Chicago Med series premiere react: Dick Wolf strikes again

18 Nov 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘Chicago Med': TV Review.

With a multitude of TV series dedicated to life in a hospital premiering and being quickly axed season after season, what does a show have to do to stand out in the crowd? Hey, even one of the lead actors in “Chicago Med,” Colin Donnell, looks an awful lot like one of the lead actors (Eoin Macken) in NBC’s other medical drama, “Night Shift.” And Donnel”s character, Dr.First, there was Chicago Fire’s season two crossover with Chicago P.D. that introduced The Good Wife’s Dylan Baker and The Mentalist alum Amanda Righetti as two doctors on the scene saving lives in the wake of a deadly hospital bombing.

This new medical drama comes from producer Dick Wolf (the “Law & Order” franchise) and is a companion series to the network’s “Chicago P.D.” and “Chicago Fire.” It follows the staff at a trauma center in the Windy City, and the cast includes Oliver Platt (“The Big C”), S.For years now, many of us have held out hope that someday, NBC and Dick Wolf would team for another show as innovative and intelligent as their long-ago original Law.

Then, the powers that be on Fire returned to Chicago Medical in April for a backdoor pilot that swamped in a whole new group of faces, namely Law & Order veteran S. Instead, what we’re left with is an aged spinoff and the stultifying mediocrity of Wolf’s new Chicago franchise, which now distends to give us Chicago Med (Tuesday, 9 p.m. On Tuesday night’s premiere episode of Chicago Med, we are introduced to the emergency room at the prestigious Chicago hospital, along with a cast of fresh faces and veterans, many of whom have connections to the Chicago Fire and Chicago P.D. teams that fans will most certainly look for as the series progresses (and as crossover episodes air). Epatha Merkerson, theater actor Oliver Platt and Walking Dead vet Laurie Holden, as doctors working to stop a madman carrying a deadly airborne disease. Epatha Merkerson, “Law & Order”); the head of the psych department (Oliver Platt); the self-assured chief ER resident (Nick Ghelfuss); a super-competent nurse (Yaya DaCosta); and a pregnant, widowed young doctor (Torrey DeVitto).

Tuesday, Nov. 17, on NBC. “The Muppets,” 8 p.m. (ABC): Chelsea Handler makes things interesting for Scooter when he books her; a double date reveals that Becky may have a suspicious past. “The Flash,” 8 p.m. (The CW): Barry races to rescue Caitlin when Grodd kidnaps her; Cisco plans a date with the new barista at Jitters; Patty thinks Barry is hiding something. “American Experience,” 9 p.m. (KCTS): “American Comandante” — U.S. citizen William Morgan rises to power in Cuba during the Cuban Revolution. “Scream Queens,” 9 p.m. (Fox): Denise tells a terrifying ghost story; Hester’s announcement pushes Chanel to the brink; a familiar face returns; the killer claims another victim. “Limitless,” 10 p.m. (CBS): In exchange for his personal headquarters at the agency, Brian offers to catch the FBI’s 10 most wanted criminals in two weeks; a rift grows between Brian and his father. It’s like everybody involved sighed deeply at the prospect of yet another hospital drama and then shuffled slowly to the set, where they were given a script pasted together with lines from hundreds of other hospital dramas and then filmed the whole thing while all involved kept one eye on the clock.

After the original backdoor pilot, which was written by executive producers Dick Wolf, Matt Olmstead, Michael Brandt and Derek Haas, CSI vet Andrew Dettmann came on board the series in June as showrunner. There are ethical quandries, sad stories and happy endings … all of which seem to have come straight from multiple medical dramas that have gone before. It’s one thing to come out of the gates and try (and fail) to be aggressively exciting – hello, Code Black – but to offer up such a tired copy of countless tired copies before it is alarmingly like announcing the death of the genre going forward (we can only hope – though future series creators will look at Chicago Med and think, “We can do better than that in our sleep.”) Ah, sleep. However, he abruptly parted ways in August a week after helping present the show to the press at the Television Critics Association summer press tour. Enter married writing team Schneider and Frolov (The Sopranos, Northern Exposure), who had met with Wolf to pitch a legal show. “He really loved the show we were pitching but we got a call four or five days later and he was wondering if we would come and run Chicago Med,” Frolov says. “We were very, very surprised.” The offer came with a ticking clock. “We were coming on when we were two weeks away from prep,” Frolov says. “That was a big hesitation.” Following stints on cable and streaming dramas like Boardwalk Empire and Bosch, Schneider and Frolov not only had to learn the ins and outs of Wolf’s Chicago universe – which had already introduced backstories and love interests for several of Med’s main players – but they also had to adjust back to the demanding schedule that comes with a network drama. “You drink more coffee,” Schneider says with a laugh. “It’s a wild pace.” However, the two say the process has been smooth-sailing thus far. “They’ve given us a lot of freedom within the show and have been very supportive of what we’ve wanted to do,” Schneider says. “On the first episode, they gave us some thoughts and changes that worked out really well but they’ve really let us run with it.” Once they signed on, Schneider and Frolov’s first order of business was figuring out the backstories of the main ensemble, which had transformed dramatically.

Merkerson’s character has the first words in the show, as she opens Chicago’s newest emergency room and introduces the city’s real-life mayor, Rahm Emanuel (who might want to consider reducing his cameo count). As the man makes his way from car to car, we see that the train has derailed in spectacular fashion, and the hospital’s ribbon-cutting ceremony is cut short as several pagers go off for incoming trauma patients.

At this point, some of you may be saying, “Wait, didn’t ER, another NBC medical show set in Chicago, build a big episode around a train derailment?” Why yes, as a matter of fact, it did. The series wastes very little time before springing into action, but it does find time to still give us updates on all the faces we’ll be seeing week to week.

Do you get a dull pain when you see storylines revolving around the cocky new doctor, the deer-in-the-headlights medical student, the hospital lawyer who actually says, “So much easier to run a hospital without doctors”? Does your head lull forward when sassy nurses talk or a jaded older doctor walks in the room or a patient thought totally fine suddenly has a seizure or otherwise falls into a life and death moment?

Adds Schneider: “We know more about him now and what drives him and how he looks at medicine, his point of view regarding medicine.” Because of the events of the backdoor pilot, during which the grenade-carrying madman detonated a damaging explosive at the hospital, the premiere episode centers on the opening day of the brand new facility. “This is a hospital you would want to come,” Frolov. “It has very great equipment, very state-of-the-art.” Subsequently, “it’s a very hard hospital to get into as a resident,” Schneider says. “They only take the cream of the crop.” It’s the competitive nature of the hospital that will also help Chicago Med stand apart from its two sister series. “They’re doctors as opposed to firemen or cops so they have very different backgrounds and education,” Schneider says. If you’re looking for bright spots then there’s Colin Donnell as a trauma surgeon who will give you Jon Hamm feels and who pretty much single handedly stops the narcoleptic stupor from coming on. Instead, each episode will contain three or four storylines centered on medical mysteries far more complex with “social or political or financial implications,” Schneider says. “Medicine is constantly evolving and the cost of medicine and paying for medicine is constantly evolving so those are issues that we deal with. Unfortunately, the doctor can’t get the patient’s mouth to open but keeps him going until they finally get to Med, where Halstead butts heads with the strange doctor over who should treat the patient until he discovers that he is his new trauma fellow, Dr. Epatha Merkerson and Oliver Platt being underserved as a hospital administrator and psychiatrist respectively – though it probably doesn’t help that both have roles where they are required to feel beaten down to some extent, which translates to the screen as tired, which completely fits the motif here.

Biomedicine is raising ethical issues, and the ability of doctors to keep people alive or to resuscitate them when they’re dying – those cases make you ask questions.” Adds Frolov: “You want the case to have a story to it. It has to have twists and turns and surprises.” The writers say they’ve even learned a few things while working on episodes, thanks in no small part to the show’s team of researchers and technical advisors. “Ultimately every episode there’s something about the practice of medicine that people will say, ‘Gee, I didn’t know that,'” Schneider says.

As for the dialogue, let’s just say that by the time a panicking mother is told “The best thing you can do right now is …” odds are you’ll be able to fill in “just be there for your daughter” before the show does. They’re resonating with the characters.” Despite the evolution of the characters, the episodes do stand alone. “You can view them all singularly,” Schneider says. “You don’t need to have seen the one before to understand the one you’re watching.” That also holds true for the ever-common crossovers between shows, which happens frequently in the Chicago trilogy.

Medical shows, to be fair, are one of TV’s oldest formats, and series that bring something new to them, such as ER and Grey’s Anatomy, are understandably few and far between. Rhodes meets fourth-year med student Sarah Reese, who is unable to perform a routine task on the patient and must step aside while Sharon Goodwin watches the hospital’s newest hire. By the midway point of the pilot (which, by the way, features a derailed train from an elevated platform, causing mass trauma and peopling the fictional hospital with bad acting), I began hoping that the boredom in front of me was just a set-up for the second half of the show, where an entirely new hospital would arrive, put Chicago Med on ventilated life support and infuse the whole show with takeover energy.

The first three-show crossover between Med, Fire and P.D. is already in the works for January. “Even though we have stories coming in from Fire and heading out to P.D., still within that, we keep the medical mystery as its own separate thing,” says Frolov. But my goodness, could we not have one line, character or twist that doesn’t feel reused, or one story that doesn’t end up precisely where we think it will?

Rhodes brings his on-the-brink patient back to life, but sadly the peace won’t last long; Halstead and Choi’s patient is succumbing to her brain injury. Says Schneider, “And we cue up some personal stories that are separate and have a certain resolution within the episode so you could watch it by itself.” Instead, that person you thought might die actually died; the lost cause rallied back to life; that poor kid needing the transplant got it in the waning minutes and everyone wore their feelings on their faces as the camera predictably cut to them and the predictable music played everybody home — to bed, I assume. In the end, what you’re getting from Med is TV at its least demanding and most dispensable: It’s not awful, but that’s only because no one involved is expending the energy needed to reach the ranks of the truly terrible.

Charles is another Chicago P.D. vet; he’s the chief of the psychiatry department and has been working with Jamie to live with cystic fibrosis for most of his life. Jamie’s visit turns serious when his cold makes it much harder to breathe, but rather than being intubated one more time, he tells Rhodes to skip it, and Dr. No, there is time to learn more about the doctors, especially as they treat more and more new patients and eventually intersect with the other Chicago shows.

Gina, Halstead’s patient, is a surrogate for a couple who cannot have children, but with her head injury worsening despite her improved motor functions, the risks for both the baby and Gina are high. Unfortunately, thanks to their surrogacy contract which gives them power of attorney, they are allowed to make the decision about Gina’s surgery, especially if it means risking the baby’s well-being. They decide at first to resist the surgery because it would essentially make Gina a human incubator, a worry the mother had at first as she and her husband have been taking care of Gina since before the surrogacy process began.

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