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Unoriginal 'Monday Mornings' flatlines

TNT

By Alec Stern, Daily Arts Writer
Published February 11, 2013

“Monday Mornings” gives us yet another reason to hate Monday mornings. It has been a particularly tough year for medical dramas. ABC closed the doors on “Private Practice” after six seasons, and the critical panning and quick cancellations of FOX’s “The Mob Doctor,” the CW’s “Emily Owens, M.D.” and NBC’s “Do No Harm” (which was cancelled this week after only two episodes) have jeopardized this fan-favorite genre. TNT hoped that a new year and its new series, “Monday Mornings,” could give the genre a much-needed reinvigoration. They couldn’t have been more wrong.

“Monday Mornings” is a snooze-fest and lacks almost every aspect that has propelled shows like “Grey’s Anatomy” and “House” to become hits. The first hour of the series leaves viewers with one resounding feeling: indifference. Viewers will recognize that not only has the show been done before, but it’s been done much better than this. Is “Monday Mornings” the worst show on television? No. However, it is a complete waste of time.

What's intended to set “Monday Mornings” apart is a minor twist on the generic genre. Every week (on Monday mornings, if you couldn’t guess), the surgeons of Chelsea General Hospital are subjected to “mortality and morbidity” meetings. During these meetings, Dr. Hooten (Alfred Molina, “Spider-Man 2”) reviews the cases of recently deceased patients and interrogates the doctors who cared for them. The series is based on a book written by CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta and is created by perennial television presence David E. Kelly (“Ally McBeal”), whose recent misfortunes on the broadcast networks (remember “Harry’s Law”?) led him to pursue his first cable series.

Though there's nothing special about the script, what really drags “Monday Mornings” down are its insufferable characters, not one of which is likeable. Molina’s Dr. Hooten is as sadistic a chief of staff as his Monday morning meetings. Ving Rhames (“Mission: Impossible”) could not be less believable as Dr. Jorge Villanueva, the morally sound surgeon with a tough exterior. Dr. Napur (Sarayu Rao, “NCIS: Los Angeles”) gives new meaning to the word annoying, while Dr. Park (Keong Sim, “Glee”) is written so stereotypically that the character is borderline racist. Likewise, the lead of the show, Jamie Bamber (“Battlestar Galactica”), does nothing special as Dr. Tyler Wilson.

The first of the meetings focuses on the case of a female patient who had been under the care of a particularly inept physician. The other doctors have even nicknamed him “007” because of his apparent license to kill. Fans of “Grey’s Anatomy” should realize that Kelly ripped this off directly from the ABC series. In the pilot episode of that medical drama, the doctors gave George O’Malley the exact same nickname (for the exact same reason). What should serve as an intriguing introduction to highlight the show’s premise, the opening meeting just emphasizes the harsh and unpleasant nature of both the “M&M” meetings and the show in general. Apparently, the doctors at this Portland, Ore. hospital aren’t allowed to make mistakes when presented with rare medical cases.

The series also seems unsure of what kind of medical drama it wants to be. On the one hand, a “Grey’s Anatomy”-type show is unapologetically soapy: Doctors move from one to the other, having sex in on-call rooms and arguing about their personal lives over open patients in the O.R. On the other hand, “House” and “ER” are more medically focused. “Monday Mornings” is in its own world, struggling to find any kind of balance.

The existence of this show is downright perplexing, particularly because it does nothing worthwhile in the entire first episode. Much like the characters, the show has zero redeeming qualities and the pilot doesn’t even graze the surface of compelling drama or thought-provoking characters. Without a doubt, “Monday Mornings” will eventually end up the victim of a Monday morning meeting itself, with a TNT executive having to answer for this colossal failure.