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TNT Delivers Drama

David E. Kelley and Dr. Sanjay Gupta Talk MONDAY MORNINGS and What Makes This Medical Drama Different
David E. Kelley and Dr. Sanjay Gupta Talk MONDAY MORNINGS and What Makes This Medical Drama Different

New series Monday Mornings

By: Valerie Milano

Los Angeles, CA (The Hollywood Times) 2/5/2013 – “This is about the doctors holding each other accountable, and what you find is that doctors can hold each other accountable probably harder and better in some ways than anybody else, so it really is a quest for becoming as good as you can be, this is what it takes,” Dr. Sanjay Gupta, practicing neurosurgeon and CNN Chief Medical Correspondent said of TNT’s new hospital drama Monday Mornings

Monday Mornings is executive produced by David E. Kelley (Boston LegalThe PracticeAlly McBeal) and Bill D’Elia (The West WingLaw and Order) and is based on Dr. Gupta’s book of the same title.  The series follows the lives of doctors and surgeons in the fictional Chelsea General Hospital in Portland, Oregon as they “push the limits of their abilities and confront their personal and professional failings” (TNT).  The series title refers to the hospital’s weekly morbidity and mortality (or “311”) conferences in which the doctors gather as peers for a confidential review of complications and errors in patient care.  It is a look into the medical world most viewers are not aware of and introduces a new take on television hospital dramas.

The pilot episode aired Monday night and opened with one of these 311 conferences, introducing the audience to Dr. Harding Hooten the hospital’s Chief of Staff, played by Alfred Molina and Dr. Buck Tierny, played by Bill Irwin.  Led by Dr. Hooten, the closed-door peer review of Dr. Tierny exposed his error in missing a possible cancer diagnosis by not running any tests when a patient complained of hip pain, resulting in the death of that patient.  The tension felt in the meetings and the pressure felt by the doctors and surgeons is prevalent and is the driving force of the show. “This meeting is doctors on doctors, these colleagues.  And the spirit of it is that we’ll learn, because the worst crime of all would be that a mistake happens, no one talks about it, no one learns from it.  So here we get to see how, as unsettling as it is to think about these mistakes, these complications, these unexpected outcomes get discussed openly, and everyone hopefully gains something from it,” Dr. Gupta said during the TCA Tour in January.

“One of the things I really love about this show is I think we just happen to be surgeons, but it really deals with the human condition, the human experience,” said Ving Rhames who plays Dr. Villanueva. Dr. Sanjay Gupta is heavily involved with the series, greatly contributing to the medical accuracy and believability.  Kelley notes, “This project only came to being when I got an assurance from Sanjay that he would stay with it.”

Jennifer Finnigan who plays Dr. Tina Ridgeway added, “I think from a character standpoint…it’s been so great for the actors to have him around.  And certainly from a medical standpoint, during the pilot, he came up to us and said, ‘Can I teach you how to clip an aneurysm on a cow brain?’” Just as important is the fluency of medical jargon.  “Some of the scenes are about the words, but in many scenes, the words, it’s almost medical white noise, and especially that takes place in the OR,” Kelley said.

Jamie Bamber who portrays neurosurgeon Dr. Ty Wilson added, “You do have to work at it because it’s got to be second nature.” When asked about the change of pace Monday Mornings is compared to his other shows, David E. Kelley said, “At first I had a reservation of the project itself because I had done a medical show before.  I met with Sanjay.  He told me about the book.  It sounded great, but the terrain sounded a little familiar with Chicago Hope.  Then I read the book and saw it was completely different.  The characters were different.  The stories were different, and the staple of this book was these [morbidity and mortality] meetings.  It felt like fertile storytelling ground, and I was probably drawn to it because it was different.”

Monday Mornings airs on TNT Monday nights at 10pm.