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I tend to put medical procedurals in two categories: There’s the kind that makes me feel reassured about doctors and nurses and the brilliance of the people dedicated to saving lives; and then there’s the kind that leaves me amazed that anybody who walks into a hospital ever walks out alive.
Fox’s new drama The Resident fits squarely into the latter category, starting inauspiciously with the brilliant face of an Atlanta teaching hospital, Bruce Greenwood’s Dr. Randolph Bell, basically killing a patient in the midst of a routine surgery and coercing his team to cover it up.
Air date: Jan 21, 2018
What follows is a by-the-numbers treatment of genius doctors playing God, the sensitive nurses who screw them in the break room and the American medical system that treats patients like commodified extensions of their insurance plans. That’s not high praise, but ABC’s The Good Doctor has already proven this season that audiences are starved for by-the-numbers medical procedurals with minor character-driven wrinkles, and The Resident has the sort of cast that makes watching uninspired drama at least feel diverting.
You probably haven’t noticed him in any of the show’s marketing, but the “resident” of the title is probably Manish Dayal’s Dr. Devon Pravesh, introduced basically with a cut to his Harvard medical degree. It’s Devon’s first day at Chastain Park Memorial Hospital, and he’s paired with brilliant senior resident Dr. Conrad Hawkins (Matt Czuchry), who we know is a renegade because he’s introduced dangerously riding his bike to work and chugging an energy drink. Conrad proceeds to give Devon one of those hospital walk-and-talks that feature canned wisdom like “Everything you thought you knew about medicine is wrong. All the rules you followed, we’ll break. I have only one rule, covers everything — I’m never wrong.”
The pilot script by Amy Holden Jones & Hayley Schore & Roshan Sethi is not afraid of clichés when it comes to either dialogue or archetypal characters.
Conrad has an on-again/off-again relationship with Nurse Nicolette (Emily VanCamp), who proves herself so capable that Devon has to ask somebody why she isn’t a doctor, in a conversation that gave me a “We’re still doing this in 2018, TV shows?” shudder. Conrad is also at war with Dr. Bell, and he’s such a master at impossible diagnoses that Fox would have been smart to digitally insert a few ‘80s cars and rebrand The Resident as a House prequel. Equally brilliant and equally frustrated with Dr. Bell is Mina Okafor (Shaunette Renée Wilson), a Nigerian surgeon whose work visa could be jeopardized if she doesn’t play ball with Bell. Adding to the medical cacophony is Melina Kanakaredes‘ Dr. Lane Hunter, introduced — if you can call it that — in the second episode, plus various one-and-done procedural patients and a few serialized patients whose names might as well be Ethical Dilemma, Moral Dilemma and Obese Guy With Diabetes.
The hospital has just acquired a really high-tech new surgical system and I don’t know if it’s realistic or not. The way it’s being used is only in implausible-and-yet-predictable ways. You’ve seen variations on every case in the first two episodes. I understand how that can be reassuring and home-y, but it’s really just the usual assortment of comas, transplants and diseases that may or may not be lupus.
The pilot is such a melange of “I’m a rogue doctor” and “Forget what you learned at Harvard, rookie” tropes that it’s almost a relief when the second episode smooths everything out. Conrad’s eccentricities are less punk rock and more rock ‘n’ roll. Bell’s bumbling malevolence becomes less Voldemort With a Scalpel and more Every Penny-Pinching Hospital Bureaucrat Ever.
[NOTE: An earlier version of this review referred to nursing bad behavior in the opening scene from the original pilot that was removed entirely from the final version. The nurses still do awful, unprofessional things with a sexual dimension, but at least they’re tormenting a patient for watching XXX nurse-porn on his phone and not … the bad thing they wisely no longer do from the original pilot.]
The first episode of The Resident is annoying, but the second episode is just average and that makes it possible to sit back and accept that Snarky Matt Czuchry is perfectly fine to build a show around and that even if VanCamp is much too good an actress and appealing a screen presence to be playing this thankless a part, at least she’s an appealing screen presence here. Greenwood is too seasoned a character actor not to at least give Bell an interesting smarminess, and I think Wilson has some real potential. My reservations about Dayal almost all stem from some dismal dialogue he delivers so badly in the second episode that I wouldn’t be surprised to find a new line-reading ADR-ed in by the time the episode actually airs.
It’s tough to give the medical genre a new spin and, through two episodes, The Resident doesn’t. It’s also tough to put together a pleasing cast for an ensemble procedural and The Resident at least accomplishes that, should that be enough for you.
Cast: Matt Czuchry, Emily VanCamp, Manish Dayal, Moran Atias, Merrin Dungey, Shaunette Renée Wilson, Melina Kanakaredes, Bruce Greenwood
Creators: Amy Holden Jones & Hayley Schore & Roshan Sethi
Premieres: Sunday following the NFC Championship Game; airs Mondays at 9 p.m. ET/PT starting Jan. 22 (Fox)
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