Medical Shows on TV — Good for What Ails You?

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HBO’s “Getting On.”

HBO’s “Getting On.”

There are so many doctors and hospital shows on television that viewers should be eligible for a medical degree after so many hours in front of the TV. Health care experts are on the airwaves in dramas, comedies, and reality shows, in addition to instructional talk shows such as Dr. Oz’ popular weekday series.

The recent crop of dramatic medical shows present stories that are very different from the old Marcus Welby, M.D. and Dr. Kildare tales of long ago. The physicians aren’t as noble as they used to be, and it seems every episode has a problem with someone messing up while treating the patients. Even with the better shows such as Grey’s Anatomy and reruns of House, seeing what goes on in a hospital certainly give you the incentive to stay healthy.

During the Television Critics Association press tour, some medical shows have been in the spotlight, most notable was the dark drama for the premium channel Cinemax called The Knick. The series puts the focus on the Knickerbocker Hospital in downtown New York in 1900. At the turn of the century, the mortality rate is high but Clive Owen plays Dr. John Thackery, a radical surgeon pushing the boundaries in the medical field. Owen explained, “He’s about trying to forward the whole world of medicine and trying to save people’s lives. But he’s a complicated, functioning addict at the same time.”

Alex Borstein, Niecy Nash, Lau-rie Metcalf in “Getting On.”

Alex Borstein, Niecy Nash, Lau-rie Metcalf in “Getting On.”

It is an impressive, albeit depressing, look at the flawed lives of the denizens of the hospital. Oscar-winning filmmaker Steven Soderbergh is the executive producer and directed the entire ten-episode season that premieres August 8th on Cinemax.

There’s also a dark comedy involving a morphine-addicted doctor who encounters his younger self practicing medicine in 1917 rural Russia. A Young Doctor’s Notebook and Other Stories returns to cable’s Ovation network for Season 2 starting August 19th. The series stars Daniel Radcliffe (of Harry Potter fame) and Jon Hamm (Mad Men) playing the same character — at different times of his life.

A Young Doctor’s Notebook tells the story of the older Dr. Bomgard (Hamm) and his younger self (Radcliffe). As Bomgard copes with his troubles in the present, he returns to his old journals and interjects himself into the story. This allows for some humorous encounters, Radcliffe told the TV writers during the Ovation panel. The duo were both naked in a bathtub together, and Radcliffe said he knew “that photo was going to go everywhere” as soon as they shot it.

Radcliffe reported that he appreciates being cast to play a younger version of Jon Hamm. “It’s incredibly flattering that he suggested me to play the young him,” he said along with acknowledging there’s about a 10-inch height difference between them. But he’s sure the show’s fans don’t care, “if they get hung up on that, then there’s going to be plenty of other logical problems that they are going to find.”

A contemporary M.D. series that just premiered (July 17th) on the USA network is Rush. It examines the world of renegade physician Dr. William Rush (Tom Ellis), described as a “medical fixer” who privately caters to LA’s elite and whose service comes with a hefty price tag. Though the hard-partying doctor claims that he doesn’t make judgments about his questionable clients, he’s not immune to the trouble he finds while tending to his patients.

Now let’s hear it for the nurses getting their fair share of the spotlight with the doctors. Thanks to the support of its social media fans, HBO is bringing back the comedy series Getting On for a second season this fall with six episodes. Laurie Metcalf stars as Dr. Jenna James, along with Alex Borstein as Dawn the head nurse, and Niecy Nash as nurse Didi, who work at a geriatric extended-care facility. The unexpected situations faced by those who attend to the needs of elderly patients are ripe for outrageous comedy. Alex explained, “The nurses have 12-hour shifts. They barely have time to pee, and that’s kind of how it is.” Niecy, who loves her sassy role as a dedicated nurse, said, “On National Nurses Day I put out a message on my Instagram—‘Thank you to all the nurses out there.’ It’s a hard job sometimes to see the sick and afflicted every day and still keep your joy.”

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