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Jonathan Storm: The best medicine

Among mediocre new medical shows, 'Three Rivers' rates.

The call had gone out across the land: "CBS was looking for a medical show," executive producer Carol Barbee told TV critics at their summer meeting in Los Angeles.

So she came up with Three Rivers, which focuses on organ transplants, along with its handsome and high-powered doctors, and premieres in a very comfortable time slot at 9 p.m. tomorrow.

But nobody much liked the outlandish first try, sent out to critics in May, in which intrepid couriers took off in a single-engine plane in a hurricane, to get a precious heart all the way from some South Carolina island to the big medical center in Pittsburgh.

So, they remade the first episode and, surprisingly, made it better. Now, among other changes, the heart comes from Cleveland, by ambulance.

CBS wasn't the only network looking for a medical show after ER closed up shop last spring, but it wound up with the best of a mediocre bunch.

It has the required medical-show characters, mixing them with a little spice. The gifted senior surgeon is actually likable, played by Alex O'Laughlin, so now all the gals can swoon over him in a healthier realm than the vampire haunts he occupied in Moonlight, canceled so cruelly two seasons ago. The less-likable womanizer is a relative rookie (Daniel Henney).

And the boss is a woman: Alfre Woodard is the distinguished head of surgery. But then there's a more standard woman's role, the young doctor (Katherine Moennig) trying to live up to her brilliant physician parent's legacy.

Like the CBS crime shows, the series promises to spend a little less time with the professionals' personal lives (no quickies in the janitor's closet in either version of the first episode) and a little more time with the modern marvels of their craft and the weekly stories of a rotating roster of civilians.

And there are stories aplenty, not just with patients, but with the relatives of people on life support, who must deal with the dilemma of organ donation.

These medical shows aren't brain surgery, but most of them are dead on arrival anyway. Three Rivers shows up at least with a healthy pulse.

Jonathan Storm:

Three Rivers

9 p.m. tomorrow

on CBS3