In the US: Mondays, 9/8c, Fox
In the UK: Acquired by Universal Channel
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.
Barrometer rating: 3