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'NY Med': TV Review

NY Med Episodic Dr.Oz - H 2014
ABC

The Bottom Line

The engrossing series has made a few good course corrections since its first season and remains as addicting as ever.

Airtime

Thursdays at 10 p.m. on ABC, beginning June 26

Creator

Terry Wrong

Terry Wrong's intimate production continues to feature Dr. Oz and New York-Presbyterian but has also expanded to Newark's University Hospital trauma bay.

It's been two years since the premiere of NY Med, and since then, producer Terry Wrong (Boston Med and many other medical documentaries) has been busy collating and weaving together stories for the show's second season. Though the focus remains on the ER staff of New York-Presbyterian — a teaching hospital that allows for a great variety of stories (regarding both patients and doctors) — this second season has expanded to include Newark's University Hospital, which brings in a very different set of cases.

As it did in its first season, NY Med will run a restricted eight episodes, each seemingly positioned to be more engrossing than the last. Some of the staff from the original series has returned, including three of Presbyterian's most memorable nurses, ER resident Debbie Yi and, of course, Dr. Mehmet Oz, who is used more sparingly this time around. Oz's presence stands out not only to viewers, but to patients. When Yi approaches a woman newly admitted to the ER, the woman complains, "Where's Dr. Oz?" "Am I not good enough?" Yi jokes with her, knowing that Oz's celebrity status is a magnet for patients. "I guess I'll take what I can get," the woman says nonchalantly. For viewers though, it can be a good thing.

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Wrong's medical documentary style is one with an emphasis on realism, without an agenda or a defined motivation beyond showing a "day in the life" of the medical teams and those they treat. Because of that, Oz (despite his charming personality) can be a distraction from what otherwise feels like normalized chaos. When he steps aside, it also allows staffers like Newark ER resident Hugo Razo to shine in the documentary. Razo's collected but passionate demeanor makes him a standout among many other very capable doctors and helps provide a touchstone for Newark's unusual scenes, like when a 79-year-old drunk man throws his cell phone, hitting Razo in the nose.

Each hour of NY Med is packed with stories ranging from the uplifting to the disgusting (depending on one's tolerance for graphic medical procedures) to the strange. Each location also provides myriad ailments, all of them extreme: a young actor screams in pain because of a torn aorta, a beloved father needs a risky surgery to remove a tumor from his spine, a Marine needs a heart transplant, and two victims of a home invasion are each less concerned about their own injuries than those of their significant other. 

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These real-life dramas, sometimes filmed with uncomfortable intimacy, don't need Grey's Anatomy-style emotional music cues — they speak for themselves. NY Med has in fact learned to tone down some of those cues since the first season, allowing instead for the stories to play out and be naturally affecting. Sometimes the cameras do a follow-up, but many times things are quickly left behind in the revolving door of patients (and extremely fast-paced editing).

As of the first two episodes at least, NY Med also seems to have stepped away somewhat from going too deep into the personal lives of the medical staff. There's some time given to a nurse who was unceremoniously fired after six years on the job for posting a (rather benign) photograph of an empty hospital room on Instagram, as well as a brief look at Yi's pre-wedding ceremony. Otherwise, the focus remains on the medical procedures, with the documentary just taking clips of commentary along the way (such as when a young female's extreme sunburn made one of the nurses consider staying away from the tanning bed). 

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In this way, NY Med continues to do an excellent job of creating a tone that mixes humor with real drama. Wrong's unprecedented access to these medical facilities also shows the staff's trust, which is conveyed visually by their easy tone and manner when discussing even the most chaotic and difficult parts of their jobs. "Where did these feathers come from? Every time I open a curtain there's a new surprise …" Razo says with humor and some exasperation. Just another day on the job.