February 05, 2013

TV: Monday Mornings (TNT, Mon 10)

TNT's medical drama Monday Mornings is a David E. Kelley production based on a novel by Sanjay Gupta. The show's central novelty is that several scenes in each episode take place at the hospital's Morbidity & Mortality conferences, where the surgeons discuss what went wrong in each case that ended in death.

The cast is top-notch. The surgeons include Alfred Molina as the stern chief of surgery (implausibly and delightfully named Harding Hooten); Jamie Bamber as the hotshot young surgeon; Ving Rhames departing from his usual image by playing a relatively sensitive, compassionate guy; Bill Irwin as the asshole veteran; Jennifer Finnigan as Bamber's best friend (and surely inevitable love interest, despite the fact that she's married); and Saruya Rao as the newbie who expresses her insecurity as pushiness.

The most problematic character is Keong Sim's Dr. Park, whose heavily-accented broken English is played for cheap laughs. ("Do you think I should have the surgery?" asks a patient. "Not do, dead," says Dr. Park.")

It's not hard to see what drew Kelley to the project. He's always loved to confrontational courtroom scenes, filled with dramatic monologues, and the M&M conferences are as close to courtroom as you can get in a hospital show, with Molina serving as judge and jury.

The tone is a bit more somber and heavy than is usual for Kelley, and the show could actually use a bit more of his signature quirkiness and humor. (It's a bit frightening to say that, since the danger with any Kelley show is how quickly it can descend into being nothing but quirk.) But the cast is strong, the medical cases are reasonably interesting, and the M&M conferences provide enough of a distinctive twist that I'll keep watching for another week or two to see what develops.

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