TV Review - Monday Mornings Vs. Do No Harm

Jamie Bamber (left) and
Jennifer Finnigan in "Monday Mornings"
This winter saw two new medical shows debut. Do No Harm began on NBC. Monday Mornings started on TNT. Monday Mornings premiered one week after Do No Harm and by the time it did, NBC was already in the process of cancelling Do No Harm, which the network did after the second episode. TNT, however, will probably carry Monday Mornings for the next two months. I'm not sure I can argue that Do No Harm is a good show, but between these two medical dramas, I would have preferred Do No Harm over Monday Mornings.

Based on the novel by Sanjay Gupta whom most may know from his appearances on CNN and written by David E. Kelley, the series focuses on a group of doctors at a teaching hospital where the surgeons gather together in a lecture hall every week to go over surgeries that went wrong in order to understand why they went wrong and what lessons can be learned. The problem is that Alfred Molina who plays Dr. Hooten runs these gatherings and his goal always seems to be to shame, guilt or humiliate the doctors involved.

I get that the point is to avoid bad surgeries or ones that end in deaths, but tearing apart doctors this way seems unnecessary and cruel. That, and if it worked, it wouldn't be needed. At the first gathering, we see Ving Rhames who plays Dr. Villanueva get upset at a doctor who's being torn apart because he misdiagnosed a patient. Apparently, this particular doctor had problems before, so Villanueva's grand-stand in this moment feels a bit ridiculous and over-the-top. If Villanueva really had a problem with this doctor, instead of throwing a tantrum at this gathering, he should have simply reported him to the medical board.

Kelley might be taking directly from Gupta's book, but some of the cases involving botched surgeries seems to boil down to minutia or even clerical errors. This might be indicative of what happens in hospitals in real-life, which is alarming, but somehow when presented in a drama in this way, it comes off as stupid. Hooten points out this minutia in the most condescending way possible and it's annoying.

After the second gathering of Hooten and these doctors, you get what the solution should be. With every patient, every conceivable test should be conducted, whether invasive or not, whether expensive or not, and each test should be conducted three times and the charts should be examined by at least three experts in each field and then tripled checked and then three separate opinions should be received before any surgery. Disregard the fact that often patients and doctors neither have the time nor the money to do all that, that's what should be done. Or else, Hooten should make every decision, since he's the condescending know-it-all who snottily judges the surgeons on Monday mornings.

I'm not a doctor but it feels like Monday Mornings has no sense of the gray area of medicine or the fact that no matter what... doctors are human too. They're going to make mistakes and those mistakes aren't always so simple or black-and-white. It's like in the film A Few Good Men (1992) when Tom Cruise's character points out there are some medical disorders where the initial symptoms are so vague, those disorders could escape a physician during an initial examination. I guess Hooten wants every doctor to be like the one in FOX's House, M.D. or be the Sherlock Holmes of medicine, but that's unrealistic, which makes his attitude unbearable.

I'm all for doctors getting angry and passionate about saving patients, but there has got to be a realization that not everyone can be saved whether it's under the doctor's control or not. It just seems like Hooten wants robots, and his antagonism in the meetings feels like antagonism for antagonism's sake.

The pilot episode as well as the second episode did things that annoyed me. First is that both episodes went for the easy tear-jerking tactics of having sick children. It's too obvious to dangle or even drop the death of a child. It's forcing these heart-wrenching emotions in a way that's too easy and doesn't feel earned, again making everything so black-and-white.

The pilot episode was directed by Bill D'Elia and his use of quick camera moves and rapid editing during a surgery scene also felt manipulative. It also seemed like the show was trying to force emotions when it didn't need to do so. The show makers wanted to amp things up in this moment and it came off as overblown. The blood-soaked hands were also way over-the-top.

Kelley created the TV series Ally McBeal and a staple of that show as well as his others is one or two quirky characters. Last year, there already was a series dubbed Ally McBeal in a hospital. Monday Mornings is not a comedy, but still Kelley couldn't resist a quirky character. Enter Buck, played by Bill Irwin who has a kind of tick involving his foot, which put him right up there with Peter MacNicol who played John Cage from Ally McBeal. An Asian doctor, played by Keong Sim, was right in line with James Spader's character in Boston Legal, another Kelley-created show.

I refuse to turn on another episode of Monday Mornings, but I would have turned on more episodes of Do No Harm. Why? I might be just as crazy as its main character, but I liked its main character. Steven Pasquale who many know from his idiotic personae in FX's Rescue Me starred in Do No Harm as a brilliant, brain surgeon named Jason Cole. Jason suffers from Dissociative Identity Disorder where he has an alter ego named Ian Price. The premise is essentially "Jekyll and Hyde."

The problem is writer David Schulner builds into this premise some nonsensical rules. One rule is that Jason automatically becomes Ian at exactly 8:25PM, presumably Eastern Standard Time. Ian then automatically becomes Jason again at 8:25AM. Normally, alter egos or multiple personalities are triggered by some event or circumstance, but this guy's brain seems to operate on some kind of mechanical clock.

Beyond the normal questions that having multiple personalities raise like what caused it and how do you stop it, Schulner's convoluted premise raises more unnecessary, mechanical questions. One basic question is when does this guy sleep. Jason is up for 12 hours and then presumably Ian is up for 12 hours. While one personality is awake, the other is technically dormant or in a kind of slumber, but in reality it would mean this guy's body is never truly asleep, or if he does sleep, it's only briefly before the other alter takes over. It's unsustainable though that he'd be able to do much of anything, let alone be a great neurosurgeon.

NBC tried to do a show like this before about a modern-day Jekyll and Hyde. It was with Christian Slater in My Own Worst Enemy. I never watched but that show was cancelled after nine episodes. Showtime's recent comedy series The United States of Tara dealt with multiple personalities better. It did so by not making the alter someone who was possibly evil and hellbent on destroying his other self. I suppose if that's what Schulner wanted, to have a battle between these two men trapped in one body, then he needed these contrivances, but it made the show appear more preposterous.

That being said, I still preferred this show over Monday Mornings. Despite having a sick and twisted alter ego, Pasquale's performance was more attractive to me than Molina's. Pasquale in general is simply more attractive. His Ian Price was creepy and sexy, often simultaneously, as well as being a party animal and fornication machine. My eyes never averted in the many times Pasquale's studly form would emerge practically naked from various hotel rooms, filled with hookers and heroin.

Maybe I just preferred Do No Harm because it was set and shot in my hometown of Philadelphia. Pasquale himself is from the area, and this show is not to be outdone by the other medical drama set in the City of Brotherly Love, ABC's Body of Proof, but Do No Harm managed to make my hometown a little better looking in ways that it normally doesn't.

Do No Harm
Four Stars out of Five.
Rated TV-14-LSV.
Running Time: 1 hr.

Monday Mornings
One Star out of Five.
Rated TV-14-DL.
Running Time: 1 hr.
Mondays at 10PM on TNT.


Popular Posts