Boston Med, which began an eight-week run Thursday night, is the right antidote to goofy-bad summer TV like Wipeout, Scoundrels, Rookie Blue — basically everything else ABC and the other networks is airing during the steamy months. The series follows life and death, bravery and foolishness, in three Boston hospitals: Massachusetts General, Children’s Hospital, and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Yes, it’s a documentary; yes, it sometimes played like soap opera, but a first-class soap opera, none of this maudlin yet over-the-top Grey’s Anatomy stuff.
This night, we met people like Pina Patel, completing a fourth-year residency and struggling to overcome an essentially modest personality to assert her will and command of an emergency room. There was Daniel “Dibar” Dibardino, a wiseguy surgeon who’d be irritating if he wasn’t so good. Oh, he was irritating anyway, but when he attempted to pull off a double-lung transplant, that didn’t mean I wasn’t rooting for him.
We witnessed a remarkable feat of reconstructive surgery, conducted by Dr. Maria Troulis, on a police officer whose jaw had been shot during a robbery. And there was also emergency-room nurse Amanda Grabowski, who, if this was a fictional show, I’d be calling its break-out star. Tough, quick-witted, and pretty, Grabowski is a TV natural — but that’s only because she seems to be a natural at living her real life, dealing with hair-raising emergencies, doctors’ bloated egos, and a parade of dumb or angry or patronizing patients with remarkable skill and ease. It’s no wonder Boston Med uses a moment when a doctor asks her out on a date in its promo ads; chances are, a lot of viewers would want to do the same. She’s also a pretty good TV critic, commenting that “there is no McDreamy or McSteamy here.”
There’s no denying that Boston Med glosses over certain subjects — the issues of hospital costs and health-care coverage, for example, hasn’t come up in the four episodes I’ve watched so far, for example. And, man, am I getting sick of soundtrack music consisting of either Lilith Fair cooing playing beneath the soothing scenes, or American Idol-style squalling during some of the more dramatic moments. I know that TV producers working for broadcast networks have to juice certain things up and tone a few things down (there’s a minimum of graphic imagery shown), but Boston Med could easily have done without music that made want to take some Tylenol.
Other than that, I was as charmed as I was meant to be, and thought more than once that, if I was in a hospital for treatment, I’d want a doctor like Dibardino and a nurse like Grabowski overseeing my care. Sometimes what filmmakers want to manipulate you into feeling doesn’t need manipulation at all: You really feel — and know, with your intellect, not your heart — that these people do admirable work.
Did you watch Boston Med? What did you think?