A great many shows that we consider “American television” are actually produced in Canada, thanks to favorable tax credits and currency exchange rates.  The creators of these shows and most of the more familiar stars may hail from the US, but the rest of the cast and behind-the-scenes personnel are often Canadian (partly because the tax rules require or encourage the use of local talent).  However, these shows are almost never set where they’re filmed:  a series about the US is “universal” and marketable anywhere, but one set to the north is considered provincial, aimed primarily for the local market.  These series only occasionally appear on American TV networks, and even then almost exclusively in the dog days of summer.  However, all days in 2020 are dog days, and thus NBC, trying to keep the lights on without any new scripted fall programming, has imported the successful Canadian series TRANSPLANT, a medical procedural that’s hoping to appeal to the Tuesday 10PM fans who would normally be expecting a fresh season of New Amsterdam.

The title refers not only to a medical procedural but to the show’s hero Bashir Hamed (Hamza Haq), a recent arrival from Syria along with his sister Amira (Sirena Gulamgaus).  The cleverly-designed pilot script by series creator Joseph Kay brings us into the show’s hospital world by way of a thriller structure.  We meet Bashir at his humble job working in an Arabic fast-food shop, but when a truck crashes through the restaurant’s plate-glass window (Canadian TV operates on low budgets, so the crash is suggested more through editing and sound design than via a major stunt sequence), we quickly come to realize that Bashir is actually a trained doctor–and not only trained but brilliant, singlehandedly saving the lives of an assortment of patients.

One of the people Bashir rescues, conveniently enough for Transplant, is Dr. Jed Bishop (John Hannah), who happens to be head of surgery at York Memorial Hospital.  Bashir keeps Bishop alive by drilling a hole in his head without so much as an x-ray to tell him where to place the power drill, and we know that once Bishop regains consciousness, the two will forge a connection.  But since that doesn’t happen until the end of the hour, the episode mostly has Bashir playing cat and mouse with a suspicious local cop, dashing around the hospital, which allows us to meet other series regulars, like the sympathetic Dr Leblanc (Laurence Leboeuf) and the competitive Dr Curtis (Ayisha Issa).

Kay and veteran director Holly Dale keep the action bustling, with the usual quota of rare diagnoses (that woman’s cardiac problems are due to an unusual post-partum heart disorder!) and soap (Dr Bishop is driven and uncompromising, and therefore–up to this point–friendless).  Meanwhile Kay keeps the circumstances of Bashir’s history somewhat shrouded, although his scars suggest some heavy backstory ahead.  Haq is an appealing lead, Hannah is an old pro, and the cast in general seems serviceable.

NBC would undoubtedly be happy with moderate ratings for Transplant, which although produced just months ago already has the feel of a period piece as a medical drama that doesn’t address the critical health issue of this moment in history.  The series isn’t Grey’s Anatomy (or even New Amsterdam), but this is the pinch in which Transplant will do.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."