Shelter (NBC) pilot preview: A great disaster TV movie…

Written and produced by Warren Leight (Law & Order SVU, Law & Order CI, In Treatment). Executive produced by Paul Haggis (Collision, Million Dollar Baby, Casino Royale, Walker Texas Ranger) & Charles McDougall. Directed by Charles McDougall (Sex & The City, Desperate Housewives, The Office, The Good Wife). For Sony Pictures Television. 01/27/17.

Description:  The nurses and doctors of Our Lady of Salvation, an understaffed Brooklyn hospital, becomes the borough’s last viable trauma center after a catastrophic hurricane wreaks havoc on the city. On a holiday weekend with few doctors on call, the medical staff is pushed to make the most difficult life-and-death choices as they work to save their patients and themselves…

With Rachel Griffiths (Brothers & Sisters, Six Feet Under, When We Rise, Muriel’s Wedding), Nikki M. James (The Good Wife, Braindead), JJ Feild (Turn), Jamie McShane (Scorpion, Bloodline, SouthLAnd), Latarsha Rose (Being Mary Jane), Paola Lazaro, Matthew James Thomas (Britannia High), Nadia Gan (Mr Robot)…


You’ll like it if you already like: ER, Grey’s Anatomy, Code Black, disaster TV movies…

Likely timeslot: midseason slot (sunday?)


Shelter was the first big drama buy for the broadcast network this pilot season, receiving a pilot production commitment by NBC with Paul Haggis potentially directing. But the movie director had apparently better things to do when it actually got ordered. It doesn’t matter that much though, Charles McDougall is a very good one and many pilots he directed got picked-up to series in the past. In the medical field, the network already has Chicago Med -which is fine despite unsatisfying numbers in its second year- and summer filler The Night Shift. Do they need a third one? I’m very doubtful. I don’t think there’s a slot for it in the fall. Later, maybe…

The hook here is that it’s a real time “extreme event” medical drama. But they don’t mean real time like 24 was originally set up. A one-hour episode is not equal to one-hour in fiction time in Shelter. We don’t really know how much time has passed when the pilot ends. A few hours probably. So it doesn’t feel that different from the other medical shows. The concept of 24 sounds a little too early 2000s anyway. And then there’s the “extreme event” part. This one is accurate – a catastrophic hurricane wreaks havoc on the city- but ultimately it doesn’t feel like the beginning of a TV show but more like the first-part of a 4-hour mini series… from the 90s! Which doesn’t mean it’s boring or anything. I was actually hooked from the first page to the last. It works. It’s very fast-paced and action-packed to the point it’s even exhausting. So many things are happening… A little too many? You can feel the storm coming. And when it arrives, it’s definitely not a little one. Code Grey, Code Red and Code Black have been activated at the hospital. And then the Disaster Code. I get that the writer wants to show how huge the event is but he may be forgetthing he could have 12 other episodes to write after that. What will happen then? And what about the hurricane? It will have to end at some point.

It’s a very character-driven medical drama with our heroine, Kim, the nurse in chief, being at the center of this huge mess and trying to be the best at everything: treating patients (one of them, of course, is her wreckless teenage son), organizing the unorganizable, kick ass at shutting her boss’ big mouth, dealing with her ex-husband who’s a pain in the ass and finding the time to sleep wiht a doctor, her fuck-buddy who wants more. And she’s very good at all of this. Rachel Griffiths will probably thrive on this. Welcome back to american network TV, dear. One other nurse is very pregnant. Classic. She’ll probably deliver her baby in atrocious circumstances later. It’s a diverse cast, with mostly appealing characters, though most of them have yet to be introduced properly with more details about their personal lives. That’s where the show can find more stories to tell in subsequent episodes, though having family members coming to the hospital could get old very fast.

The most intruiging character is Meghan Sparks, the hospital administrator, that everybody will hate initially, that’s for sure. It’s funny because she’s described as a blonde “FOX News hostess” type in the script and she’s played by Nikki M. James, who’s the contrary of this. What’s even more funny is that the same thing happened with Miranda Bailey on Grey’s Anatomy. She was supposed to be a tiny blonde -and Kristin Chenoweth was approached to play the role- but they went for Chandra Wilson. Meghan brings the most interesting thing about this show: it is set in an understaffed hospital of Brooklyn, in a poor neighborhood, and she represents what’s wrong with the american health system. It’s an old theme, but few medical shows tackled it properly and it seems to be timeless, sadly.

Shelter is not the next great medical drama, but it would be a fine TV movie or miniseries and it would fit well with the Chicago shows while doing a better job at keeping you on the edge of your seats. Maybe NBC can turn it into a two or three nights event but a weekly show for years? It seems unlikely. With those characters and this perfect sense of urgency, it’s a bummer.


  1. Hunter Vogt says:

    Maybe each season will be a different event? Though I don’t know how anything could compare to the hurricane in season one though.

    • Lulla says:

      It would be very awkward to see the same hospital and the same characters having another kind of disaster. And doing it like an anthology wouldn’t work.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *