BFTV’s Best Of 2013

The Good Wife

The Good Wife

High-fives for everyone! As 2013 comes to a close, it’s time to recognize the TV shows and people behind them that have made our jobs worthwhile. We’ve looked back on all the programs we’ve covered this year and picked out the few that we think deserve some special recognition. Check them out below, and feel free to leave your own ‘best of the best’ in the comments.

Suits - Season 3

TV Series Of The Year: USA’s Suits

Television doesn’t get any better than this. Suits has been nearly flawless over three seasons, with a completely fantastic cast including two of the best actors we can think of (Gabriel Macht and Sarah Rafferty), episodes that are so good we’ve actually hurt our hands writing so much about them, and lines that have snuck their way into our daily usage. As a show, it’s an obsession, one of only two shows we’ll re-watch during the season, and the only one that we have to dissect because there’s so much to love. But it also does what our best shows do: it’s gone from being just entertainment to being a part of our lives. We quote it, we worry over it, we have the T-shirts, because Suits is that awesome.

The Good Wife

TV Series Of The Year, Pt. 2: CBS’s The Good Wife

We’ve never given out this award twice. Yet we just have to give some extra love to The Good Wife, which has elevated itself to an obsession of its own this season. Alicia Florrick’s (Julianna Margulies) departure from Lockhart/Gardner may be the best thing that’s ever happened to this show; it presented a whole new spate of challenges, and moved away from the love triangle that had run its course. Now Alicia and Cary (Matt Czuchry) are having to start over, Will (Josh Charles) is a man on a hell of a mission, and the writers are balancing even more story potential without short-changing anyone. Weaker shows would crumble under everything The Good Wife has going on. We, on the other hand, can’t get enough of it.

The Good Wife

Individual Performance Of The Year: Josh Charles, CBS’s The Good Wife

One of the major reasons we’re so enthralled with The Good Wife this season is because it’s thrown the spotlight on Josh Charles. We could’ve told you he was one of TV’s finest actors 15 years ago, and he’s already earned one Emmy nomination for his role as Will Gardner, but he’s at his absolute best this season. With Will on the warpath, we’ve been able to enjoy scenes that demonstrate many different aspects of Josh’s superlative talent, whether it’s pure power (how many times did you re-watch that desk-clearing scene), comic timing, or his uncanny ability to connect emotionally with the audience. Plus, he directed an episode, too. It’s been a true pleasure to watch someone we already enjoy so much shine even brighter this year.

Suits - Season 3

TV Moment Of The Year: Harvey Specter punches Stephen Huntley, USA’s Suits

We judge this one solely on the strength of our reaction, and that’s why we’re giving the nod to the bathroom brawl at the end of “She’s Mine.” It’s almost never the case that a promo can reveal a moment and have us still excited for it when the episode actually airs. We knew this fistfight was coming and yet, because the show had built it up so perfectly with great writing and a palpable tension between Gabriel Macht‘s Harvey and Max Beesley’s Stephen, we were so amped up over it that our neighbors complained about the noise. That’s right, this was such an awesome scene that we caused a disturbance. How can that not be our TV moment of the year?

Body of Proof

TV Development Of The Year: Mark Valley joins ABC’s Body of Proof

You could put Mark Valley in just about anything and we’d watch it. He’s one of those actors that we can always depend on for a great performance. That’s why we were thrilled when it was announced that he was joining ABC’s Body of Proof. As Detective Tommy Sullivan, he got to do everything we love him for, from cracking wise to busting bad guys and even getting the girl. We enjoyed getting to watch him on a weekly basis once again. Unfortunately, his addition wasn’t enough to save the retooled series, which was axed and replaced with the really short-lived Lucky 7. The good news is, Mark’s already landed a new role – he’ll appear on NBC’s upcoming series Crisis.

Sports Night

TV Development Of The Year, Pt. 2: Sports Night begins airing on FXX

It’s not a new TV moment, but we still have to mention how thrilled we were when we discovered that FX’s spin-off channel added our favorite show to its schedule. Sports Night hasn’t been on the air since Comedy Central briefly picked it up following its cancellation 15 years ago. And because it meant so much to us back then, it’s meant a lot to us now to be able to rediscover it, and reflect on how much we still love this show. If you haven’t watched it, please do so. It’s still the best show we’ve ever seen.

Criss Angel Believe

Reality TV Series Of The Year: Spike’s Criss Angel BeLIEve

It takes a lot to wrest this away from NBC’s The Voice, but Spike’s Criss Angel BeLIEve did just that. We fell in love with this show from the outset for a number of reasons: 1) It brought magic back to television on a weekly basis; 2) It offered us a perspective on its subject that we hadn’t seen before; and 3) It was just really freaking cool. Getting to see the ambitious demonstrations Criss Angel came up with was great, but it was almost more interesting to be privy to how they were put together, and how much is really required for what we only see as entertainment. The result was less a show and more a journey into professional magic. Our fingers are crossed that BeLIEve comes back for a second season.

Monday Mornings

Newcomer Of The Year: TNT’s Monday Mornings

Monday Mornings was truly a wonderful piece of television. It proved to be even better than advertised, with absorbing scripts courtesy of TV stalwart David E. Kelley and a great writing team, and those episodes were brought to life by a talented ensemble ranging from known names such as the amazing Jamie Bamber to pleasant surprises like Keong Sim. Through the doctors at Chelsea General Hospital, we were not only treated to entertaining medical drama, but also prompted to examine our own thoughts and feelings toward a number of issues.  Unfortunately, the network didn’t see Monday Mornings the way we did, and cancelled it after the first season. This is one of those shows we’re going to regret losing.

With our accolades handed out, we officially close the books on television for 2013. Stay tuned on Friday, as we’ll preview the four shows you don’t want to miss in 2014. Until then, Happy New Year!

(c)2013 Brittany Frederick. Appears at Starpulse and Examiner with permission. All rights reserved. No reproduction permitted. Visit my official website and follow me on Twitter at @tvbrittanyf.

In Memoriam: TNT’s ‘Monday Mornings’

Monday MorningsTNT has opted to check out of Chelsea General Hospital, cancelling Monday Mornings after just one season. It’s the unfortunate demise of an outstanding television series – yet as we lament the bitter end, we can also reflect on the multitude of great things that emerged over the ten episodes that we got to spend with this memorable band of doctors.

Here’s a not at all short list of reasons why Monday Mornings will be missed and ultimately, left a strong fingerprint on not just medical dramas, but the entirety of television.

1) The pedigree. It’s not often that you get a production team together like this: people who are not only big names, but also uniquely suited to the program. Dr. Sanjay Gupta wrote the source material, and rather than just handing it off to the TV folks, stayed onboard to lend his expertise as not just the author of the book but a medical professional, too. David E. Kelley and producing partner Bill d’Elia were two of the forces behind one of TV’s best hospital dramas, Chicago Hope. TNT really couldn’t have asked for anyone better steering this particular show.

2) The cast. The series shone the spotlight on a group of actors who deserved the recognition. Alfred Molina finally got a leading role he could sink his teeth into after seeming wasted on NBC’s Law & Order: Los Angeles. Ving Rhames is Ving Rhames; need we say more? Jamie Bamber‘s been one of the best actors working on TV since Battlestar Galactica; there’s nothing that he can’t do. Jennifer Finnigan was a leading lady who stood strong, avoiding the tropes of the traditional female doctors on TV. Then there’s Sarayu Rao and Emily Swallow, two talented actresses who proved they can and should be more than supporting players. Keong Sim stole pretty much every scene he was in even when he had only a handful of words sometimes. And kudos to Bill Irwin for making a character that 99% of other actors would have played as someone we loved to hate into somebody we actually loved. In most casts, there’s usually one or two folks you love, but probably also someone you dislike or can’t remember. On Monday Mornings, this cast knew how to work as a team – and we embraced every single one of them.

3) The guest stars. Monday Mornings gave us Jason Gray-Stanford back on our televisions on a fairly regular basis, like we’d been hoping for ever since Monk went off the air. It featured the awe-inspiring Hal Holbrook in an episode appropriately called “The Legend and the Fall.” There was a Hornblower reunion of sorts when Ioan Gruffudd appeared in “Truth or Consequences.” Jonathan Silverman had a wonderful recurring role. When so many shows use guest stars simply to fill in the blanks of the main cast’s story, here it was exciting to see who was going to arrive each week, because not only did we know they were going to be talented, but the writers were going to use them to their full potential.

4) The production. We didn’t get to see the countless folks on the Monday Mornings crew, but we did get to see the results of their hard work, and it was obvious that they really loved the show by the quality of the finished product. Fans of the art form that is television could appreciate the great camera shots, the beautiful sets, the music that never got in the way of the scene. Chelsea General looked, sounded and felt like a real hospital that we were actually in for an hour every Monday, and that wouldn’t have been possible if a lot of hard-working people hadn’t brought it to life the way that they did.

5) The intelligence. This was a series that absolutely could not be watched passively, whatever way you sliced it. If you wanted to look at it as just entertainment, it was a program that gave us characters which did not fit into the usual hospital drama stereotypes and plots that avoided all too common pitfalls. Even the slightly cliched workplace affair story had its moments. Yet if you were willing to dig deeper, Monday Mornings just unfolded with so much, whether it was stories about uncommon medical conditions or characters who were fully realized people. And most importantly, while it juggled complicated issues and lots of jargon, the show never, ever made the audience feel inferior.

6) The heart. As smart as it was, another great quality the show had was its tremendous amount of spirit. Where other medical shows strayed so far from medicine that they felt like series about people who just happened to be doctors, or could get downright depressing with how bleak a picture they painted, Monday Mornings was a true medical drama that always had hope. Even when characters made mistakes or did something that infuriated the audience, the show never made us hate them or dwelled too long on their failures. We cared about these people and their patients, saw that they cared about each other, and were able to believe that they’d get through whatever happened next.

7) The perspective. The greatest blessing that Monday Mornings gave us is that from the outset, it was something more than just a TV show. It gave the audience a deeper understanding of what it means to be a medical professional – not just the standard ‘does the patient live or die?’ pressures that the genre usually mines for drama, but the day-to-day grind of living in that high-pressure world, both inside the hospital and out. It asked tough moral, legal and personal questions, and in so doing invited us to answer them ourselves. We were able to see these doctors not as superheroes, or as quirky characters with messy personal lives, but real people that had their strengths, weaknesses, fears and beliefs just like we all do. They made us look at medicine, and at ourselves, just a little bit differently, and that’s something that we can carry with us for the rest of our lives.

I personally have so much to thank this series for. It allowed me the opportunity to meet one of my favorite actors of all time, Jamie Bamber, when I thought I’d never have the opportunity. It introduced me to another friend in Keong Sim. And as I wrote in my April editorial, visiting the Monday Mornings set in December enabled me to confront my fear of hospitals – a huge step I never would have taken in any other circumstance, because wanting to support Jamie and a show that I believed in created motivation greater than my insecurities. Covering the series for the last six months completely changed my perspective on the medical profession. The experiences I’ve had through the show have made me a stronger person. It has been an absolute honor to be a part of Monday Mornings.

If you somehow missed Monday Mornings when it aired, the complete series is still available on iTunes. You can also revisit all ten episodes with my episode reviews and cast interviews in the BFTV archives. Thank you to the cast and crew for all your hard work on a remarkable series; it will not be forgotten.

(c)2013 Brittany Frederick. Appears at Starpulse with permission. All rights reserved. No reproduction permitted. Visit my official website and follow me on Twitter at @tvbrittanyf.

‘Monday Mornings’ Recap and Review: ‘Family Ties’

Monday Mornings

We’ve reached the end of the first season of Monday Mornings, and the season finale does not disappoint.

As is becoming normal for this show, action begins in the ER, with Villanueva owning the place like a boss. He pages Sydney to help Michelle with a kid who is way too young to be having a heart attack, before moving on to a patient with chronic back pain. The more the guy talks, the more the Big Cat thinks he might be addicted to painkillers. When Villanueva confronts the patient with his belief, it does not go well, leading the disgruntled patient to approach Tina in the parking lot. You can guess where this is going. After she refuses to help him, he attacks both her and Michelle, and then runs away while Tina is slumped unconscious on the ground.

Elsewhere, Tina and Park have to break the news to a young man that his mother is braindead following a collision with a skateboarder. She was an organ donor, which means that Tierney pops up. Yet the son doesn’t want his mother’s organs donated, and is willing to take the hospital to court over it.

Sydney visits her patient once he’s out of surgery, and is horrified by his eating habits, ranting about food to her psuedo-boyfriend Lieberman. She’s called back into action – along with everyone else – when Michelle brings Tina into the ER. Via phone from the courthouse, Hooten says that should Tina need surgery, Wilson is not to be the one to perform it (for obvious reasons). A brief argument happens between Park and Wilson before Villanueva puts an end to it with his gravelly awesomeness.

In court, the attorney who’s everywhere (played by Anthony Heald) is representing the grieving son, and decides to put Hooten on the stand, much to the annoyance of hospital counsel Scott Henderson (the awesome Jason Gray-Stanford, back again). An argument ensues between Hooten and the attorney.

At the same time, Villanueva and Sydney are scrubbing in for Tina’s surgery, while Park is issuing orders to a whole horde of other folks. A distraught Wilson walks into the operating room and pleads for five seconds with his girlfriend, telling her that he loves her, which one thinks he probably has not said often, if ever before. Once Wilson gets out of the way, it’s time for Park to start the procedure. Afterward, he approaches the still screwed-up Wilson and tells him that there’s nothing more they can do but wait. This is probably as close as Park has ever come to having a bedside manner.

Henderson tells Hooten and Tierney that he’s not confident about their winning the case, which prompts Tierney to volunteer his testimony, even as Henderson points out how abrasive he is. It’s one of Tierney’s best moments as he goes from talking to the judge to making an appeal directly to the grieving son. Bill Irwin plays the scene perfectly, straightforward and with just the right amount of emotion, as only a veteran actor can. Before the judge renders his verdict, the son explodes, both angry at the hospital and angry at himself for not saving his mother.

Speaking of emotional, Wilson has taken up residence at Tina’s bedside, where Villanueva finds him and informs him that they caught the guy who beat her up. Several hours later, everyone’s hovering around her as they’re paged to one more M&M meeting. There’s Hooten, looking for all the world like he does not care what time it is or what else has happened today. He grills Sydney for how she handled the kid with a heart attack, but stops when Wilson walks in and announces that Tina has squeezed his hand and spoken to him. Tina’s awake and glad to see them when they all return to her room, and after Park pronounces her fine, she asks Wilson not to leave. Te final shot of the season is of all her colleagues standing around her hospital bed.

This finale shows all the things that are great about Monday Mornings. Even when it’s treading familiar ground – and the ‘a main character or loved one of a main character ends up as a patient’ story is definitely familiar ground; we already saw Villanueva’s son in the ER earlier this season – it’s still great TV. If one thinks logically, it’s readily apparent that Tina isn’t going to die, because Jennifer Finnigan is the lead actress on the series, and her departure would’ve been spoiled a long time ago. Yet unlike ninety-five percent of shows, that doesn’t make watching the episode any less suspenseful. As the drama unfolds, you come to realize that it’s not about whether Tina pulls through or not, but how everyone around her goes through the situation.

It points toward the real growth audiences have seen from these characters in a relatively short ten-episode season. Earlier in the arc we saw Hooten tell Tina to be careful in her relationship with Wilson, because it wouldn’t affect him the way she was affected by it – yet here Wilson is telling Tina that he loves her. A running point (perhaps even a running joke) through the season has been Park trying to find his bedside manner, and from how he approaches Wilson, it’s clear that he’s starting to grasp that concept. Even Tierney, who has spent large parts of episodes being the guy you love to hate, has had more and more moments where even if you don’t like him, you at least understand him. The best television lets its characters grow, and Monday Mornings has done that.

The question now is, is this body of work enough to secure a season two? It should be. Honestly, there are no more superlatives left to describe Monday Mornings. Over ten weeks we’ve discussed the brilliance of its writing, the strength of its talented ensemble cast, and even how it can inspire audiences to think differently about medicine. The effort of the actors and an entire crew, not just the producers but all the people we never get to see, is obvious in the final product. These people have done everything they could possibly do to make good television. Now it’s up to TNT to make the right decision and let them keep making it. If there’s any justice in TV land, this won’t be the last time we visit Chelsea General.

(c)2013 Brittany Frederick. Appears at Starpulse and Examiner with permission. All rights reserved. No reproduction permitted. Visit my official website and follow me on Twitter at @tvbrittanyf.

‘Monday Mornings’ Recap and Review: ‘Wheels Within Wheels’

Monday Mornings

We’re coming to the end of the beginning for Monday Mornings. Things that seem great turn out to be not so much, and things that seem bad end up being worse. It just goes to show you that medicine is most definitely not an easy nor predictable occupation.

The episode starts off with a bang, as Michelle nearly loses a patient only to make a breakthrough just before they’re ready to pronounce her death. Elsewhere, Wilson and Hooten’s next case is a judge who knows the Chelsea General chief of staff, and Park and Ridgeway’s patient doesn’t know where he is after having a seizure in the street. Oh, and he decided to write all over himself, too. Yeah, it’s going to be one of those weird days at the hospital.

Michelle later visits her patient and the woman’s husband, who are grateful for her help after their car accident. “You not only saved my life, you maybe extended it,” says the woman, who calls Michelle her “guardian angel.” Villanueva subsequently offers the young resident a beer as a reward for her accomplishment. “I want you to imagine the beer is life itself,” he tells her, who also encourages her to meditate as a way to keep her calm in the ER, and then gives her a hug. Erm, okay. Afterward, Fran the omnipresent relations woman (can’t she just leave everyone alone already?) tries to encourage Michelle to bank some good publicity first because it would mean money for the hospital, and then because it might keep her from getting fired if she screws up later on.

Tina and Park find out that the young man they’re treating might have a few screws loose, at least according to his mother, who says he’s been writing all over everything. He has “the opposite of writer’s block” and is not thrilled that he’s been locked in his bedroom for awhile. He tells Tina and Park that he’s got temporal lobe epilepsy, and Park decides to schedule a test without his consent, saying that it doesn’t matter because the kid isn’t competent. Tina comes back later to try and make nice, and gets the kid to admit that he’s afraid whatever they find and fix might change who he is. “If the obsession has you, that’s a problem,” she tells him. “You’re not winning the battle here, Derek.”

In Radiology, Wilson and Hooten find a tumor in the judge’s brain, and decide to operate, with Hooten remarking on how much pressure comes with operating on a woman of her stature. This is not necessarily encouraging to Wilson, but at least Hooten decides to stick around for the procedure. Once they’re in the OR, Hooten doesn’t like what they see. After the procedure he visits the judge, telling her that it wasn’t a tumor. No, she has late-stage syphilis that might have gone undiagnosed for decades now. “We’re confident that we’ve stopped any further progression,” he says, but stops short of guaranteeing anything.

At the next Morbidity & Mortality meeting, Michelle is called forward to talk about her success, with Hooten doing his usual great job of denting a doctor’s ego even under the best of circumstances. The “guardian angel” label comes back to bite Michelle in the behind in front of her colleagues, as does her inexperience. In a matter of maybe two minutes, Hooten tears her down, making her victory seem like a defeat that just happened to end well. “You saved the day, Dr. Robidaux, but not before very nearly losing it,” he tells her, while everyone else sits there hating him a little bit.

Once all that drama is over, Park and Tina try to convince their patient that operating won’t mess up his entire life, but he continues to blow things way out of proportion, much to Tina’s frustration. She tells Park he’s coming with her to make a house call whether he wants to or not. When they arrive, they’re dumbfounded at the writing all over the walls, and Tina is further bewildered by Park’s declaration that they’ll simply see how things go.

The next morning Hooten is surprised to hear that the judge has requested an early checkout from the hospital, but it starts to make sense when the two of them hear the news media breaking the story of the judge’s diagnosis, which obviously jeopardizes her dream of being named to the Supreme Court. Cue Wilson and Sydney’s pagers going off: it’s time for another M&M meeting.

A particularly belligerent Hooten first wants to hear from Park, calling his patient “a threat” to himself, which Park vehemently objects to, saying he looked at the whole of his patient, not just the body parts. Hooten then asks Wilson if he has an opinion, even though Wilson admits he has “no idea where you’re going with this,” which is probably good because Wilson then gets enraged at Hooten’s accusation that he’s responsible for the judge’s condition making it to TV. Hooten again refers to Tina as Wilson’s “girlfriend,” which makes her upset, and she’s not the only one. In response to Sydney’s attempt to defend her colleagues, Hooten decides she gets a special assignment to address privacy concerns at the hospital, and walks out again.

At the dive bar, Villanueva points out that Hooten may have overreacted more than once. Hooten retorts that “I bet you hugged her” because Villanueva probably knew his tirade at Michelle was coming. While the judge sits in her recovery room with a glass of wine, the kid with epilepsy is still writing, and Michelle is watching the news report calling her the “hero of the day.” She doesn’t feel like a hero, though.

For an episode before a season-ender, “Wheels Within Wheels” is a quiet one. Yet there’s still a good debate here, and it’s about if and how medical procedures can change a person, whether it’s the kid with epilepsy worried that he’ll never write again, or the judge who fears her career may be threatened by the reveal of her condition. The episode does a fine job of illustrating the point that medicine doesn’t end once you step out the doors of a hospital, and it isn’t just about the physical effects. As someone who’s spent three years in and out of the hospital having numerous procedures done, I can vouch that things you never even thought about can change, and sometimes they don’t change back. This is an episode that drives that home, and does it fairly, not just casting our doctors in a negative light because of it.

Having said that, this show also points out just how tough it is to be a doctor. Hooten is at times completely insufferable, and this is one of those instances. He leaves everyone else around him disliking him at best and outright hating him at the worst, and those feelings are absolutely understandable, given how blunt – some might even say cruel – he can be. The M&M meetings are legitimately uncomfortable for the audience, so one can only wonder how tough it must be to be standing at that podium. It creates a certain degree of empathy for these surgeons, as we have to ask ourselves if we could constantly live up to the exacting standards that Hooten is looking for. Being a doctor isn’t easy, and it’s not predictable, but just being able to claim the title is an accomplishment.

The Monday Mornings season finale airs next Monday, April 8.

(c)2013 Brittany Frederick. Appears at Starpulse and Examiner with permission. All rights reserved. No reproduction permitted. Visit my official website and follow me on Twitter at @tvbrittanyf.

‘Monday Mornings’ Recap and Review: ‘Truth or Consequences’

Monday Mornings

Why does Monday Mornings have to be almost over? There are only two episodes left after tonight and there hasn’t been a weak one yet. This week’s chapter opens with a Random New Guy getting 311’ed for giving a patient a lethal dose of adrenaline. RNG, whose name is Stewart Delany and who is played by Jamie Bamber’s Hornblower colleague Ioan Gruffudd, does a miserable job of defending himself and gets fired, much to the shock of everyone else in the room, except for maybe Park.

Speaking of Park, he’s brushing up on his English when Wilson walks into his office. Park immediately susses out that Wilson wants something, which happens to be “a little insight” into what he can expect at his upcoming deposition. Park tells Wilson he should be ashamed for sleeping with another man’s wife and ruining his marriage. You have to love Park’s honesty.

The one good thing about this development is that it means we get to see more of Jason Gray-Stanford as hospital counsel Scott Henderson, who’s agreed to come to Wilson’s defense. Before much can be said, though, Tina interrupts the pending deposition and asks to speak privately to her soon-to-be ex-husband, wanting to know what he’s “looking to prove.” Not that he doesn’t have every right in the world to be livid or anything. Wake up, woman.

Meanwhile, Dr. Delany is made to face the parents of the patient he accidentally killed, with Hooten straight-up admitting to the distraught couple that she died because of their incompetence. Villanueva might be the giant in the room, but is there anyone scarier in this hospital than Hooten? Not by a long shot.

Elsewhere at Chelsea General, Sydney, Villanueva and Tierney are having a difference of opinion on their next case, that of a guy who tried to jump to his death, and Michelle teams up with Park to handle a patient. Neither of these things goes well, with Villanueva saying he might punch Tierney and Park declaring his patient braindead. He and Michelle have to break the news to the woman’s distraught significant other, who asks to say goodbye, and wants to know what will happen to her organs. Though she wasn’t an organ donor, he thinks she’d be happy if she helped save someone…as long as it’s not the guy who tried to commit suicide, which conflicts with their religious beliefs.

Mark Ridgeway’s lawyer wants to know the details of Tina and Wilson’s affair, which apparently started “a little over a year ago,” according to Wilson. Asked if it mattered that she was married, he hesitates before answering in the affirmative, and walks out when the lawyer wants to know how many times he slept with Tina. Henderson confronts Wilson afterward, saying that the case is very real and that it’s going to have a massive price tag attached however the chips fall.

Frustrated by their inability to secure the transplant they need for their patient, Villanueva and Sydney are surprised when the jumper indicates that he didn’t try to kill himself – he was pushed. This prompts the arrival of the police, as well as Fran Horowitz. Villanueva shocks everyone when he says that the patient’s deadbeat father is the one who shoved him off the roof. “I guess he didn’t want to be found,” the Big Cat says, adding that Dad is in police custody.

With Henderson’s words in his head, Wilson reluctantly returns to the table to finish his deposition, with the lawyer wanting to know how exactly he started sleeping with his married colleague. Henderson cuts off the dialogue after Wilson says he could name 20 other relationships or affairs at Chelsea General, realizing that the lawyer intends to go after not just the doctor, but the hospital. Furthermore, that wrinkle creates a conflict of interest for Henderson, who advises Wilson to find new counsel and settle the case before he gets “crushed.”

Everyone else brings their case in front of Hooten, looking for guidance. Villanueva asks his teammates if they think they can really save the patient, to which a surprisingly affected Tierney replies, “His father pushed him off a roof, I’m not tossing him under a bus. I will save this kid.” Wow, Tierney’s actually starting to get likeable, isn’t he?

Michelle talks again with Delany, who’s leaving Portland for Los Angeles, but wants her to keep in touch. He asks for her to give him a moment, and when she pulls away, we see they’ve been holding hands, so maybe Tina and Wilson aren’t the only two coworkers personally involved at the hospital. It’s no surprise that Michelle goes to see Tina for guidance, but Tina tells her that Hooten won’t change his mind about dismissing Delany.

Tierney, Villanueva and Sydney head back to the OR and seem to have saved their patient, but before they can celebrate too much, are called to another 311 meeting in which Hooten addresses both Tina and Wilson, quipping, “What happens in Vegas doesn’t always stay in Vegas, does it?” If somebody somehow didn’t know those two were sleeping together, they do now.

Hooten moves on to the other three docs, seeming to be complimentary, until he brings up the unflattering comments Sydney and Tierney first made when they thought their patient was a lost cause, and admonishes Villanueva for not chastizing them. He accuses them of not really caring until they knew their case was an attempted homicide rather than an attempted suicide. Hooten is, as usual, annoyingly right. Villanueva sticks his head into the boss’s office later and asks him if he’s okay.

As for Tina and Wilson, they’re at the dive bar. Tina asks Wilson if he’s okay and tries to take sole responsibility for their affair, but he disagrees with her, pointing out that she had something to lose while he didn’t. “As far as I’m concerned, my behavior was worse than yours here,” he says. “There are consequences to things.” He tells her he wants the thing between them to have meaning, maybe just to ease his guilt, which is the most awkward and unflattering way in the history of ever to ask someone out. She doesn’t really answer him, but she doesn’t leave, either.

Speaking of leaving, Delany is in the process of doing so, when Hooten finds him in the parking garage and tries to reassure him that he’s still a good doctor. Delany cuts him off and tells him “It’s not just the right call, it’s the only one.” They wish each other well before Hooten leaves Delany to continue his journey to Los Angeles.

While the emphasis on the show’s weakest plotline (the affair between Tina and Wilson) means that this isn’t the best episode of Monday Mornings to date, the series still comes up with the compelling intellectual dilemmas that have made it such a pleasure to watch. The script goes out of its way for the audience to feel sympathetic toward axed doctor Delany, while at the same time we know he absolutely has to pay the price for a fatal mistake. Likewise, Hooten is spot on in calling out Tierney, Sydney and Villanueva for their initial reaction to their patient’s circumstances, but were we in their position, would we also hesitate to give our best to a cause we honestly believed to be hopeless?

You can see these situations both ways, which is what makes the series remarkable. It doesn’t tell the audience which side of the argument is right or wrong; rather, it’s up to the audience to decide how they feel, and in doing so, question how they might respond. It provokes thought, not just a reaction. Hopefully, the personal drama will wrap itself up in time, and the series can continue to tell stories that not only entertain, but challenge us as people, too. (Now, if we could only have been treated to Ioan Gruffudd and Jamie Bamber having dialogue together, but you can’t have everything you want.)

Monday Mornings fans should also be sure to check out Keong Sim on the big screen in Olympus Has Fallen, in theaters now. You can read the BFTV interview with Keong about the movie here and check out our review of the flick here.

(c)2013 Brittany Frederick. Appears at Starpulse and Examiner with permission. All rights reserved. No reproduction permitted. Visit my official website and follow me on Twitter at @tvbrittanyf.

‘Monday Mornings’ Recap and Review: ‘Communion’

Monday Mornings

Things are getting personal on Monday Mornings. The latest patient to come through the doors of Chelsea General is Villanueva’s own son, Nick. “Who did this to you?” his father tearfully demands, but Nick is unresponsive. Almost the entire senior staff jumps into action, but Sydney kicks Villanueva out of the OR for being too close to the patient, and Hooten backs her decision. He watches every move as the two of them start operating. Tina, fulfilling her role as the motherly member of the staff, talks to Villanueva while he wonders aloud who stabbed his child. An angry Ving Rhames is never a good thing.

Elsewhere, Tierney is handling a kidney transplant between two sisters, explaining the steps to them before actually performing the procedure. Things seem to be going fine until they’re suddenly not, with the receiving sister flatlining on the table. The normally callous Tierney is visibly upset at the loss of his patient, and tries his best to console the surviving sister. He asks her if she’ll consider reallocating her kidney to another patient, but she declines, wanting it back. Tierney explains that’s not how things work. “I want the kidney,” she insists. “I want to take it home with me.” Gross.

And Park meets with a famous concert violinist who’s having issues playing the right notes. “Absolute pitch not necessary for musician,” Park tells him, but agrees to run an MRI and see what’s going on in the man’s brain. When the test results come back, he spots a “very small” tumor that he believes he can remove. The violinist explains that he came to Park because of his alleged “extreme precision” and wants to hear that removing the tumor will restore his perfect pitch, but Park only reiterates that he can’t give a specific assurance as to the outcome of the surgery.

Michelle tells Tina that one of her patients, who allegedly can’t move his legs, stabbed somebody in a cooking class and now the cops are at the hospital. When Tina confronts the patient, he admits that he can move his legs “a little” but wants to wait until his lawyer gets there. When Tina tells him they don’t harbor fugitives, he goes back to his original claim and asks for another doctor.

Sydney informs Villanueva that his son is going to make it, and explains that she threw him out of the OR so that she would be better. Because it’s hard enough doing surgery without your patient’s father, who happens to be physically imposing, standing right there next to you. After she leaves, Hooten comes by to comfort his colleague, saying, “We’ll certainly be having a drink tonight. my friend.”

Wilson finally arrives at the beginning of the second act, to express his amusement at Tina’s faking patient. Villanueva, who’s already in a mood thanks to his son’s situation, strides into the room and confronts the patient, while a wary Wilson stands beside him staring in confusion. Villanueva tells the faker that there’s a growth on his liver and watches him freak out. Moments later, Villanueva declares, “I got his confession.”

Tierney has brought in Fran Horowitz to explain to his patient that they can’t just hand over her kidney like a piece of property. The patient retorts that women who’ve given birth take their placentas home all the time, which is apparently news to Tierney. He’s a little uncomfortable with that idea.

When Nick comes to, Sydney is at his bedside, telling him that they got the guy that stabbed him and that his father is “a mess, but other than that he’s totally fine.” As if on cue, Villanueva arrives to see his son, and while neither are exactly in a talking mood, enough is said nonverbally. Tina checks on Villanueva afterward. “You know why that kid stabbed Nick?” he tells her. “Because he criticized that kid’s baklava. What the hell? What kind of world is this?” He has a good point.

Hooten overhears violin in the hallway, and stops to listen to Park’s patient, who’s decided to spend the time before his surgery playing, in case it’s the last time he ever does so. Park hauls in Wilson to assist on the procedure, determined not to let the violinist lose his gift. He goes so far as to say “please,” which is a reach for Park.

Villanueva’s son decides now is the time to reveal to his father that he wants to be an actor, which apparently Dad has previously disapproved of. The Big Cat suggests maybe he’s “evolved some” and that they ought to talk more. The bridge between father and son is slowly being built.

Tierney convinces his patient that he understands her point of view, but that if he’s going to make her case, he has to convince everyone around her that she’s not a “raving lunatic” who wants to eat her own kidney. She agrees to see a shrink to prove her mental fitness. Next time we see Tierney, he’s being hauled up in front of another M&M meeting for the death of his transplant recipient and the odd behavior of his surviving patient. Near everyone else practices their “WTF” expressions, with Tina going so far as to call the idea of the patient eating her kidney “barbaric,” which sends Sydney into a rant. Hooten declares that they will release the kidney to the patient.

He then calls forward Villanueva. While he starts with expressing everyone’s sympathy at the stabbing of his son, Hooten points out that this allows them to revisit the hospital policy that prohibits doctors from treating their own family members. Villanueva is not a fan of that rule. Yet Hooten, in his usual roundabout way, points out that Villanueva wasn’t necessarily clear-headed at the time, only asking him who stabbed him, and not anything diagnostic. “The question suggests rage to me, Doctor,” he says. “Rage. Emotion. Do these qualities improve your medical performance?” Villanueva is not in the mood for Hooten’s inquisition, but the Chief of Staff keeps pushing, saying that Nick may be alive because Sydney is the one person “who doesn’t put up with your particular brand of bullshit.” An awkward silence falls over the room as Villanueva stares a hole in the side of Hooten’s head, and then quietly walks from Room 311.

Park and Wilson are in the OR with the violinist, who’s awake and talking as they’re working. Park whips out the violin to see how many notes the violinist can recognize. He gets the first two, but fumbles on the third, and Park simply tells him to “do better” with his usual lack of bedside manner. It takes a little, but the violinist smiles as he discovers that he has his perfect pitch back.

Tierney’s patient has gotten the seal of approval from the hospital shrink, so Tierney hands over the cooler with her kidney in it. “I wish you could walk out of here holding your sister’s hand instead of…” he starts, but trails off. She responds that she knows he did all he could and that he extended “great hope” to her sister right up until the end. It seems to be enough for Tierney, who decides to visit the dive bar, where Hooten is alone. “It’s amazing lives we lead,” he reflects. “I’m not sure I mean that in a good way. Just amazing, I suppose. Patient died on me – she died – and now here I am in a bar because somebody paid me a compliment.” Hooten reassures him that he’s a good man, as the audience finally gets to see a softer side of the transplant expert.

While Villanueva spends time with his son, Park joins the violinist in a duet, and the episode goes to black with a sense of optimism – the doctors of Chelsea General may lose some battles, like they did last week, but they win some, too.

With “Communion,” Monday Mornings hits another note familiar to longtime medical-drama watchers: the episode in which a main cast member’s family member or significant other becomes a patient. What keeps the show on track is that it doesn’t fall into the pitfalls which often come with this type of plot. We don’t see anyone having a melodramatic breakdown or going on a rampage, the ‘will they or won’t they make it’ isn’t dragged out over the whole hour, and it doesn’t dominate the entire episode. While it’s an important story – giving more color to the character of Villanueva – life elsewhere at Chelsea General continues to go on.

Which leads to one of the things that has become particularly noteworthy about Monday Mornings. The series has balanced about three full stories every episode, which is more than most hour-long dramas, which may have an ‘A’ story and a ‘B’ story, or an ‘A’ story and some smaller subplots. There are multiple cases going on each week, and all the characters are somehow engaged, even if they don’t have a tremendous amount of screen time. That makes it feel like a real hospital – always busy, always moving forward. It’s not hard to imagine that while Wilson wasn’t in the whole first act of this episode, he was probably off performing a procedure we didn’t see, or doing something else we don’t know about. And not to take away from Jamie Bamber, who’s one of the best actors on television, but the show doesn’t suffer even with its male lead not in the game for the first quarter. The series has created a real atmosphere where it feels like its own greater world, not reliant on any one or two people to make it work.

Look at the characters of Park and Tierney. This episode is also particularly good for them, as it humanizes Tierney after his earlier transplant gaffe, and Park continues to be one of the show’s most entertaining characters. Both of them showed serious compassion in this episode, Tierney more openly than Park, but they were both affected by their respective cases and that, in turn, allowed them to be more accessible to the audience. That’s a credit to actors Bill Irwin and Keong Sim, and to the writers, who have created characters who express a full range of humanity.

It’s natural to draw comparisons between Monday Mornings and Chicago Hope, because  they’re two shows in the same genre from the same executive producer – and indeed, this series does feel like early Chicago Hope, where the writing was sharp and the characters were solid. What really makes the comparison apt, however, is the heart. Like that previous series, Monday Mornings has made the intangibles palpable: the tension, the confusion, the stress and the elation. As long as it avoids the pitfalls of a musical episode or firing half its cast in a later season, this should stand as the next great medical drama.

(c)2013 Brittany Frederick. Appears at Starpulse and Examiner with permission. All rights reserved. No reproduction permitted. Visit my official website and follow me on Twitter at @tvbrittanyf.

‘Monday Mornings’ Recap and Review: ‘The Legend and the Fall’

Monday Mornings

It’s fitting that with the word “legend” in the episode title, Monday Mornings casts a legendary actor in a heartbreaking tale of a doctor reaching the end of his storied career – and being almost the last person to realize it.

This week, Sydney and Lieberman are attempting to have a drama-free date, and it’s not working. Their dinner is interrupted by one of his former patients, a guy named Frank who wants to reiterate the entire experience to Sydney – at least until he falls unconscious at the table. Considering that the last time they went out also ended with someone else’s medical emergency, perhaps the two of them should stop going out for awhile. Just stay in and rent a movie.

Back at Chelsea General, Michelle is quizzing a swimmer about his headache before he collapses onto the floor of the ER, while Tina and Wilson are super-awkward around each other now that their affair has officially wrecked her marriage. She steps in to help Michelle with her seizing patient, as we cut to Park and the legendary Dr. Arvin Wayne (guest star Hal Holbrook) in an operating room. Park wasn’t expecting company, and his colleague doesn’t seem to know what he’s doing there. The other doc wanders out of the OR in a stunned daze.

Once everything has calmed down Sydney and Lieberman explain what happened to Frank to a curious Tierney. Sydney diagnosis him with bacterial endocarditis, and breaks the news to Frank’s disbelieving wife. Park informs Hooten about the incident with Dr. Wayne, and Tierney’s eavesropping on that conversation, too. He chimes in that he’s also had problems with the 85-year-old doc, but Hooten brushes both of them off.

Michelle still doesn’t know what’s wrong with her patient, so Villanueva takes a crack at it, but when he asks about steroid use, the young man gets defensive. Even after another round of questions about his medical history, there’s no idea why he seized. “Should we call House?” Michelle quips as she, Tina and Villanueva confer in Radiology, but no one is amused by the joke.

They’re arguing over whether or not to run a certain test outside Villanueva’s lair when Wilson interjects, wanting to talk to Tina. He pulls her aside and admits he feels “a bit paralyzed” over her situation. “I so want to be here for you,” he says. “But being a contributor to the situation, not to mention perhaps…” He asks if he’s the catalyst, and she says no, but tells him that she needs some time to think (yet doesn’t turn down a hug, because who would, really). What could’ve been a ridiculously sappy moment is thankfully ruined when Park walks in.

Wayne performs another surgical procedure, this one under Hooten’s watchful eye. The two chat afterward, with Wayne blaming his iPhone for the earlier misstep. Hooten doesn’t say anything immediately, but pauses before he moves on.

Sydney finds Lieberman and asks him if he’s spoken to hospital counsel Scott Henderson about Frank, since Frank and his wife are already talking about suing the dentist who performed the routine cleaning that may have contributed to his endocarditis. She’s so insistent that she makes Lieberman second-guess his own earlier treatment of Frank, and Lieberman goes off to see the lawyer.

The test has revealed that the swimmer’s having a stroke, and Villanueva and Michelle urge him to undergo immediate surgery. “You’ve been doping, son,” Villanueva tells him. “Not steroids. Blood doping.” Exactly the same thing Lance Armstrong has been associated with for years. “Why would this make me have a stroke?” the guy asks, not directly admitting to anything. But Villanueva further informs him that they need to remove the resulting blood clot before more brain cells die. He’s not going to take ‘no’ for an answer.

Tierney tells Wilson about Wayne, and Wilson doesn’t look particularly surprised. This leads Tierney to suspect he knows something and Tierney pushes him to speak up. So now it’s Wilson and Tierney going to Hooten, insisting that he take action. Wilson reveals that Wayne was Hooten’s mentor, and implies a bit of favoritism. “We’ve all learned from him, we all admire him, but I’m standing here because of what I’ve learned from you,” Wilson says, telling Hooten that the principles of the hospital can’t be compromised by or for anyone.

Michelle tells her patient that Tina will be performing his procedure and she’ll be assisting. He asks if he should call his parents “like, to say goodbye,” as the seriousness of the situation dawns on him. Tina recruits Wilson to help as well, and then it’s into the OR with everyone. Unfortunately, things don’t go smoothly, as the clot fails to dissolve on the first try. A change of methods seems to solve the problem.

After hearing about Sydney upsetting her would-be boyfriend, Villanueva barks at Lieberman to get into his office and tells him what he thinks Sydney is feeling about him, while she’s sitting there. It’s awkward and hilarious, and provides a nice balance to the tense surgery scene.

Hooten takes Wayne out for a meal over which they discuss Hooten’s own first M&M meeting. Hooten realizes with chagrin that his first infraction was the same mistake that Wayne has made now. “Harding, this hospital is my life,” Wayne insists, but Hooten tells him that he has no choice but to call an M&M for him. He even goes so far to tell him what he’s going to ask at said conference. He still believes that Wayne is fine, and it’s everyone else who’s in denial.

At the meeting, Hooten starts out being short with his surgeons, and Wayne plays off his oversights with humor and a spiel about preparation. Everyone else is surprised when Hooten excuses his mentor without so much as a slap on the wrist and breaks up the meeting shortly thereafter. “What the hell was that?” Villanueva wants to know. “What’s going on?” The two titans have a stare-down before Hooten leaves Room 311.

He goes directly to Wayne’s office, and points out that one of his ‘tells’ is grand gestures in his spiels, but that Wayne did no such thing while going on about preparation. Hooten now believes his mentor has been having “little episodes” that could be precursors to a stroke. When he calls the older man out, Wayne turns on him, insisting that “When I compromise a patient’s health, then we’ll talk.” Hooten leaves without another word and ends up at the dive bar with Villanueva again. Michelle and Tina soon join them.

But while they drink and trade jokes, Wayne is still sitting in his office. He uses his stethoscope to check his own heart and hears the fateful whoosh that informs him he’s got a problem. And that saddening sound stays in our ears as the screen fades to black.

There’s something heartbreaking about “The Legend and the Fall,” which is anchored by a fantastic guest performance by the great Hal Holbrook. For his character (and indeed, the biggest part of the episode) to work at all, the role demands someone who is believable as a master, and Holbrook certainly is that, given that he’s been a star in the acting world for decades now, going back to his amazing performances as Mark Twain. (He’s also written a wonderful autobiography.) Holbrook’s scenes with Alfred Molina – himself a well respected actor – are the highlights of the hour.  With the halls of other medical shows often populated by young, beautiful people, it’s nice to see a plot about the elder statesmen of this hospital.

The plot also raises a not-unfamiliar debate. This is a discussion people have had – maybe not about surgeons specifically, but there have been countless stories about how old is too old for someone to drive, or to live on their own. It’s a question with no firm or easy answer, and that’s born out here. While we may understand that Wayne needs to hang up the lab coat, we also can’t help but find ourselves feeling for the man, because what must it be like to realize the thing you’ve done for so many years (indeed, which you’ve made your life, as he tells Hooten), you can’t do anymore?

Everyone else’s stories feel like subplots around Dr. Wayne’s story, or at least the start of plot threads we may see explored in later episodes (remember, this is a show that likes to make callbacks, and deservedly so). Other than knowing that Michelle’s patient has had a successful surgery, we don’t resolve anything and maybe we don’t need to. There are other episodes to explore Sydney and Lieberman’s relationship, Tina’s awkwardness as her marriage dissolves, or the fact that Tierney seems to be in everyone else’s business. When you’ve got someone like Hal Holbrook on your show, there’s nothing wrong with letting him have center stage while he’s there.

(c)2013 Brittany Frederick. Appears at Starpulse and Examiner with permission. All rights reserved. No reproduction permitted. Visit my official website and follow me on Twitter at @tvbrittanyf.