Did anyone else tune in to TNT’s new sobering medical drama, based on the writings of neurosurgeon and CNN correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta, and find that they now need a stiff drink, stat? I can guess what you’re thinking – “Wait, but what’s the name of the show?” – and it is with a profound sense of befuddlement that I can confirm that Monday Mornings is really the title of a new television show, which airs Monday nights.
The series centers around a hospital’s weekly “morbidity and mortality” sessions, in which chief of staff Dr. Harding Hooten (Alfred Molina) acts as both prosecutor and judge while his team of brilliant neurosurgeons stand “on trial” for mistakes they’ve made. Do you want to crawl in a hole and die yet? Don’t! Enough patients on this show do already.
Considering David E. Kelley’s past offerings – Ally McBeal, Chicago Hope, The Practice, and Boston Legal – I think I expected Monday Mornings to be quirkier and more upbeat. There were glimpses – one doc (Bill Irwin) can’t stop raising and lowering himself on his toes, Molina’s character takes waaaaay longer than necessary while pouring a glass of water in order to torment his charges to maximum effect, a Korean-American immigrant surgeon (Keong Sim) speaks extremely broken English and boasts a bedside manner that’s laughably bad – but it seems levity will be sparse when so much of the plot focuses on the somber portrayal of doctors making mistakes and then dealing with the aftermath.
Stylistically, I ended up enjoying frequent Kelley collaborator Bill D’Elia’s heavy-handed direction, which obsessively zeroed in on human details – nervous hands, enhanced heartbeats, a random closeup of Molina’s blurry chin to highlight the podium behind it. That surgery scene with the little kid featured so many quick cuts among doctors’ hands, spurting blood, ghastly TV screens of the action, and the patient’s face – all of this occasionally bathed in creepy white light – that I felt like I was freaking out right alongside Dr. Tyler Wilson….in his mind!
Such visual antics might turn many viewers off, but the scene was my favorite part by far – when Wilson (Battlestar Galactica’s Jamie Barber, sadly sans accent in this series) seemed to experience his own severe head trauma after the kid uncontrollably bled out. SO MUCH BLOOD. So much mental turmoil! I’m sure the general melodrama would have been too much to handle had it not been for the fact that Pink Floyd’s “A New Machine” was bleating out as the soundtrack. That is just a staggeringly awesome song choice for a medical drama. I can’t help it – I’m still kind of blown away. (Bonus points for “Gimme Shelter” at the end of the pilot, too.)
Am I gushing too much about a stupid song? Do you like Jamie Bamber better with shaggy hair and a beard? Will you tune in next week for more anguish and wrongdoing? And is anyone else gonna need a lot more of Dr. Villanueva (Ving Rhames!) in order to keep tuning in?