New TV series continue to pop up as fillers for the shows on summer hiatus, and NBC got into the act last week by unveiling “The Night Shift,” a medical drama set in San Antonio Memorial Hospital. Although early indications are that the show may not be in the same league with “House,” I think it definitely will be entertaining enough to follow through its run.
True to its title, “The Night Shift” tells the story of the team of doctors that staffs the hospital at night and on through the wee hours of the morning. It takes special people to work at this time of day when all kinds of crazy cases come in for medical attention, and when they’re not treating patients, these doctors amuse themselves at the expense of others. As one of the hospital administrators said, “The night shift is not like your day shift. It’s an undisciplined zoo. Last week, someone stole my cell phone and sent erotic texts to my dentist.”
What I liked about the pilot for this show is that instead of merely being just another stereotypical medical drama, it achieved a nice blend of drama and humor, and the series also boasts an outstanding ensemble cast that succeeds beautifully in creating some most interesting characters.
The show centers around TC Callahan (Eoin Macken), a brilliant maverick doctor who has recently returned from a tour of duty in Afghanistan after being booted out of the Army for his unwillingness to follow orders and play by the rules. TC is insufferably arrogant, but he’s a medical genius when it comes to making split-second decisions and executing difficult and innovative surgical procedures. TC puts saving patients’ lives above all else, and he doesn’t worry about violating hospital protocol to achieve the results he wants.
Because of TC’s overt lack of regard for authority, he is constantly butting heads with Michael Ragosa (Freddy Rodriquez), the parsimonious hospital administrator who is more interested in pinching pennies than he is in providing first-class medical care for patients. Despite the ongoing pleas of doctors and nurses, Ragosa’s obsession with saving money at all costs constantly causes tension in the building, and Rodriquez plays the role of the uncompassionate boss to the hilt.
Another key player in the series is Jordan Alexander (Jill Flint), a doctor whose beauty is surpassed only by her medical skill and knowledge and who recently has been promoted to Chief of the Night Shift. In the pilot we get an indication that Jordan and TC have a history, and it’s just enough to tantalize us, but whatever their past relationship has been, Jordan recognizes how invaluable TC is to her staff, she is constantly defending him much to Ragosa’s chagrin.
Additional cast members include Ken Leung as Topher, who works in the emergency room, Jeananne Goossen as a gorgeous resident named Krista, and Drew (Brendan Fehr), a young physician harboring a secret that TC has figured out. We also have Robert Bailey Jr. as Paul, an intern whose future as a doctor may be in jeopardy because he doesn’t do well around blood, and Daniella Alonso as Dr. Landry Miller, the night shift’s only psychiatrist and TC’s newest bed partner.
All of these talented cast members complement each other nicely, and I’m looking forward to seeing how all of the different relationships among the characters develop as the show progresses. The medical scenes were consistently intriguing, and the pilot began with TC’s performing a miracle outside the hospital, a feat that instantly incurs Ragosa’s wrath.
The character of TC is unquestionably the heart of the show, and Macken is superb in the role because he brings just the right blend of compassion, arrogance, and flippancy to it. In a recent interview published online, Macken revealed what he likes about the character.
“What I liked about TC, and what I think you search for when you’re doing a character, is to have something going on below the surface, all the time. When you’re in college, you meet somebody that you think is a little bit arrogant and cocky, and you don’t like them because they have this attitude about them that seems grating, and then you realize that they have their issues and this whole other side going on. And what I liked about TC was that he seemed like a really cool character that would be fun to play, but he was also quite broken. I liked the fact that he was trying to hide that, all the way through, and that he was struggling with something. He’s got this great, fun, maverick quality to him, where he gets to play around with stuff, but he’s also really broken inside and all these situations happen that he struggles to contain. I just thought that was great. And I thought the whole burgeoning relationship with him and Jordan, which has been stifled, was fascinating. I just thought he was a great character.”
Macken also explained what he did to prepare for the role of TC.
“I read a lot of books. The minute I got the script, I ended up reading six or seven books, all to specifically do with PTSD, and also to do with training. There are a lot of war medic books, which I never realized before. There are an awful lot of accounts of that. And I sat in a hospital in Dublin with my aunt, for a night shift. I studied the psychology, as well, and I talked to a few people to get a compass of, when you put this altogether, how it would affect somebody. I was just hoping that, when I do it, it comes across and makes sense. You try to bring your own experiences from any trauma that’s happened to you in your own life, and you cross-pollinate that. You can only try to remember what certain things felt like, in your own life, and try to heighten that.”
Although “The Night Shift” won’t earn a place as one of the best medical dramas in the history of television, I found it quite entertaining because it managed to combine an amusing quirkiness with plenty of drama and pathos. Thus, it earns the final score of a quite respectable eight, and I really look forward visiting San Antonio Memorial in the coming weeks, as long as I don’t need to be admitted.