"Monday Mornings" might have made a good TV movie or miniseries, but the prognosis for its success as a long-running series seems doubtful.
The new series (9 p.m. CT Feb. 4, TNT; 2 stars out of 4) squanders an interesting hook for a medical drama that's referenced in title: the weekly morbidity and mortality conference, or M&M, conducted by Chief of Surgery Dr. Harding Hooten (Alfred Molina) at fictional Chelsea General Hospital in Portland, Ore.
An M&M at a real hospital gives doctors a chance to review botched procedures and other complications and confidentially confess and examine medical mistakes. At Chelsea General, it's mostly an opportunity for Hooten to humiliate his doctors.
He does just that to one unlucky doctor in Monday's premiere, asking him why his peers call him "007."
"I believe it has something to do with 'Licensed to Kill,'" the doctor says.
"Not a very nice nickname for a surgeon, is it, doctor?" Hooten asks. "I shall be recommending to the board of this hospital that your medical privileges be pulled immediately. You're excused, '007.' Any more conversations in this room you shall not be privy to."
The M&Ms are brutal and might have set "Monday Mornings" apart as a psychological examination of regret and human error. But in the three episodes sent for review, producers David E. Kelley ("Boston Legal," "Ally McBeal") and CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta (adapting this from his 2012 novel) instead overdose on the same sappy storylines we've seen before.
In two of the three episodes, children are predictably in medical peril. The sassiest patient is--wait for it--a large African-American woman. As if that's not offensive enough, brilliant Korean neurosurgeon Dr. Park's fragmented English becomes a major storyline.
Keong Sim, like his doctor-playing co-stars Jamie Bamber, Jennifer Finnigan, Bill Irwin, Ving Rhames, Sarayu Rao, Jonathan Silverman and Emily Swallow, is capable of elevating average material. But the stars get no help at all with these scripts, or the heavy-handed direction that includes lingering zoom-ins on a doctor's hand gripping the podium as Dr. Hooten verbally flays him, and on Hooten's glass as he pours water into it.
I guess that image is a good metaphor for "Monday Mornings;" it injects a steady drip of ho-hum into the genre.
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