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Coma's part one on A&E delivers big time in the fear-thriller genre

Dave Masko's picture

It’s designed to fire the imagination; thus, the premier of “Coma” on Labor Day did just that with one fan writing on Twitter: “It scared the heck out of me.”

Tune to A&E tonight for part 2 and the conclusion of the “Coma” miniseries. In turn, if the Sept. 4 conclusion is anything like the over-the-top first part of this science fiction classic remake, than viewers are in for a bumpy ride of real horror. For instance, when former “Six Feet Under” star Lauren Ambrose discovers how “abnormally high numbers of patients” are falling into comas - during last night’s part-one of the thriller “Coma” - we all sort of scream inside, writes one fan following the miniseries on Twitter. Ambrose – who is a cult star in her own right after appearing in the 2000 film “Psycho Beach Party – also faces lots of villains who are real-life “who’s who” of old Hollywood, with Oscar winners Richard Dreyfuss, Geena Davis and Ellen Burstyn portraying doctors and hospital administrators who tell medical student Ambrose that she’s crazy to suspect such a grisly conspiracy.

Yet, Ambrose is finding healthy people who've been put into comas to harvest their organs for transplants; while this four-hour miniseries asks viewers "are you safe in hospital?"

Coma director says adaptation of classic timely today

Coma’s director Mikael Salomon – known for his superb directing work on the World War II miniseries “Band of Brothers” – explains in the recent Sept. 3-9 edition of TV Guide that “we’re now in a world of stem-cell research and black-market organs, things that weren’t imaginable back when the novel and the movie were all the rage.”

Salmon also told TV Guide that today “people feel a great sense of alienation and isolation when they go to the hospital, as if they’re on some sort of assembly line in a factory. And Coma is their most hellish nightmare.”

Moreover, Cook’s story - of people being put into coma’s to harvest their organs - was turned into a hit 1978 movie as well; with bodies hanging by wires as if they were beef on meat-hooks in a cold storage locker.

Also, since the A&E Network spent so many millions to bring this adaptation to the small screen, both its “Coma” program website and Facebook page remind viewers that they can now watch part one on the A&E program website; while part two airs tonight at 9/8c.

What is a “coma?”

A medical dictionary defines “coma” as “a profound state of unconsciousness,” while “Coma” star Lauren Ambrose, 34, told TV Guide this role of playing a medical intern - who joins a medical group in Atlanta - was all about “getting into the horror-thriller genre” again.

In turn, this actress is known for her previous roles when she's played neurotic, sensitive types with lots of emotional baggage.

Thus, in her “Coma” role as Susan Wheeler, Ambrose really got to show her stuff during the first part of this four-hour miniseries that premiered Labor Day.

Also, it's more than a bit spooky with Ellen Burstyn explains how these people discovered in Coma’s are “not really alive. But they’re not dead, either.”

For example, it’s sort of fun to watch Ambrose in this first part of the miniseries as she becomes more and more suspicious of Peachtree Memorial Hospital where she discovers hundreds of brain-dead patients who are cared for by the evil character played by Burstyn.

Who is behind these comas?

At the same time, it seemed that Ambrose was all over the place in this first part of the miniseries; as her character Susan Wheeler seemed both dazed and confused about who's behind this massive undertaking to put healthy people into coma's; while viewers at home may have already figured it out.

For instance, her character often wonders out loud why so many hospital patients are not waking up from surgery and, instead, going into comas.

In turn, Ambrose plays detective by portraying a sort of retro-Nancy Drew who must spy on the evil doctors – played by Geena Davis, James Woods and Richard Dreyfuss) who she thinks are directly involved in this grisly conspiracy to mine organs from the bodies of once healthy hospital patients. Thus, the cliff-hanger for the Sept. 4 conclusion to his two-park remake of the classic book and film of the same name.

Ambrose is best known to younger viewers for her film roles as a teen in trouble in “In & Out” and “Can’t Hardly Wait.” She also earned two Emmy nominations for Best Actress in a supporting role on the popular “Six Feet Under” TV series.

Can “Coma” happen in real life?

A recent review for this remake of the 1978 science-fiction cult classic “Coma” in the Sept. 3 edition of The New York Times, explained how this new “Coma” miniseries on A&E mirrors the same “sinister hospital where patients undergoing relatively minor surgery fall into comas with disturbing frequency."

In this latest telling, "the hospital is in Atlanta, rather than Boston as in the novel, but the location doesn’t matter. This institution is a universal nightmare created out of the fear we all have of turning our fate over to strangers whose superior knowledge we have to take on faith.”

While Dreyfuss is very good as a professor at the hospital - and Davis is super as the head-shrink - it’s James Woods as the chief of staff who seems the most evil.

However, it’s the horror of real-life that is sure to shake viewers of this new edition of “Coma” after learning how the miniseries is the production of famed British directors and brothers Ridley and Tony Scott. It was Tony Scott who committed suicide just a few weeks before this, in final project, was set to air on Labor Day.

In the end, the Times review says “Coma is as a metaphor. It’s unlikely that such a hospital exists, but the horrors of navigating the health care system and of retaining personal control over medical care in the biotech age are as real as can be.”

For instance, Burstyn’s character notes “I think I’ll use the 8s,” as the Times review points to the tool “she will employ to impose an unwanted medical intrusion on poor Susan (Ambrose), the 10s might shatter her pelvis. The details are gleefully left to the viewer’s imagination, where plenty of medically induced fears already reside.”

Coma’s conclusion airs Sept. 4 at 9 ET/PT, with A&E set to rerun the four-hour miniseries throughout September so fans of this new “Coma” – based novel by Robin Cook – can really get into what the film is saying about what may go on behind closed doors in hospitals today.

Image source of Lauren Ambrose who plays Susan Wheeler in the new A&E miniseries “Coma,” while this photo of Ambrose is from 2000 when she became an instant cult movie star with her role in the film “Psycho Beach Party.” Photo courtesy Wikipedia

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