It’s “What have you been watching?”, your chance to recommend anything you’ve been watching this week
Gosh, it’s been a busy old week, hasn’t it? Elsewhere, I’ve posted third- and fourth-episode verdicts on The Resident (US: Fox; UK: Universal Channel), Corporate (US: Comedy Central) and Burden of Truth (Canada: CBC), and that’s on top of reviewing the first episode of The Alienist(US: TNT; UK: Netflix).
Some time in the next few days I’ll be taking a gander at Let’s Get Physical (US: Pop), and passing a third-episode verdict on Black Lightning (US: The CW; UK: Netflix). I’m also knuckling down to try to watch all of Netflix’s Altered Carbon in time for a Boxset Monday. Let’s see how that goes.
But today, it’s time to look at the regulars. SEAL Team and Will & Grace are on a break right now, but Engrenages (Spiral), Happy!, The Magicians and Star Trek: Discovery will all be getting my considered opinions, as will The Brave and Great News season finales (which will probably be their series finales, to be honest).
On top of that, Counterpart has now started in earnest, there’s a new episode of The Alienist and Amazon’s started dishing out two episodes of season two of Baron Noir at time (although I’ve not had time to watch today’s two new episodes, just the first two). And although it didn’t quite merit a full Boxset Monday treatment, I did watch all of season two of Babylon Berlin this week.
And so the reformation of dicks continues. When The Resident first started, it was an oddly out-of-sorts beast, giving us a cluster of dickish doctors and nurses at a time when dicks are on the way out (#MeToo), but also doing its best to expose some of the darker side of doctoring in the US.
Since then, the show has begun to normalise itself and become better – but also duller.
The first episode was essentially a three-way split between:
Good-hearted but naive resident Manish Dayal doing his best on the first day at a new hospital
More experienced, more cynical senior resident Matt Czuchry doing his best to navigate the system to care for patients
Grizzled, jaded vet surgeon Bruce Greenwood killing people in operations and blackmailing everyone into covering it up
All the while, they’re hugely dickish to each other. Nurse Emily VanCamp does her best but gets ignored while generally supporting her dickish ex, Czuchry.
But it was an interesting take on US medicine, where saving someone’s life isn’t always the right thing to do, and everyone is willing to bend the rules to get what they want, whether that’s good, ill or murder.
Since then, the show has retooled itself. Episode two brought in new cast members such as Melina Kanakaredes as another morally dubious doctor. Dickish has almost disappeared to the extent that Czuchry and Dayal are basically best bros now. Plots have become more of a procedural, with Czuchry or Dayal getting a new patient each week – usually one they found themselves ‘in the wild’ – and then having to explore the moral dilemmas involved in treating them when healthcare is also a business.
Greenwood, who manages not to kill any more people so co-workers seem less concerned that he’s still practising surgery, has also evolved to become the idealist-turned-realist of the piece. He’s not pure evil any more – he just knows that if they try to help the undocumented worker with her tumour, she’ll end up as a ‘permapatient’ costing the hospital $2 million in the long-run, which will mean cuts elsewhere. Probably best not to save her life then, particularly since she’s not American.
The Resident is at its best when it’s looking at the cold calculus involved in such decisions. One of its best scenes in the third episode is a three-way haggle between CEOs of neighbouring hospitals as to who gets to keep which patients, because they each have different standing costs for beds, treatment, etc (“I’ll give you $275,000 and 5 Medicare patients”, “I’ll give $250,000 and 7 Medicaid patients and a donation to your charity”…). There’s also a lot said about ‘upcoding’ – getting patients to have more expensive but unnecessary procedures to increase the profit per patient.
All the same, while it’s happy to identify faults, The Resident‘s not quite sure what to say about potential solutions, such as a move away from expensive tertiary care treatment towards cheaper primary care. Or maybe even socialised healthcare. It’s also not entirely sure what everyone in the medical system does, since nurses who these days are best thought of as ‘care managers’ rather than bed-turners, largely get to sit around and mock patients for watching naughty nurse porn instead.
The Resident is now a mix that doesn’t quite work. It’s too edgy to be likeable. But it’s also not edgy enough, not being quite knowledgable enough or realistic enough to make you think you’re watching something that really knows what it’s talking about. Its characters aren’t appealing or engaging. It’s obvious in its drama (gosh, is that Greenwood’s hand shaking again?) and is prone to cliché.
If you like a medical procedural, this is now one of the better ones. But I don’t think there’s enough in it that would make me want to watch it every week.
The CW green lights: pilots of Roswell reboot, pro-football drama Spencer, blind investigator drama In the Dark, cheating spouse revenge drama Skinny Dip, mortician family dramedy Playing Dead and alien bounty hunter drama The End of the World as We Know It
DC green lights: series of Lois Lane/Lex Luthor investigations pre-Superman drama Metropolis
Let’s put our cards on the table here: Corporate is without a doubt the funniest Comedy Central programme I’ve ever seen. I’ve had a look through the entire TMINE review database and Corporate is hands-down the funniest show I’ve reviewed on the network.
Four episodes in, that’s still true. A biting, nihilistic look at working for a giant corporation, it alternates between pastiching the soul-destroying, abusive nature of corporate culture and the desire for the sweet release of death from said culture.
Episode 1 introduced us to evil company Hampton Deville, its boss Lance Reddick, its put-upon and putting-upon junior executives Matt Ingebretson and Jake Weisman and the oppressive mid-tier executives Anne Dudek and Adam Lustick. Episode 2 then gave us a look at what the company actually does. As well as trying to sell a tablet eight times larger than an iPad, it seems it actually also makes cut-price weapons.
As its title The Powerpoint of Death suggests, the episode is mainly about Ingebretson’s work creating a PowerPoint to pitch the start of a new war to the CIA so Hampton Deville can sell it cheap weapons. It’s full of great one-liners, such as Reddick’s declaration that having lost the Iraq war contract to Philip Baker Hall, never again will he allow another man profit from destabilising the Middle East. The end-credits scene is probably the funniest thing you’ll ever see about fonts in a TV show, too, but a minor ongoing gag also involves all the effort and exploitation that goes into producing bananas, purely so they can sit and go brown in a communal work room.
Episode 3 then gave us various attempts by the amoral Weisman to trade his prescription drugs with employees for better perks. When perky guest star Aimee Mann shows up, he makes it his mission to make her unhappy and a pill addict, purely so he can get her parking space.
Episode 4 doesn’t let up either, taking on Banksy and manufactured anti-corporate rebellion with ‘Trademarq’ and craft beer. “People hate corporations, but they love buying things from us,” declares Reddick, before commissioning a subsidiary to sell anti-Hampton Deville merchandise to anarchist protestors.
Corporate is a hugely cynical, smart, bleak and very funny look at modern day capitalism. It’s not 100% accurate, sometimes feeling more like its critiquing the cultures of small businesses than large businesses, but it’s well worth your time and is probably the first jewel in Comedy Central’s crown.