“Transplant” lives up to its name in many ways.
It’s a Canadian series, transplanted to the U.S. and NBC. It’s about a Syrian man (Hamza Haq, shown here), transplanted to Canada. It’s about a restaurant worker, transplanted to …
Well, we won’t get ahead of ourselves on that. The show’s opening episode (10 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 1) parcels out information slowly and deliberately. It’s best to watch it in that way. When you get to the spoiler point, later in this review, please stop reding until you’ve seen the episode.
People have long suspected that there’s worthy drama emerging from other English-language places. England has been quite good at this, in the four centuries since Shakespeare started writing; Canada, Australia and New Zealand have shows that reflect British influences and quality.
They provide terrific shows on the streaming services (Acorn, Britbox) and PBS, plus the Emmy-nominated “Schitt’s Creek” on Pop and some offbeat pleasures on Syfy. But CW is usually the only American commercial, broadcast networks to jump in.
It’s had a few excellent shows (the Canadian drama “Coroner” and British comedy “Dead Pixels”) … some blandly adequate ones (Canada’s drama “Burden of Truth” and reality “Fridge Wars”) … and some too odd for American tastes. The British reality show “Taskmaster” lasted one episode on CW.
What is consistent in the Canadian shows is the quality of the acting and the straightforward writing. That’s clear in “Transplant.”
Haq, who stars as Bashir, is subtly terrific. We see waves of conflicted emotions creep across his sometimes-stoic facade.
Haq has done lots of work in Canada, but little that Americans have seen. In fact, the only actor most Americans will recognize is John Hannah. He’s a Scottish native who’s had major roles (villains, mostly) on cable shows – “Spartacus,” “Damages,” “Dirk Gently” – and on ABC’s “Agents of SHIELD,” where he spent two seasons as Holden Radcliffe, an evil/good/evil scientist.
Hannah is the one eating at the restaurant, when …
Well, that’s as far as we go for now. Watch the episode, then please come back here.
OK, now you’re back and we can talk about it.
It turns out that Bashir was a doctor (as his parents were) in Syria. He came to Canada legally, is authorized to practice medicine, but can’t get hired … until now.
After his heroics saving Dr. Jed Bishop (Hannah) at the restaurant and others at the hospital, he was hired by Bishop. Now he can pay the rent, care for his 12-year-old sister and maybe help his friend, who’s undocumented.
The contrasts are fierce. There’s the pristine hospital and the crumbling conditions (shown in cell-phone calls with his friend in Aleppo) where he used to work. And there’s the by-the-book procedures the Canadians used, compared to the makeshift ones he mastered in the field.
Some of this seems far-fetched, but is apparently accurate. My in-house medical expert assures me that the hospital scenes make sense; and the Aleppo ones seem similar to what we saw in the Oscar-nominated documentary “For Sama.”
The only fault I can pick is that “Transplant” sometimes gives in to two hospital-show cliches – the family members who just get in the way and the parent who wants to ban medical procedures.
Both are easy to forgive. We quickly care about Bashir and the varied people he knows in the hospital and at home. We root for him … and are glad people are discovering Canadian-made TV.