What’s left to do in a hospital, TV-wise? Sadly not much, unless someone finally launches a much-deserved drama about the billing department or the cafeteria. Meanwhile, patients come, patients go — dying or surviving in accordance with the alt-rock ballad playing on the soundtrack. Everyone on the staff has diddled everyone else. In TV’s recent history, flawed doctors and nurses have popped pills or cut corners, ruining their own lives when they weren’t saving the lives of their patients — or inadvertently killing them.
“Monday Mornings,” TNT’s new hospital drama from David E. Kelley (creator of “Boston Legal” and “Ally McBeal,” among other shows), takes what might have been a fresh angle and overdoses it with the usual sappy storylines and cheap, melodramatic editing style.
Based on a novel by Sanjay Gupta, the physician and CNN medical correspondent who is also the show’s executive producer, “Monday Mornings” focuses on the weekly “morbidity and mortality” staff meeting at a fictional Portland, Ore., hospital that specializes in neurosurgery. Alfred Molina stars as Harding Hooten, the chief of surgery, who uses the Monday meeting to investigate botched procedures and other complications that arose the week before, some of which resulted in death.
Such meetings, in which doctors can confidentially confess their errors and accept the criticism of their peers, are a real thing — and seen occasionally in other, far superior medical dramas over the years.
Now is my cue to enter into a protracted and predictable metaphorical review of why the vital signs of “Monday Mornings” plummet during its first couple of episodes. I won’t do that, other than to say that the most fatal cliches were completely avoidable.
Ving Rhames turns in his usual quality work as an unflappable trauma chief. Jamie Bamber plays a stud neurosurgeon who is haunted by a mistake he makes during an operation in the pilot episode. These two men are joined by a fairly usual array of surgeons, residents, geniuses, hotheads and jerks.
The central focus, of course, is the review meeting itself, wherein Molina’s Hooten intimidates his staff as he picks over their mistakes. Whether it leads to malpractice suits or just a whole lot of tortured soul-searching, this brutal process is the strongest selling point of “Monday Mornings.”
And yet Kelley and Gupta’s show seems unwilling to just focus more deeply on the morbidity-and-mortality sessions, steering away from a show that could be a psychological study of regret and human error, lapsing instead into the same scenarios and tear-jerky manipulation we’ve seen before. “Monday Mornings” chooses a prescribed course of “E.R.”-style freneticism and a steady drip of medical miracles, with only a few milligrams of hubris and remorse per episode.
(one hour) premieres Monday at
10 p.m. on TNT.