As if we didn’t have enough good things to watch on television, another new show made its debut last week, and it was a most successful one.
I’ve never watched either “Chicago Fire” or “Chicago P.D.,” but I may begin doing so because “Chicago Med,” a spinoff of the two aforementioned shows, is very promising new hospital drama. If the show’s pilot is any indication of what is to come, this series will be consistently entertaining and exciting.
Two simultaneous events occur at the beginning of the first episode. While the ceremony celebrating the opening of the Chicago Med Emergency Department is proceeding, a commuter train derails, resulting in myriad injuries to passengers. Suddenly the emergency department staff members find themselves operating in full crisis mode as the patients pour in.
One of the passengers on the train who escaped major injury is Dr. Connor Rhodes (Colin Donnell), the new trauma fellow at Chicago Med. He was on the way to his first day of work when the accident occurred, and so he jumps right into the fray when he arrives at the hospital.
As the emergency staff swings into action, we meet the members of the talented ensemble cast.
Sharon Goodwin (S. Epatha Merkerson) is the Chief Administrator of Clinical Operations of Chicago Med, and she takes her job quite seriously. She must attempt to keep everyone on an even keel, and her responsibility at Chicago’s largest hospital is huge. Merkerson describes her character’s purpose as follows: “Goodwin’s position in this hospital is for her doctors. She’s always fighting to really take their side, until she finds out what the issue is to feel otherwise.”
Dr. Connor Rhodes (Colin Donnell) is one of the major characters in the drama and one of two alpha males on the staff. He’s a Chicago native and from a very wealthy family. As a trauma surgery fellow he must be prepared to cope with every type of injury he encounters. He’s a very confident doctor, and Donnell says, “He’s a bit of a cowboy. He has a certain way of practicing medicine that is a little bit unorthodox.”
Dr. Will Halstead (Nick Gehlfuss) is the chief ER resident/trauma surgeon, and his shackles immediately go up as soon as he meets Rhodes, who is his superior. It will be a lot of fun to watch these two clash as the series continues. “We collide a little bit in the best of ways,” Gehlfuss said of the rivalry.
Dr. Daniel Charles (Oliver Platt) is the chief of psychiatry, and although he doesn’t like the administrative part of his job, he really cares for his patients. “Maybe he’s made a little deal with the devil there,” Platt said. “And who he’s actually interested in is the people out there who don’t have $400-an-hour to spend on mental health support. The etymology of the word ‘psychiatry’ was actually coined by a German doctor in the early 19th century, and psychiatry actually means the medical treatment of the soul. I would say that Dr. Charles is probably a guy whose own soul — I think that he probably distracts himself from his own problems with the problems of other people.”
Dr. Natalie Manning (Torrey Devitto) specializes in pediatric medicine, and she’s a workaholic. Even though she’s in her third trimester if pregnancy, she is totally devoted to her patients and works tirelessly with them every day. “She’s the best character I’ve ever played,” Devitto said. “She’s strong; she’s inspiring. She’s also compassionate. She has great bedside manner, and it comes from the pediatric side of what she does.”
Dr. Sarah Reese (Rachel DiPillo) is a med student in her fourth year. She hasn’t chosen a specialty yet, and she’s been doing hospital rounds for only a week. “Everything is overwhelming because there’s so much chaos, all of the time, and lives are always on the line,” DiPillo said.
Nurse April Sexton (Yaya DaCosta) is a highly intelligent ER nurse who loves her job and thrives on the action in the emergency room.
Dr. Ethan Choi (Brian Tee) is a former Naval combat doctor and a mainstay of the ER staff.
The first episode of “Chicago Med” lets us see the main characters in action and form our opinion of them. One of the things that’s going to be most interesting to watch is the conflict between Rhodes and Halstead. Shortly after Rhodes arrives at the hospital, he’s sitting on a gurney observing the action and talking to an EMT when Halstead walks up, and the following exchange takes place.
Halstead: Okay, who the hell is this guy?
EMT: Says he’s a doc
Halstead: All right, get off the gurney, doc. I’m senior resident in this ER.
Rhodes: Yeah? Well, I’m your new trauma fellow.
One of my favorite characters in the show is going to be Charles, the psychiatrist portrayed wonderfully by Platt. He’s very low key, but he cares deeply about his patients, and one of the main cases in this episode deals with the boy suffering from a terminal lung disorder. His relationship with Charles began when the youngster came to the hospital years ago. The result is that Charles treats him like a son, and the scenes between the two of them are heart wrenching.
Charles also brings an element of humor to the show as evidenced by an observation he makes early on. During the train accident Rhodes apparently suffered a deep cut on his arm. In a scene reminiscent of Dalton in “Roadhouse,” Rhodes removes his shirt and sews himself up as Nurse Saxton looks on. Seeing this picture, Charles says, “He’s going to light up some estrogen receptors around here.”
Now you can do only so much with a show set in an emergency room. Such series obviously deal with horrific trauma to human beings, and sometimes they are a bit too realistic for me because I have a real aversion to hospitals. But what distinguishes one show from another in the genre is the overall chemistry among the cast members, and I found that element to be outstanding in this show. Too often this kind of a series offers nothing more that a bunch of arrogant testosterone-charged doctors chasing nymphomaniacal nurses in and out of storage closets between surgeries. So far this one doesn’t have that feel to it, and I hope it stays that way. Nevertheless the series is limited to showing the same kind of cases we see in all programs of his nature.
I really enjoyed the first episode of “Chicago Med,” and I definitely will watch show again. At first I was going to give the show a respectable seven, but then I thought about “ER” and decided to award it an enthusiastic eight because George Clooney isn’t in it.