Monday Mornings

Monday Mornings is a brand spanking new series (I’ve only seen one episode so far). It’s a David E. Kelley show, which initially caused me some doubts – Harriet’s Law was a disaster. Several earlier shows (Ally McBeal, Boston Public) disintegrated fairly early on, and then proceeded to limp for years on the strength of new stars imported to prop up the wreckage. I did enjoy Boston Legal (largely because of James Spader), and The Practice was pretty solid all the way through. I’ve only seen a few episodes of Chicago Hope, which I think is the last medical show from Kelley, but I remember it being quite impressive.

So, as I said, I had some doubts. The first episode was pretty good, though. I thought Jamie Bamber was great in the 2004 remake of Battlestar Galactica, and I’m glad to see him back. I’m not a big Alfred Molina fan, though he does a good job as the chief (I forget the exact title, but he’s the big cheese) – he’s a great mix of unlikeable and “sensitive inner core”. There’s a decent group of supporting cast members, including Ving Rhames (who is actually billed higher than Bamber).

The show revolves around M&M Rounds (morbidity and mortality rounds are closed sessions where the doctors discuss problem cases that may have resulted in death or other issues). The show’s title, with the two “M”s, may also be alluding to this, as well as hilighting that the rounds kick off each week. In the first episode, one “hack” doctor who really screwed up – resulting in a missed diagnosis and a woman’s early death – is kicked out of the hospital as well as being reamed by Ving Rhames (which would have to ruin anyone’s day), who makes the point that he’s only being shunted off to another hospital as opposed to being de-licensed or whatever the medical equivalent of being disbarred would be.

The somewhat odd thing is that Jamie Bamber’s character (Dr. Wilson), who is one of the hospital’s high flyers, also has a patient die during an operation. It comes out, in another M&M session, that Wilson missed several important steps before deciding on surgery (including consulting with colleagues and doing a full medical history), meaning that the possibility of the patient’s death on the operating table would have been recognized. The line was, basically, “the patient would have died soon in any case, but he’s dead today” because of Wilson’s screwup. However, in this case, no Ving Rhames beat-down (note that he was the one who brought Wilson in on the case, and actually gives him a pep talk later on). The argument would have to be that everybody loses patients occasionally, and Bamber’s character is a good doctor who made an unusual mistake, while the other guy’s character was a hack who was known as “007” (because he had a “license to kill”). I can see that, but the individual actions in the two cases were actually pretty similar.

So, it will be interesting to see where this show goes. Nice to see Kelley heading back to serious TV again, after quite some time trying to mix serious with goofy (the Denny Crane clone guy in Harriet’s Law was an absolute disaster, not just because he was so patently unoriginal and one-dimensional, but because it just wasn’t funny).

There was one false note in the episode. Kelley has something about Asian characters being hard to understand – Ling on Ally McBeal being the one exception that comes to mind. Keong Sim plays another brilliant doctor who has a successful case in the first episode, but his dialogue is written so that he’s constantly abrupt, rude, and – above all – hard to understand. He gets colloquial phrases wrong, he leaves out words. He reminded me strongly of Tzi Ma’s character in the final season of The Practice (season 8, episode 10, in case you’re looking); he was another language-mauling Asian (memorable for complaining about “malpuppet” when he meant malpractice and having his lawyer, played by Rhona Mitra, laugh at the way he talked in court). There was also a coroner in Boston Legal’s third season (in one scene only) who was similarly Asian and whose language skills were definitely sub-par. At the end of this first episode, Alfred Molina tells Keong Sim that they will need to meet about his “language skills”. Hopefully, there will be some rapid improvement in Sim’s character’s English, so that Kelley can stop beating this particular (and, again, previously used) drum.