The Telefile
Monday Mornings: Mediocre Medicine

I'll admit that I have a problem: I have a weakness for David E. Kelley's melodramatic brand of drama... no matter how ridiculous it may be. I sat through all of Ally McBeal (against my better judgment, mostly), adored The Practice and was probably the one person who sat through the short-lived The Wedding Bells (even though it nearly physically killed me). I even watched Harry's Law far longer than I should have (though not after they stopped selling shoes at her law firm). But even though I also have a fondness for soapy medical dramas, this new TNT series is going to be a quite the challenge to watch on a regular basis without a heavy dose of Red Bull.

Sure, they did well casting some eye candy in the form of Battlestar Galactica alum Jamie Bamber, but after watching far too much Law & Order: UK, it's strange to hear him back using his American accent. And there are some other credible actors up on the show, such as Bill Irwin, Alfred Molina and Ving Rhames. But somehow the show is just ... boring.

The gist is that these high-pressured surgeons go about their business, but get called into weekly morbidity and mortality meetings where they have to justify their actions if there is a lawsuit or if a patient wound up dead. But if these meetings are every Monday morning, why does everyone need to get paged with a 311.7 code? And why does it seem like they are sometimes held more than once a week? In the first episode alone, they've already sort of invalidated the title. And that's fine, because it is a really stupid title. It tells you absolutely nothing about what the show is about. It seems like it should be about a weekly newsmagazine, or a schoolteacher or Garfield the cat or the Bangles... not a group of surgeons.

Dr. Harding Hooten (yes, that's really the name of the character played by Alfred Molina) is the big cheese, and the one in charge of being a hard-ass in the M&Ms (not the candy). But he has the luxury of having lots more information than the surgeons are provided, which he gets after the fact, making me think that what these doctors really need are more assistant types who can help get info about patients before they start cutting them open. The first guy in the spotlight, Dr. Martin, gets summarily fired for being a 007 type and killing through carelessness, but Dr. Villanueva (Ving Rhames) gets ticked about the fact that this doctor isn't getting a mark on the equivalent of his permanent record. And naturally he storms out in a totally professional manner. I think it's meant to show that he's passionate and to help explain the fact that he sits in what looks like a corner in the hallway at 2 AM doling out sage advice to those around him while scarfing down some Chinese food.

There's also Dr. Tierney (Bill Irwin), who had all of about three things to say in the pilot. He mostly seems to be there to fill the vague villain role, wanting to do things that help the hospital make money. And to look disparagingly at all the other doctors around. And there's also Dr. Sung Park (Keong Sim), who is abrasive and lacks a mastery of the English language, but does brilliant neurosurgery, though he also seems like an afterthought.

There's also the requisite woman with the sad love life, Dr. Napur (Sarayu Rao), whose almost fiancée (he proposed and then took the ring back) dumped her because she was too much of a workaholic. But at least she has a vaguely contentious/flirtatious relationship with Dr. Lieberman (Jonathan Silverman) to fall back on. Their bickering even helps save a patient. Let it be known that Silverman isn't funny here, or seemingly even trying to be, but that he could have actually added some levity to this show.

And the show wouldn't be complete without the "will they or won't they?" relationship between Dr. Ty Wilson (Bamber) and Dr. Ridgeway (Jennifer Finnigan). What's a medical drama without a codependent relationship between two colleagues that may or may not be in a sexual relationship (though we do see that she has a significant other who ignores her). Anyway, their first big case in the pilot involves a little boy who has a huge brain tumor and doesn't make it through the surgery. (Kill a little kid in the first episode? Way to endear yourself to an audience). It hits Ty especially hard and we see flashbacks to a young Dr. Wilson getting some bad news about a loved one. And judging by the second episode I got to preview, it isn't a case that he ends up letting go any time soon.

The most exciting part of the entire premiere was the patient who was brought in at the end suffering from something known as internal decapitation. Now that sounded promising, but of course, we only see a bit of that surgery and didn't find out the outcome. What a letdown. Much like the promising cast in this underwhelming show.

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