It’s time for you to check into Chelsea General Hospital. TNT has found another winner with Monday Mornings, the freshman medical drama from uber-producer David E. Kelley and CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta. It’s the best of its kind since the glory days of ER and Kelley’s own Chicago Hope. Here are seven reasons why you should add Monday Mornings to your Fanhattan Watchlist as this phenomenal series heads toward its season finale on April 8th.
1. The professional pedigree.
Besides Chicago Hope, Kelley is one of TV’s most prolific showrunners, having masterminded Ally McBeal, Boston Legal, Boston Public, Harry’s Law, Picket Fences and The Practice, just to name a few of his credits. His frequent collaborator is Monday Mornings producer-director Bill D’Elia, a multiple Emmy nominee who’s helmed episodes of Law & Order and Northern Exposure (and is already working with Kelley again on the CBS comedy pilot The Crazy Ones, starring Robin Williams, James Wolk and Sarah Michelle Gellar). Gupta is CNN’s Chief Medical Correspondent and was once considered for the post of U.S. Surgeon General. For a medical TV show, you couldn’t create a better team.
2. The show has landed some big-name talent.
Monday Mornings is anchored by two major actors: Alfred Molina (An Education, Frida) and Ving Rhames (Pulp Fiction, the Mission: Impossible films). Molina’s Dr. Harding Hooten speaks softly but carries a big stick, able to comfort a patient’s family in one scene and terminate a doctor’s career in the next without seeming bothered at all. As Dr. Jorge Villanueva, Rhames is obviously an imposing presence, but “El Gato” also has tremendous passion and even moments of vulnerability. These two are giving their best TV performances to date, and possibly among the best they’ve ever given.
3. It has one of the finest ensembles on television.
Aside from Molina and Rhames, the other actors on Monday Mornings may not be household names, but they deserve to be. Jamie Bamber (Battlestar Galactica, Law & Order: UK) is one of the most outstanding actors working on the small screen, and elevates any scene that he’s in. It’s truly dumbfounding that he hasn’t received more notice. The women in the cast – three-time Daytime Emmy winner Jennifer Finnegan, Sarayu Rao and Emily Swallow – are all solid actresses. Veteran actor Bill Irwin (CSI: Crime Scene Investigation) fills an antagonistic role so well. The most pleasant surprise, however, has been Glee‘s Keong Sim as Dr. Sung Park, who lacks any sort of bedside manner but, underneath that, has a depth of character that’s been a joy to watch unfold.
4. There are also great guest stars.
So far, Monday Mornings has landed the legendary Hal Holbrook (in “The Legend and the Fall”) and Ringer star Ioan Gruffudd (in “Truth or Consequences”). Recurring roles have been filled with the likes of the underrated Jason Gray-Stanford (Monk), Jonathan Silverman, and Anthony Heald. It’s always interesting to see who walks through the doors of Chelsea General.
5. It’s a medical drama about medicine.
The hospital isn’t just a setting for whatever interpersonal drama is happening each week. These characters are doctors first, and while their interactions with each other are still important, the emphasis in Monday Mornings is on the procedures they perform and the consequences they must deal with. A good 75 to 8o percent of each episode is either in a hospital room, an operating room or one of the dreaded “morbidity and mortality” conferences in which the doctors are held to answer for their choices. It’s exactly as advertised.
6. It proves television continuity is not a lost cause.
While many shows wrap things up neatly at the end of every hour, Monday Mornings has truly impressive continuity, and not just making an off-hand reference to something that happened last week. Doctors have referenced previous patients they’ve treated, fallout from decisions has spread over more than one episode, and characters are affected by things that have happened before. You don’t have to have seen every episode of Monday Mornings to enjoy it, but the attention to detail creates a much more full world than your average TV show, one in which you know something you’re watching now doesn’t cease to matter when the credits roll.
7. It will challenge your mind and break your heart.
The best TV shows are the ones that are something more than TV shows. They’re the series that we get passionate about, are affected by, think about when they’re not on. Monday Mornings is one of those shows. Listen to the conversation in one of the show’s “M&M” conferences and you’ll end up thinking about some tough stuff – not just whether a patient survived, but even if the patient lived, did the doctor still do everything right? Is there something they could have done better? What does a choice say about them as a person? The show really invites you to put yourself in the characters’ positions and ask what you would do if faced with their medical, moral and legal dilemmas. It’s also a series that’s compelling emotionally, whether it’s cheering a good outcome or being shocked by a fatal mistake. With Monday Mornings, you can’t just sit back and watch – you’ll end up involved with the story.
If you haven’t yet visited Chelsea General, you can catch up on all the episodes of Monday Mornings with Fanhattan. Click here to watch now or to add the show to your Fanhattan Watchlist. Monday Mornings is airs Mondays at 10 PM ET/PT on TNT, with the season finale airing next Monday, April 8th.