20 February 2013 | Anamon
I was very skeptical of this show to say the least. That's because I can't remember a single hospital show that I liked, ever. Monday Mornings ended up being a pleasant surprise. Maybe pleasant is the wrong word—the show is neither for the squeamish on the visual nor the emotional side.
One preview I read stated that Monday Mornings was special because it showed us a side of the medical system that we haven't really seen before in other hospital shows. I rolled my eyes a bit at that, because what it usually means is coating the topical parts of the show with some completely unrelated melodrama elements to show the "human side" of it all. Well, Monday Mornings does show the human side alright, but not in the way I would have expected.
The focus and unique element of the series are the eponymous Monday morning meetings of surgeons. The main topics discussed are cases of patients who died while in the hospital's care—namely those where the decisions or conduct of the surgeons might have been a factor in the patient's death. These meetings are highly dramatized for the sake of television, but they drive home the point of what immense pressure lies on a medical professional's almost every decision. And how hard these situations are for them personally, even before they have to take professional responsibility, and justify their decisions.
It's a part of the medical system we don't very much like to think about. With all the research, high-tech equipment and drugs marketed as miracles, a good deal of eyewash makes us want to believe that in our day and age, no one needs to die if we just have the technical means to heal them. But when we first decide to seek medical assistance, when we are diagnosed, how accurate the diagnosis is, if the doctors make the right calls at the right time, and whether they react correctly to the way we are responding to treatment—at any imaginable stage, the human element is a huge factor and source of error. Portrayed in other shows as the "gods in white", Monday Mornings makes it a point to show that, for doctors, mistakes being a matter of life and death doesn't change the fact that they are human beings who occasionally will make them. It's an uncomfortable truth that who treats you can make a crucial difference in your life. But medical science so far wasn't able to make us clairvoyant. Judgement calls, and bad judgement, are an everyday part of it.
While there are some stereotypical characters, they're less cringe-inducing than on most shows. There's the workplace sweethearts, but their relationship (so far) hasn't overshadowed the actual plots. There's the tyrannical supervisor who, just barely, manages to not turn into a caricature. And the Asian overachiever is actually funny ("What's the worst that could happen?" – "Dead. Worst is always dead." – "Have you done this before?" – "Once." – "How did it go?" – "Dead.") The first episodes averted more cliché lines than they gave in to, opting instead for more honest and realistic conversations. Going by genre alone I expected it to be painful to watch, but it really wasn't.
There is only so much you can do to keep hospital routine, even from such a different perspective, fresh enough for a television show. Monday Mornings has yet to show if and how it will manage to do that. Most other shows just add so many personal and relationship plot lines for the medical staff, that the entire show essentially ends up being a random soap opera in front of a hospital backdrop. Others... well, actually, the only other one I can think of is House, M.D., who borrowed from crime shows to become more of a thriller. I'm curious to see whether Monday Mornings will carve its own path. But so far, my verdict is that it's definitely worth having a look at.