This week, ABC (US)’s ‘Cast From The Past’ stunt is reuniting a whole bunch of ‘classic’ casts. This basically means various ABC shows are reuniting the casts of various TV shows and movies, some famous, some, erm , not so famous.
The list of reunions is long – and sometimes a little confusing for UK viewers, who may not have heard of half of them – but here’s TMINE’s potted guide to help you, complete with videos.
Some of them seem pretty kosher to me. black-ishreunites star Tracee Ellis Ross with her co-stars from Girlfriends. Similarly, The Conners reunites Blues Brothers 2000 stars John Goodman and Dan Aykroyd. And sure, no one on The Goldbergs was ever in Cheers, but getting four members of the cast of Cheers together still counts, particularly for an 80s-obsessed TV show that does entire episodes dedicated to Highlander.
The big mystery is how Ken Jeong showing up on Fresh off the Boat to be reunited with Constance Wu qualifies as “cast from the past”, given Crazy Rich Asians came out last year.
Then we get to the “inside baseball” style reunions. Getting two Charmed stars together is fine… but on Grey’s Anatomy? Because two of the producers used to write for Charmed?
Or Robert Sean Leonard on The Good Doctor because David Shore created House as well?
And then we have Adrien Brody and Leighton Meester’s reunion on Single Parents. They’re married. FFS.
Every Friday, TMINE lets you know when the latest TV shows from around the world will air in the UK
Four acquisitions this week, but only one with a premiere date. Let me elucidate:
Universal has picked up Global (Canada)’s six-part event mini-series about a vanished aeroplane, Departure, which stars Archie Panjabi, Christopher Plummer and a host of others. However, there’s no premiere date as of yet, probably because it only started production in November and hasn’t aired in Canada.
Alibi has acquired Nine (Australia)’s “so dumb it hurts” serial killer drama Bite Club, featuring Lost’s Dominic Monaghan. That’s likely to air in February, but there’s no exact date yet.
Walter’s bought DR (Denmark)’s adaptation of Jakob Ejersbo’s book of the same name, Liberty, featuring Connie Nielsen, Carsten Bjørnlund and Sofie Gråbøl. No premiere date either, as ‘this year’ is the best information Walter is offering at the moment.
The Black List: Redemption‘s Ryan Eggold playing a newly arrived medical director at New York’s largest, oldest and most famous public hospital, New Amsterdam. He reckons there’s a lot wrong with it, so plans to turn it upside down, ignore all the rules and fire everybody who’s part of ‘the system’, so that doctors can get back to being doctors rather than accountants/golf players. Why, he’s so optimistic and revolutionary, he might even inspire that Freema Agyeman (Doctor Who, Sense8, The Carrie Diaries) to stop touring all the TV talk shows to raise funding and come back to working as a doctor again.
Based on a real-life doctor at the real New York hospital of Bellevue, there is at least a germ of something different in New Amsterdam and it was moderately interesting to see Eggold doing some robust change management, listening to those on the front-line to see what could be changed and then putting it into practice. The show doesn’t make him an all-knowing genius, but one who makes mistakes and is prepared to listen to find out how to fix them. It’s also not entirely populated with pretty people, with nice old doctor Anupam Kher turning out to have almost House-ian diagnostic skills, if a much better bedside manner, thanks to the mystic skill of “taking your time”.
However, the rest of the time, it’s plain old medical procedural melodrama and soap, with Eggold turning out to have cancer, his wife nearly miscarrying their baby, doctors trying to have relationships and dumping their girlfriends for not being black enough and so on. That’s before we get onto the likelihood of random people being injected with Ebola by terrorists in order to destroy New York.
This is clearly not a production team confident in its ability to woo viewers with rigorous MBA framework analyses.
By the end of the first episode, I’d been pleasantly surprised by the show but not interested in it enough to want to watch much more of it. But at the very least, it wasn’t a waste of my time.
Chuck Lorre is pretty much the king of the long-running CBS multi-camera sitcom and has been for years. Mom, The Big Bang Theory, Two and a Half Men, and Mike and Molly, to name but a few, are all his.
If you had to characterise these shows, ‘misanthropic’, ‘misogynistic’, ‘stereotypical’, ‘lowest common denominator’, ‘crass’ and ‘cruel’ might pepper your descriptions at various points. A few choice other words might be there, too.
All of which makes The Kominsky Method, Lorre’s latest addition to his comedy oeuvre, quite a surprise. It’s a genuine Netflix original, for starters. It’s also a single-camera comedy. It’s also funny, smart, human and even poignant at times.
Colour me surprised.
The Kominsky Method
The central characters are twice-divorced, formerly successful actor Sandy Kominsky, who’s played by no less a star than Michael Douglas. Kominsky is now a much more successful acting coach, who runs an LA acting studio with his daughter (Go On‘s Sarah Baker), teaching various young wannabes how to act.
Kominsky best friend is – sadly for him – his curmudgeonly agent, again played by no less a star than Alan Arkin. Arkin has been happily married to Susan Sullivan (Castle, Dharma and Greg) for 40 years, but even more sadly, she’s dying of cancer.
It’s no big spoiler to say that Sullivan passes away in the first episode and the rest of the series is then about Arkin’s reaction, as well as how Douglas’s and Arkin’s relationship changes afterwards as they try to navigate single old age – particularly once Arkin’s alcoholic daughter (House‘s Lisa Edelstein) shows up and Douglas starts dating one of his students, the nearly age appropriate Nancy Travis (Three Men and a Baby, Last Man Standing).
Cue hilarious hijinks? Well, yes, oddly enough, as well as a surprising number of high profile cameos and even the occasional tear.
In Australia: Fridays, 8.30pm, ABC
In the UK: Tuesdays, 9pm, Alibi. Starts July 17
The globalisation of TV is a funny old thing, resulting in some odd paradoxes. Consider the career of Ioan Gruffudd, a fine actor who speaks Welsh as a first language. Naturally, he got his first big break on S4C’s Pobol Y Cwm (People of the Valley), S4C being the government’s attempt to preserve the Welsh language from the effects of globalisation and English’s worldwide dominance.
However, given S4C’s drama output isn’t huge, it’s unsurprising that Gruffudd went off to London to study at RADA, before getting his first big breaks in the BBC’s 1996 remake of Poldark and then ITV’s Hornblower TV films, where he naturally had to put on English accents and spoke English. They in turn led to starring roles in US films Black Hawk Down (directed by Englishman Ridley Scott) and superhero movie Fantastic Four, in which he played Americans.
Then US TV shows beckoned, with first the short-lived Century City, then Ringer then ABC’s Forever, in which he played a forensics examiner who just happened to be immortal, and so was a font of all knowledge and an almost Sherlock Holmes-like ability to read people and clues. In the latter two shows, despite both being made in the US, Gruffudd played English characters – globalisation here allowing for local diversity, not just homogenisation.
And yet… while Gruffudd has since returned home to the UK to do shows such as ITV’s Liar, now he’s gone to Australia to star in ABC’s Harrow. Guess what? Despite the show being Australian, he plays an English forensic examiner who’s a font of all knowledge and has an almost Sherlock Holmes-like ability to read people and clues. Sounds familiar, hey? What’s even odder, globalisation-wise, is that this is the first show to be made by ABC International Studios – not even ABC Australia, at that, but ABC US, which was of course the network that created Forever.
While Australia obviously has a final tradition of legal dramas (eg Crownies, Janet King, Newton’s Law) and police soap operas (eg Cop Shop), it’s noticeably not had much by way of police procedural dramas. Harrow is in part an attempt to fill this hole and join the rest of the world, probably by exporting it, probably to Netflix. After all, if S4C can do it, Australia should be able to do it, too.
Gruffudd plays the eponymous Harrow, a maverick forensics examiner in Brisbane. His flouting of the rules is not much loved by his boss (Robyn Malcolm) and his general work demeanour means his work colleagues don’t much love him either, although new scene of crime officer Mirrah Foulkes seems to be taking something of a shine to him. However, he’s great at his job, so he’s tolerated, even if he keeps threatening to resign every five minutes.
Meanwhile, he’s going through a divorce, something that’s caused his teenage daughter (Ella Newton) to virtually break off contact from both him and her mother (Anna Lise Phillips). But Gruffudd has a plan to win his daughter back. If only he didn’t have a deep dark secret that’s about to get found out…
There’s a timing to everything. Back in 2004 when House first aired, the idea of a brilliant dickish doctor seemed like a breath of fresh air, an antidote to the countless medical shows in which doctors are hard-working angels of mercy, tirelessly caring for their patients no matter what obstacles are thrown in their way. Sure there was the occasionally abrasive doctor – eg Bruce Greenwood in St Elsewhere – but full on dicks? Not so much.
Now, the brilliant dickish doctor is everywhere. Indeed, he’s so pervasive, so much de rigeur, that an otherwise insipid show about a nice doctor can turn out to be the 2017-2018 season’s big hit, people are so keen for a different kind of medical professional.
But we’re also in the post-Weinstein, #MeToo era, when abusive (male) bosses are being called to account, since women are feeling less inclined to put up with their sh*t any more. Brilliant? Genius at your job? Then work out how to have some social skills as well, since you shouldn’t be someone else’s boss if you can’t.
All of which potentially makes The Resident either awkwardly timed or prescient, depending on how later episodes work out. It sees Manish Dayal (Halt and Catch Fire) playing a brilliant ex-Yale, ex-Harvard student turning up to his new hospital on his first day of medical residency. He’s been inspired to come to said hospital by none other than Bruce Greenwood, the head of surgery at the hospital.
Unfortunately, he’s been placed in the care of senior resident Matt Czuchry (Gilmore Girls, The Good Wife), a brilliant but thoroughly dickish guy who’s going to re-educate him in the true ways of medicine, initially by getting Dayal to stick his fingers up people’s bottoms. Dayal can protest, but if he does, he’ll get given the heave-ho ASAP and never work in medicine again, no matter how dickish Czuchry gets.
More importantly, we learn he’s also prepared to break the rules if he thinks it’s the right thing to do. Greenwood, for example, is actually going around killing patients by the ton, thanks to his tremulous hands, and everyone is having to cover up for him. Those that won’t cover up he blackmails, since either he’s covered up for them all as well whenever they’ve cocked up or they need his recommendation to get a visa to stay in the US in Shaunette Renée Wilson’s case.
To stop Greenwood without getting fired himself, Czuchry will do his best to bend the rules to make Greenwood stop himself. But Czuchry also has a touch of the Alec Baldwin in Malice and he’s prepared to bend the rules in darker ways, too.
What are you saying?
It’s a bit hard to know at this stage what The Resident‘s message actually is. On the one hand, as soon as Dayal requests a transfer to another resident, VanCamp spins a tedious analogy for him about whether he’d like his car repaired by someone who smiles a lot but overcharges and doesn’t get the job done versus a shoddy-looking garage that still fixes it at a bargain price. Initially, it therefore looks like the show is supporting the tedious and insidious “brilliant people are dicks – live with it or lose out” line.
But by the end, the show does seem to be suggesting that maybe brilliant people who are dicks really need to stop being dicks. But as neither Greenwood nor Czuchry get fired, it’s a bit hard to tell which way the show is going. Maybe it doesn’t know either.
That ambiguity does at least allow for some more cynical and realistic examinations of medical ethics and politics. Should doctors have that much power? Given that medical errors are the third greatest cause of death in the US (according to VanCamp), should we have a more realistic attitude towards their occurrence, including the money paid out to compensate those who’ve suffered from them? Do the efforts made to attract rich donors distort US health care? Are brilliant immigrants mistreated and subject to racism and xenophobia? Is death better than survival, not just for the patient but their family, past a certain point, and do doctors have the right to judge that for themselves?
All the same, with its jarringly bad dialogue and cookie cutter characterisations, The Resident doesn’t really feel like the show to do the issues justice. Everyone’s character is pretty generic and stems from the job, rather than any real background information supplied. VanCamp is utterly wasted in a thankless role one can only hope gets fleshed out to as many as two dimensions in later episodes. Greenwood is great, as always, but doesn’t exactly have to fire even half his cylinders for the part. Czuchry’s fine and surprisingly unlikable, but feels too young to be the source of all wisdom.
The Resident is definitely a cut above the usual medical drama and does at least fire a few caveats at the dickish doctors of Code Black,House et al. But it’s more like a medical Training Day than anything with real edge or import, and it might have come at just the wrong time.