Written by Megan LaBruna
Usually I’m a sucker for any type of fictional medical show. I love Grey’s Anatomy, I’m obsessed with Bones (I know the patients are already dead in this case, but I’m still counting it) and I sorely miss Scrubs and House. NBC’s new attempt at a medical drama, The Night Shift, however is probably not something I’ll be missing when it’s gone. The show has a pretty decent cast including Freddy Rodriguez as Ragosa, the man in charge of the non-medical calls aka the “prick” of the hospital. Ken Leung as Topher, the serious at times, but ultimately comedic relief doctor and Brendan Fehr as Drew, because every medical show needs a super hot doctor (I may be a bit biased because I loved Roswell and its entire cast).
The leading man, TC (Eoin Macken), is ex-military, as is most of the night shift staff, however TC was discharged from service due to his hot-headed ways and refusal to play by the rules. It’s clear he is still working through some things he saw while he was on active duty. It’s also clear he has a romantic past with Jordan (Jill Flint), the recently promoted head of the night staff. Jordan in one of her first acts as the head of the night staff offers to accommodate the new psychologist Landry (Daniella Alonso), who just so happens to be secretly sleeping with TC…and insert instant love triangle.
I like to think the core premise of the show is promising. The idea that you have a bunch of military and ex-military fighters/doctors/volunteers together in one place trying to band together as a team and save lives in a hospital that is running out of funds is interesting. The layers of emotions that are possible with these characters can also prove to save the show from its sub-par pilot. They did, however, do a few things right. In the first few minutes, TC uses his trauma knowledge to save an injured man’s life who may have otherwise died from blood loss prior to reaching the hospital. They point out that Drew was trained as a medic doctor through the military; however there are many differences between his training and that of a medical professional at a standard hospital, which he’ll have to pick up on as he goes.
The Night Shift expressed little moments that portray the fact that some of these people come back with memories and issues of their own which aren’t always the easiest to deal with. I think the further on the show goes (provided it makes it that far), the more we’ll see this occur in some of the characters. They even make the audience feel a little for Ragosa, who the entire time has been playing the bad guy, telling the doctors they can’t treat patients with no insurance because the hospital is going broke. He surprises everyone when he offers an alternative way to save a boy from being paralyzed, which works. The audience finds out that at one time he was a surgeon, however now he is suffering from some kind of degenerative eye issue, causing him to no longer be able to practice.
These little snapshots of moments are what could save this show from being cut this summer…maybe. I’m not entirely sure most doctors go and party on the roof of the hospital with beers and red solo cups after completing their night shift. And I certainly hope most hospitals don’t collect the ridiculous amount of junk this San Antonio hospital has managed to collect from patients’ rectums. But, I think the biggest issue with the show is that it tried being both extremely funny and extremely dramatic. The only time I have heard of this somewhat successfully working was with Twin Peaks, but that’s a cult classic all its own. In most other cases it’s a delicate mix of the two genres that make a show work.
To stay within the medical field: a drama, like Grey’s can have funny moments and at times can even be lighthearted. Or, a comedy can be dramatic in moments, such as Scrubs. The show is obviously a comedy, yet there are certain episodes where the tone is sometimes more serious. However, The Night Shift went big on both fronts, trying to be funny and serious, loud and quiet, caring and not giving a crap. The pilot was basically one big oxymoron, and then to top it all off, in the last few minutes they tackled being gay in the military. There was so much going on with the pilot already that the conversation between Drew and TC came across as if it was some last minute way to try to relate to more possible viewers instead of a way to uncover deeper layers of their characters.
Despite the cast being attractive, and the ideas and themes being interesting, the execution of the show was pretty much dead on arrival. However, The Night Shift may have found a life-line premiering when it did. Now that most other shows are coming to an end, I, like many others may be inclined to give it one more go for lack of anything new to watch.