NBC’s ‘Transplant’ is the best medicine for fall

With new scripted series at a premium since production shut down most of Hollywood, NBC imports “Transplant,” a Canadian medical drama.

It might be the best decision the network has made in years.

This refreshing series (debuting Tuesday at 10 p.m. on NBC) presents an unlikely hero struggling to find his place in a world often hostile toward him.

When we meet Bashir “Bash” Hamed (Hamza Haq, “Quantico”), he is watching the clock in perhaps the dingiest Middle Eastern restaurant in all of Toronto. He has an appointment to keep, but then he recognizes one of his customers, Dr. Jed Bishop (John Hannah, “Spartacus”).

Tentatively, Bash approaches the table.

“Do you remember me, sir?”

“You made me dinner,” the doctor replies.

Then the world explodes.

A truck plows into the restaurant, turning it into a hellscape.

Most of the ceiling collapses, trapping the survivors. Flames erupt from the truck.

Bash plucks pieces of glass from his torso.

In the wreckage of the eatery, everyone else appears either dead or on the verge of dying.

But it’s their lucky day, for Bash is no run-of-the-mill restaurant worker. He’s Dr. Hamed, a surgeon trained in emergency medicine who escaped his war-torn Syria to begin a fresh life in Canada.

Hamza Haq, "Transplant" (Photo: NBC)
TRANSPLANT — “Tell Me Who You Are” Episode 102 — Pictured: Hamza Haq as Dr. Bashir “Bash” Hamed — (Photo by: Yan Turcotte/Sphere Media/CTV/NBC)

Given his experiences on the battlefield, Bash has learned to make quick decisions and utilize unorthodox treatments to save his patients – as he does here, when he finds a power drill in the back of the restaurant and bores a hole in Dr. Bishop’s skull to relieve the pressure from a subdural hematoma.

(A few moments in “Transplant” are not for the squeamish, but the show does not dwell on gore.)

Transported – against his will – to York Memorial Hospital, considered the finest hospital in all of Toronto, Bash encounters a racist cop who thinks Bash was actually the driver of the truck.

As Bash tries to desperately flee the hospital for his appointment, York Memorial’s staff try to save Bishop and another customer injured in the accident.

Here “Transplant” dodges a common trap so many other series fall into. The pilot doesn’t shoehorn everyone in for a big moment, but introduces the staff at a natural pace. Some get more time than others, but all reveal some intriguing aspects of themselves, and no doubt everyone will get a chance to shine later in the season.

Dr. Magalie “Mags” LeBlanc (Laurence Leboeuf, “19-2”) is a second-year resident with excellent patient skills who seems to doubt herself; Dr. June Curtis (Ayisha Issa, “12 Monkeys”) is a driven resident who is quick to act; and Dr. Theo Hunter (Jim Watson, “Designated Survivor”) is a pediatric emergency fellow who keys the other staff into Bash’s medical skills.

Haq is authentic and sympathetic as a doctor looking to rebuild his life in a strange country, and he is buoyed by a crack supporting cast. The look of the fictional York Memorial is utterly convincing – the hospital always looks busy, but it’s controlled chaos.

It’s hard to imagine an American broadcaster being bold enough to greenlight a drama such as “Transplant.” Canadian broadcaster CTV has already renewed the series for a second season. That’s great news for anyone looking for a quality medical drama. “Transplant” deserves a permanent home on NBC.