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Andre Braugher digs deep and creates another mesmerizing character in "Gideon's Crossing."

As Good As It Gets

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On "ER," it's gurneys crashing through doors. On "Gideon's Crossing," it's ideas that come crashing through. It's all a matter of style. On "ER," it's all about action. On "Gideon's Crossing," the pace is slower, more thoughtful, more cerebral. And that may be its downfall. "Gideon's Crossing" may be too cerebral to engage and hold the average TV viewer. It's glib to say that MTV has ratcheted up the pace, but it's true. If something new and exciting and dramatic and emotionally wrenching isn't happening every 30 seconds -- well, just grab the remote and click your way to something splashier. Too bad, because "Gideon's Crossing" is as good as it gets when it comes to thought-provoking medical dramas on television. "GC" started with a solid anchor: a book by Dr. Jerome Groopman titled "With The Measure of Our Days," published two years ago. Dr. Groopman wanted to explain what's to be learned when life can no longer be taken for granted. His book caught the eye of Academy Award-nominated writer Paul Attanasio ("Quiz Show," "Homicide: Life on the Street"). When it came time to cast the lead for what became "Gideon's Crossing," Attanasio turned to the actor who had served him -- and the audience -- so well in "Homicide," Andre Braugher. Braugher's Gideon, however, is not detective Frank Pembleton in medical drag. For Gideon, diseases, not criminals, are the enemy, and death is something to be prevented, not investigated. Instead of Pembleton's boldness and audacity, Gideon is a man of relentless compassion and empathy. This is not to say that Gideon doesn't recognize his own value as a physician specializing in experimental medicine. Not at all. But he does acknowledge that treatment is a partnership, that success is to be shared, and that his talent is nothing if he hasn't inspired his patient to struggle with him to beat the odds. In short, Dr. Gideon is the man you'd like to have on your side when the chips are down and nobody else has any bright ideas on what to do next to save your life. To keep the stories from being too one-dimensional, Attanasio has surrounded Gideon with a talented ensemble: Rueben Blades as Gideon's boss, and a fistful of young actors playing residents who rightfully worship Gideon as both physician and teacher. But it's Braugher who carries the weight of the series, and he does it not by putting his character on like a doctor dons a lab coat, but by reaching down inside himself to find the bony essence of his character, the same way he found Frank Pembleton's center on "Homicide." Braugher practices the kind of acting that sweeps an audience along in his wake and makes them believe. His technique, coupled with his complete commitment, has made him one of the finest actors working in television today. His cerebral approach worked perfectly on "Homicide." Don't make the mistake of underestimating him in "Gideon's Crossing."

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