TV obsession of the week: The Knick

2014-08-11 15:33
Cape Town – Hot on the heels of the US premiere, M-Net subscribers can catch the latest doctor drama The Knick tonight on M-Net (101) at 21:30.

Believe it or not before the first season of the show aired, a second season has already been commissioned! Yes, it seems to be that good.

Here’s what you need to know about the hot new show.

What it’s about:

Set in the 1900 in New York City, the drama follows the professional and personal lives of Dr John W Thackery and the staff at New York's Knickerbocker Hospital during the early part of the twentieth century.

Partially based on American surgeon William Stewart Halsted, Dr John Thackery is new head of surgery staff who battles a cocaine and opium addiction. The story centres around the surgeons and nurses who push the bounds of medical discovery during a time of high mortality rates and no antibiotics!

This is surgery in the raw, there are no high tech machines and the doctors really get their hands dirty.

Who stars in it?

Hollywood heavyweight Clive Owen stars as Dr John Thackery, Andre Holland is Dr Algernon Edwards, a black surgeon who fights for respect in a white dominated world. Other stars included Jeremy Bobb (House of Cards), Juliet Rylance, Eve Hewson (Bono's daughter), Cara Seymour (American Psyco), Michael Angarano and Chris Sullivan.

What the critics say

Time's James Poniewozik says the show "feels as immediate as any series set in 2014. It’s a period drama that never forgets that its characters are on the cusp of their own dizzying future of scientific and cultural change, and it presents them like people who are living in their own present, not someone else’s past." Soderbergh has "given the show a look that’s not only distinctive for a period drama but that serves the show’s themes. ... The Knick is painstaking in its details and the brownstone Brooklyn locations that stand-in for gaslight-era Manhattan. But it looks distinctively like a show shot in 2014."

Los Angeles Times' Robert Lloyd notes that "the series is at its most convincing, and most beautiful, at its most static. When the show bursts into action, or insists upon making its characters intense and extraordinary — some of them fictionally take credit for real-world medical advances and inventions — it grows, paradoxically, proportionally less interesting." He highlights Chris Sullivan, Cara Seymour and Eve Hewson, as "the most interesting performances and best-written characters come from the lower ranks," and, "except for a few self-consciously 'artistic' passages and some scenes in which the post-production sepia has been dialed up a little too high, the series, with its combination of real, constructed and digital Old New York, looks great."

The New Yorker's Emily Nussbaum instead writes that the series "leans hard on cable drama’s hoariest (and whoriest) antiheroic formulas, diluting potentially powerful themes. ... The surgical-history material is rich stuff, but the series itself is dour and hokey, full of stock characters and eye-rolling exposition. Designed to flatter rather than to challenge the viewer, it’s proof that even an ambitious director can't overcome a blinkered script." Though "Holland brings considerable charisma to the role of the soft-voiced, steely-spined Edwards, the character is a dignified contrivance, a model minority who is all decency, without edges or idiosyncrasies." Altogether, "the best bits—a race riot, an unsettling series of C-sections—never gain traction, since the larger arcs veer, maddeningly, toward progressive wish-fulfillment: the essentially decent people (sexy, iconoclastic freethinkers) must eventually unite against the jerks (thugs, prigs, snobs, bigots)."

The New York Times' Alessandra Stanley calls it "unusual and very good. It’s a great leap backward in time, yet another ambitious examination of an important but often overlooked epoch in history ... this show has a revisionist agenda: it, too, explores a field that was defined and dominated by white men, adding contributions by African-Americans and women." Though at the time, "surgery is still quite primitive, and the show’s medical scenes are so gruesome and bloodily rendered that they are almost hazardous to watch," the series "boldly glories in the backwardness of turn-of-the-century medicine — and gushes of blood, bursting sutures and crusty infections." In comparison to Deadwood and Gangs of New York, "there is a higher purpose in The Knick, but also plenty of colorful low lives" in its gritty portrayal of the setting: "a fascinated and fascinating look at New York in 1900."

Should you watch it?

If you like period pieces like Downton Abbey, if you're into an anti-hero like Tony from the Sopranos and like doctor dramas like Grey's Anatomy then you shouldn't miss this!

Watch the trailer here:

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