A&E; takes a page from television’s past with “Coma” (8 p.m., concludes Tuesday), an all-star, two-night miniseries.
Lauren Ambrose (“Six Feet Under”) stars as Susan Wheeler, a spunky medical student descended from the founders of the posh hospital where she trains. Her connections grant her some immunity as she moonlights as Nancy Drew almost from the second she dons her scrubs. Something — or is it someone — is sending an inordinate number of patients into comas. And those coma victims are being shuttled to the mysterious Jefferson Institute, where their families can visit them in a tranquil setting that’s more akin to a funeral home than a care facility.
Susan battles with, and subsequently falls for, brooding surgical resident Dr. Mark Bellows (Steven Pasquale), who has trouble adjusting to her conspiracy theories. He’s also sleeping with the icy Dr. Agnetta Lindquist (Geena Davis), who uses her skills as a psychiatrist to crush all who cross her. Susan receives mentoring of sorts from professor Hillside (Richard Dreyfuss) and the hospital’s chief of staff (James Woods). But nobody is aware of what could be happening at the creepy Jefferson Institute — run by the scary, yet confusing, Mrs. Emerson (Ellen Burstyn), a woman who can’t seem to decide whether she’s the CEO or a receptionist.
A medical soap opera stuffed with mystery and a little sex, “Coma” is utterly preposterous. Although it’s entertaining, or at least diverting, to see all these famous actors playing doctors on TV, “Coma” essentially reminds us how dated and obvious miniseries can be, even in the best hands.
Tonight’s other highlights
• U.S. Open tennis (6 p.m., ESPN2).
• The widely despised series “Stars Earn Stripes” (7 p.m., NBC) limps to its contrived conclusion.
• Bay returns, boyfriend in tow, on “Switched at Birth” (7 p.m., ABC Family).
• The unit has to tag-team with the FBI on “Major Crimes” (8 p.m., TNT).
• Nick uncovers a fast-spreading plague on “Grimm” (9 p.m., NBC).
• A murder forces Pierce to face up to his inability to connect with students on “Perception” (9 p.m., TNT).
• Rare among television series, “Get to Work” (9 p.m., Sundance) acknowledges the large number of unemployed people in our midst. On Labor Day, no less.