All work and no jokes, however, make for dull drama. These frontline doctors and nurses amid panicky defibrillations and impromptu surgery, blow off steam with wit
New drama The Resident promises realistic look behind the hospital screens
When a new medical drama promises “to rip back the curtain to reveal the truth of what really happens, both good and bad, in hospitals across the country” – as The Resident does for Fox network – both patients and viewers alike better be prepared to roll up their sleeves for a healthy dose of melodrama and hospital horrors.
As the folk behind hits such as Dynasty or Dallas could also attest, a little bit of soap and schmaltz can go a long way to keep a drama percolating. That’s not necessarily a bad thing here, thanks to a crackerjack roster of acting talent who wrestle like angels and demons to put the medicine ahead of corporate profit in this high-minded series, which debuts tomorrow on OSN.
“We’re trying to show the general audience what they don’t know goes on in hospitals so you can protect yourself,” says co-creator and showrunner Amy Holden Jones, whose directorial vision runs darker than other “pretty rosy” medical dramas.
There’s also good justification for her outlook, when one considers the facts. A recent Johns Hopkins University study claims that more than 250,000 people in the United States die every year because of medical errors.
Other reports put the number as high as 440,000. This means such errors are the third leading cause of death after heart disease and cancer, but patient advocates are lobbying for better legislation to ensure patient safety.
The Resident is not all glum, despite its Hippocratic grit. It’s actually pleasantly hopeful as good hearts prevail and ill patients tend to get the cure that’s eluded them elsewhere.
In the opener, on his first day as an intern, Harvard grad Dr Devon Pravesh gets a rude awakening to the cruel realities of modern medicine when third-year hotshot resident Dr Conrad Hawkins takes Devon under his wing to teach him rule-busting ways to treat patients.
Meanwhile, Conrad locks horns with the despotic chief of surgery Dr Solomon Bell, a legend in the operating room with a new tremor in his right hand, who wields his power to intimidate others and cover up his lethal mistakes.
Devon is played with sincerity and intelligence by Manish Dayal, 34, perhaps best remembered from The CW’s 90210 as Raj Kher, a college student recovering from cancer. Solomon is given an evil charisma by journeyman Canadian actor Bruce Greenwood, 61, a familiar face as Captain Christopher Pike in JJ Abrams’ reboot of the Star Trek movie franchise (2009, 2013) and earlier as US President John F Kennedy during the Cuban missile crisis in Thirteen Days (2000).
The real firebrand and easily the most watchable character here is Conrad, who takes the medical profession’s “first do no harm” ethos to a fiery intensity, as realised by American actor Matt Czuchry. The 40-year-old first won fame as the flirty, reckless Logan Huntzberger on Gilmore Girls (2005-07) and later as the ambitious and likeable lawyer Cary Agos on The Good Wife (2009-16).
“We’re showing the complexities of what it means to be a part of the healthcare system,” says Czuchry, who was attracted to the show’s very blunt perspective.
“Whether that be the business of healthcare, losing patients or the difficult decisions doctors make. We’re taking the genre and peeking into it in a different way.”
Meanwhile, Revenge fans will be thrilled that Emily VanCamp – who dished out sweet payback with serious élan as the scheming Emily Thorn on the series from 2011 to 2015 – is back on the telly after a three-year hiatus.
In The Resident the 31-year-old plays nurse practitioner Nicolette “Nic” Nevin, a whistle-blower at heart who runs the hospital floor, enjoys an on-and-off romance with Conrad and fights injustice at every turn.
“I get to be a champion for all nurses who are so undervalued, underpaid, and who do most of the work.”
VanCamp says she’s also proud of how her character handles harassment when a professional athlete, admitted to her ward, texts her a wildly inappropriate photo – and Conrad makes things worse by jumping into the middle as her would-be hero.
“I think women, more than ever, want to be empowered in these situations and have our own voice,” she says. “We want to handle these situations on our own.”
Whether you choose to suspend your disbelief long enough to accept that this is how the United States medical system truly operates, there’s definitely an entertaining Robin Hood theme coursing through the arteries of The Resident.
Its merry band of moralistic young interns routinely employ trickery to beg, borrow or steal medical resources from the money-grubbing powers that be to secure treatment for the poor underinsured souls whose lives hang in the balance at Chastain Park Memorial Hospital.
All work and no jokes, however, make for dull drama. These frontline doctors and nurses amid panicky defibrillations and impromptu surgery, blow off steam with wit.
“When we were researching, we found the humour was very dark in a hospital for doctors. It kinda keeps them going,” says Czuchry. “Some ‘gallows humour’, is what they would call it. Just because you’re dealing with life-or-death situations all the time – so the humour is actually elevated because of that.”
‘The Resident’ airs at 9pm tomorrow on OSN Series First HD. See programme guide for more viewing times.