Monday, February 4, 2013

Review: Monday Mornings

David E. Kelley and Dr. Sanjay Gupta's Medical Drama May Be a Keeper

Alfred Molina
David E. Kelley is the type of TV auteur who you either hate, love or love despite hating his penchant for veering away from his best show's best traits - emotionally moving, funny - with an over reliance on quirky characters.

But, with a track record that includes L.A. Law, Doogie Howser M.D., Picket Fences, Ally McBeal and The Practice, we keep giving him another chance even though recent stumbles like Harry's Law and the last couple of years of Boston Legal make us think we probably shouldn't.

As it turns out, there's mostly reason to be hopeful that our collective patience will pay off, based on the first episode of Monday Mornings (TNT, 10pm), a show executive produced by CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta. (Gupta's novel "Monday Mornings" is the inspiration for the show.)

The good news is that there's enough good, quite a lot of good, to give everyone hope that Dr. Gupta (or someone) is keeping an eye on Monday Mornings' overly quirky characters (there are some, like one-worded Dr. Park). There are also occasional but serious missteps (like the show's shaky camera opening scenes).

The show centers on a Portland, Ore. hospital where Alfred Molina's Dr. Harding Hooten, chief of staff, holds Monday morning meetings with the hospital's surgical team. The meetings are comparable to surgeons being on trial more than they're feel-good Monday morning get-togethers.

Those meetings could be trouble for viewers, though. They make for some of the show's best scenes and, yet, it's easy to get the feeling it could become an overly used device rather than an authentic element in each story.

At one of those meetings, early into tonight's premiere, a surgeon whose sloppy work may have led to a few patients' deaths is grilled while standing at a podium, bright lights in his face, his fellow surgeons looking on.

Another key scene tonight, and probably the single moment where you may think, "I can't wait for the next episode," centers on Dr. Tyler Wilson (Jamie Bamber) who, as a kid, got the word of his dad's death while in a hospital waiting room. Perhaps trying to prevent others from going through what he had, Dr. Wilson becomes overly aggressive in trying to save the life of a young kid.

It's an emotionally heavy, moving scene. So too is a later scene when Molina's Dr. Hooten nearly derails Dr. Wilson's career with a single sheet of paper. The show also uses familiar songs exceptionally well. Case in point, the Rolling Stones' "Gimme Shelter."

Monday Mornings is off to a good start. Now, if David E. Kelley can remain focused and play down the quirk factor, it may also be a keeper.

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