Earlier this year, records were broken across the nation as the three part History Channel drama, Hatfields & McCoys became the most watched event in cable history. Now, months later, A&E is hoping, but hopefully not expecting, to break that record with their new two part drama, Coma. Perhaps the biggest interest factor this show has going for it is the fact that it is produced by Ridley Scott, director of Alien, Blade Runner, and this year’s Prometheus, and his brother, Tony Scott, director of Top Gun and Unstoppable. When I first saw the trailer for this mini-series in the cinema, I immediately became interested when I saw their names flash on the screen and the typical, yet beautiful sci-fi imagery Ridley Scott is so good at achieving. Then I watched the series, and after a day of thinking it over, I have finally made my decision on how I feel about this show.
Based on the 1977 novel by Robin Cook and the 1978 film, Coma follows Susan Wheeler, a medical student at Peach Tree Memorial Hospital who discovers that random patients who have been admitted to the hospital for typical injuries and illnesses suddenly lapse into comas. After investigating this strange occurrence, Susan is led to the mysterious Jefferson Institute, where she discovers something wicked and more sinister may be at work.
After hearing about the tragic death of Tony Scott last month, it is hard for me to say anything bad about this series and blame it on him, and thankfully, I don’t have to. It is, however, obvious, when Tony and Ridley were actually involved. When there are chase scenes and explosions, you can feel the presence of Tony, and when they sci-fi elements intertwine, you can feel the presence of Ridley. Outside of those two areas, however, the show, while featuring some great performances, ultimately falls flat.
There are a few chase scenes in this series, as stated earlier, and, also stated earlier, you can certainly feel Tony Scott. He has directed so many high octane films in his career, most recently Man on Fire, The Taking of Pelham 123, and Unstoppable. When the chase scenes and high octane energetic moments occur, Scott certainly does his job of maintaining the breakneck pacing and powerful relevance. Next to be addressed is, obviously, the sci-fi elemental factors, which has Ridley Scott’s name written all over it. Coming off his smart, stylish, and powerful epic Prometheus earlier this year, it was good to see him return, yet again, to his sci-fi roots. However, there are fewer moments of sci-fi material than you may expect. I personally believe the trailer miss marketed this show pretty severely, making it appear as some kind of intelligent sci-fi masterpiece rather than what it really is: another medical drama. Yes, Coma, features virtually nothing that could be considered “sci-fi” when thinking of Ridley Scott, resulting in just another medical drama with a mild science fiction twist.
The performances in the show make it worth the watch though, which end up being the best part, even though a few of them do suck. While offering nothing memorable, Lauren Ambrose does fine work in the leading role as Susan Wheeler, alongside a good Steven Pasquale as Dr. Mark Bellows, her instructor. Also, Academy Award Winner Geena Davis does good work here, along with James Woods and Richard Dreyfuss. Possibly the best performance in the show is the spine tingling Ellen Burstyn as the head of Jefferson, Mrs. Emerson. So, the cast is great and the action is great, but where does it fall? The writing, pacing, and the overall execution. This show features some good lines and some interesting conversations, but it ultimately ends up going on for too long and becomes too boring and uninteresting.
In the end, Coma is a good looking show and contains an interesting premise, but ultimately falls flat in most departments, offering a bearable, average, sometimes awesome, yet most times boring, mini-series epic.
Run Time: 240 mins
[R.I.P. Tony Scott. One of Hollywood’s finest directors. My heart and prayers go out to the families.]