When a new show is created by the producers of "Degrassi," you just know it's going to be good. But what makes this show different (among other things) is it doesn't take place in a school, and isn't clear about what genre it falls into. Whether you're into teen mysteries, hospital shows or complicated family dramas, then "Open Heart" is just what the doctor ordered.
The opening scene of YTV's new show might make parents pause, but "Open Heart" is more "90210" than "Skins." As far as the first episode goes, it's nothing too heavy, but this is coming from the people who brought us "Degrassi," so you never know where the journey will take us.
The 12-episode series centres on Dylan Blake (newcomer Karis Cameron), a 16-year-old who falls in with a bad crowd after her father vanishes and winds up getting into some trouble (yep, that opening scene I just mentioned). While we don't see exactly what happens we can figure it out, as three months later Dylan is forced to spend her summer vacation volunteering at Open Heart Memorial.
Like "Remedy," which features the Conner family all working at Bethune General, Dylan's family all have ties to the hospital: her mom Jane (Jenny Cooper) is a formidable doctor, her sister, London (Tori Anderson) is a first-year resident, her grandparents (Jonathan Whittaker and Sherry Miller) are board members and two of its most generous benefactors ... and it's the last place her father, Richard (Jeff Douglas, looking very different here than on "Canada's Smartest Person"), was seen before he mysteriously disappeared.
With Dylan's loser friends out, she was due to find some new ones and she couldn't have found any better than Mikayla and Wes (played by "Degrassi" stars Cristine Prosperi and Justin Kelly, respectively). Everyone believes Dylan's dad simply took off, but she's certain he wouldn't have just up and left, so she enlists her new pals' help to figure out what really happened -- starting with her dad's mystery woman, "Ugly Coat," and then his run-in with the handsome Dr. Hudson (Kevin McGarry, "Being Erica").
The first-year resident and combat medic has a cute run-in with Dylan herself but that would be icky, getting involved with somebody half his age. OK, so there was also something a teensy bit hot about it (I know, I know, I'm gross). Here's hoping, for statutory rape's sake, that Hud takes a liking to London or one of the other residents, and Dylan falls for Wes, who clearly digs her.
But aside from all the secrets and lies, at the heart (sorry) of "Open Heart" is a girl trying to find her dad, all while learning more about herself and where she truly belongs in her fractured family and the world.
"Open Heart" also takes the show experience further with an elaborate interactive element. There might be a week between half-hour episodes, but during that down time, viewers don't have to wait and can keep up with all the clues Dylan has been collecting in real time via The "Open Heart": Unlocked! app and the series' website, which features confessions from characters and bonus episodics.
By no means should "Open Heart" be chalked up to a simple teen drama, even though it does have that digital allure that is specifically aimed at teens (as if a 40-something blogger is really going to download the app). Yes, it airs on YTV here (and TeenNick in the U.S.) but that doesn't mean it's only for young people. There's absolutely nothing to be ashamed of if you are older than that so-called desirable demographic and still tune into "Pretty Little Liars" and "Teen Wolf" and "The Fosters" and "Finding Carter." All you need to know is "Open Heart" will make an ideal addition to your schedule.
But don't worry, I won't tell anyone. Cross my heart.
"Open Heart" premieres Tuesday, Jan. 20 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on YTV in Canada and TeenNick in the U.S.