Tag: freema agyeman

Bellevue (NBC) pilot preview: A great medical drama at the worst time possible…

Written and executive produced by David Schulner (Emerald City, Do No Harm, Trauma, The Event). Also produced by Dr. Eric Manheimer & Pete Horton (Grey’s Anatomy, Thirtysomething, Ironside). Directed by Kate Dennis (The Handmaid’s Tale, Secrets & Lies, The Secret Life of Us). For NBC & Universal Television. 59 pages. Revised Network Draft. Clean. 12/26/2017.

Description: Located in Manhattan, Bellevue is the only hospital in the world that has the capability to treat Ebola patients, prisoners from Rikers Island and the President of the United States all under one roof. Max Hollander, the new enigmatic medical director hired to disrupt and tame this mighty institution, always prioritize patient care while facing his own battle with cancer…

With Ryan Eggold (The Blacklist, 90210, Dirt), Freema Agyeman (Sense8, The Carrie Diaries, Doctor Who), Janet Montgomery (This Is Us, Salem, Made in Jersey, Entourage), Tyler Labine (Dirk GentlyReaper, Sons of Tucson, Invasion), Anupam Kher (The Indian Detective, Sense8), Jocko Sims

   

You’ll like it you already like: medical shows, from best to worst.

Likely timeslot: Not sure there’s one in the fall…

 

How many medical shows can work at the same time? Historically, not much more than two (ER & Chicaco Hope in the 90s; Grey’s Anatomy & House in the 2000s…). But this past season, four aired at the same time: Grey’s Anatomy -such a beast- & new hit The Good Doctor, both on ABC, plus Chicago Med doing good business on NBC & The Resident doing decent by FOX’s standarts. Betting they will all be back next year, does any new medical drama even stand a chance in this crowded market? Networks doesn’t seem to think so since Bellevue is actually the only medical drama pilot that was picked up to pilot (many projects were in development). So the question is now: does Bellevue even stand a chance? And my answer is… In another situation, on another year, it would certainly have, but now…

It’s a pity for NBC and for us, because Bellevue is really more interesting than Chicago Med or The Night Shift, and other medical shows that failed over there those past few years like Do No Harm or Heartbeat, but I don’t see how they can fit in the schedule and how viewers would be willing to give it a fair chance. Such a shame. The central character is inspired by a real person -Dr. Eric Manheimer, the former medical director at New York City’s real Bellevue Hospital and author of the memoir Twelve Patients: Life and Death at Bellevue Hospital which inspired the series- and you can tell those stories are true, or at least sound like they are. It’s not eccentric with quirky cases to have some fun in the middle of the big drama, it’s really a mix of “normal” cases like you can find in every other medical show and high-stakes ones like the one used in the logline: Alain, a 15 year-old boy, arrives from Africa and shows signs of Ebola disease, which leads the police to think he might have been used as a biological weapon by an Isis agent. Talk about a first day for Hollander ! No sign of the President of the United States just yet!

The pilot is really packed, fast-paced but never at the detriment of the characters, and does a good job at showing America in all its diversity, by facing the difficulties of the healthcare system. And I think that’s what I liked the most about Bellevue. We’re said multiple times that it’s an important hospital, the oldest public hospital in the United States that has a tradition of “serving the underserved” that dates back to 1736 and bla bla bla, but we can also feel it for real through the doctors and through the patients. CBS’s Code Black wanted to show real medicine, based on a documentary, but Bellevue does it better. One case is about a 16 year-old victim of abuse for whom the bedraggled Dr Iggy Frome tries to find a permanent home. It’s very emotional. Another is about a 70 year-old woman who appears dead on arrival, but actually suffers from a neurological condition caused by a tapeworm indigenous to her hometown in Mexico. She only has one year to live and Max will do whatever he can so she returns to her native Guadalajara. There’s a lot of compassion in this show, a lot of emotion and a feel-good vibe amidst the chaos, similar to The Good Doctor.

Hollander is a complicated character but he mostly acts as a hero, even if it means annoying some people for the greater good. I don’t know if Ryan Eggold is the right choice for it -NBC’s executives have a thing for him obviously- but it’s a great challenge. Hollander’s maverick approach and intense commitment to the job exasperate his boss, as well as his seven months pregnant’s wife, who just separated from him. I feel like this personal story will quickly becomes a stone in the writers’ shoes, especially since they’ll have the cancer one to worry about even more. It’s a lot for just one character but the good news is those around him also make good impressions. I’m thinking of Dr. Hana Sharpe (Freema Agyeman), who’s the lead doctor at the hospital who has not practiced medicine in a while. Rather, she appears on talk shows across the country pitching Bellevue hospital. She’s fierce and strong and I like her already. Dr. Anil Kapoor is interesting too, since he’s one of the oldest doctors there and he believes the hospital needs to change but does not feel he needs to change his ways. He could be a lot of fun. They don’t come out as characters we’ve already seen a million times in medical shows.

I’m very conflicted about Bellevue: it sure is a good pilot, and it sure could become a great medical drama, but it’s coming at the worst time possible with already a lot of similar options on network television. I would love it to thrive, I would love it to stay with us for the long haul but I just don’t see it happening sadly. In the wrong place at the wrong time. That’s how I’ll remember it. Unless there’s a miracle…

“Sense 8” (Netflix) preview: is this the most ambitious & unique sci-fi show ever?

WACH

Episode One“. Written, executive produced and directed by Lana & Andy Wachowski (Matrix, Cloud Atlas, Jupiter Ascending) and J. Michael Straczynski (Babylon 5, Jeremiah). Co-produced by Marc Rosen (Harry Potter). For Netflix, Georgeville Television & Studio JMS. 61 pages.

Description: Eight strangers from different parts of the world suddenly become mentally and emotionnaly linked to each others in the aftermath of the tragic death of an angel, through an evolutionary leap of technological origin. While trying to figure why this happened and what it means for the future of mankind, a mysterious and powerful man named Jonas will try to bring the eight together, while another stranger called Mr. Whispers and his organization will attempt to hunt them down to capture or assassinate them.

With Brian J. Smith (Stargate Universe), Aml Ameen (Harry’s Law, The Maze Runner), Tuppence Middleton (Jupiter Ascending, The Imitation Game), Doona Bae (Cloud Atlas, The Host), Tina Desai (Indian Palace), Max RiemeltJamie Clayton, Miguel Angel Silvestre… and special appearances from Daryl Hannah (Splash), Naveen Andrews (Lost), Freema Agyeman (Doctor Who, The Carrie Diaries), Christian Oliver (Speed Racer)…

ALL EPISODES WILL BE AVAIBABLE ON JUNE 5TH

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Just the other day, I was reading reviews about the new Wachowski movie Jupiter Ascending -spoiler alert: none of them were rave- and something striked me all along: critics don’t know how to handle their work anymore. I haven’t seen it yet, and I may never, but it doesn’t seem groundbreaking. And groundbreaking is what we expect from them every time, because that’s what they did with the Matrix saga, with V for Vendetta and even with Speed Racer to a lesser extent. They probably were too good too soon. And now we don’t see them for who they are but for who they were. They have a hard time surprising us again, finding new tricks, exploring new themes… but at the same time they still can move us deeply and marvel, the way few others do. These geniuses -‘cos that’s who they are- have so many things moving at the speed of light in their brain that sometimes it’s pretty hard for us to follow. And two hours of film are clearly just not enough to showcase all their ideas. Fortunately, their ambition is still intact. With Sense 8, their first TV series, they get the chance to prove it -Netflix is said to have given them all the freedom they asked for- and be groundbreaking again.

Whether you like their movies or not, The Wachowskis definitely know how to create a totally new and rich universe from scratch. With Sense 8, they do it again effortlessly, or so it seems. It’s not that different from what they have done before in the sci-fi department but it’s more grounded, more Cloud Atlas than Matrix. That reminds me of the feeling I had at the end of Cloud Atlas: what a good TV show it could have been! All those stories very unconnected were like several series put together to make a movie. The absolutely hilarious storyline in the nursing home was like a British sitcom for example. It was at the opposite of the rest tonally. But somehow, all of this worked (for the most part). Here, they have 8 central characters scattered all around the globe, each one of them having their own story to tell, in their own environment and atmosphere, and of course their own personal conflict to resolve. Some are more featured in the pilot than others; some are interesting from the get go, others will have to prove worth our attention later in the season. But all are connected and all overlap with another through voices, music, settings, objects… and thanks to telephatic abilities. From what I understood, no character will meet during first season. And the Wachowskis already have a plan for 5 seasons, no more and no less. It’s a very ambitious concept and storytelling, like a (very) enhanced version of Heroes, but without superpowers (for now anyway). Groundbreaking it can be.

As I said before, Netflix gave them some sort of unlimited budget to let their imagination go wherever they want and make the best show possible out of it. For the first time in history, they shot in 8 different locations, 8 cities (Chicago, San Francisco, London, Berlin, Seoul, Mexico City, Reykjakiv, Nairobi and Mumbai) , more than Game Of Thrones;  only that is impressive. San Francisco is prominently featured in the pilot, some scenes were shot during the Pride, the Dyke march and the Fresh Meat Festival of transgender and queer performance. The most fascinating and emotionnally charged scenes come from the character of Nomi, previously known as Michael, that echoes the own story of Lana Wachowski, previously know as Larry. There’s a beautiful speech at some point about identity, gender and acceptation. Those certainly are some of the main themes of the show, with persecution, bigotry and fear, among others. As always, the Wachowskis add a religious layer to it all that will have to prove relevant. For now, it’s very intriguing.

It’s almost impossible to judge Sense 8 by its only pilot, since it works more as a long introduction to all of the characters than anything else, and it’s almost impossible to tell where we are heading because of the uniqueness of the project. I fear the Wachowskis want to tell more stories at once than they can handle, even if they have more time to do so. But their ambition, their boldness and the amplitude of their imagination must be underlined and rewarded. If eveything goes the way it should, Sense 8 may become the most fascinating and groundbreaking sci-fi show EVER. Pray of it.