The opening scene for Monday Mornings is very abrupt and reminiscent of ER, except with plenty of Ving Rhames. The emergency atmosphere quickly extrapolates out to a larger hospital, filled with young interns and all sorts of patients, but also a large network of doctors and surgeons for whom the hospital has become a life’s work as well as a social network. As the various doctors attempt to solve medical issues, some matters of a personal nature also come up.
A hospital is a fast-paced, competitive environment, and while the dialogue in Monday Mornings isn’t often played for humor, it is swift, and there are plenty of quick quips and undercuts to keep things interesting. The title of the series likely speaks to the old football phrase “Monday morning quarterbacking,” which speaks to the nature of second-guessing in that field. There’s a lot of second-guessing going on during the first hour of this medical drama, and all successes and mistakes are laid quite bare.
At first glance, Monday Mornings may seem like a hybrid of a lot of other ensemble hospital programs. It’s as quick as the aforementioned ER and features some of the same social aspects as the more relationship-oriented Grey’s Anatomy. Regardless, Monday Mornings mostly spends time with the Chelsea General Hospital surgeons, and this introduces audiences to a world and outlook rarely explored so intricately on the small screen. A mainstay in TNT’s brand new drama are hospital briefings where surgeons who make mistakes are given a hard time and surgeons who have succeeded are given a subdued handclap. It’s a tough environment--one that is emotionally unrelenting, and one most viewers would not be able to handle as a career.
Watching over all of this is Chief of Surgery Harding Hooten (Alfred Molina), a tough and watchful man who gives out few compliments and is quick to criticize. He’s not a bad boss, exactly, and probably a necessary personality for that particular position, but he gets less to work with than some of the other characters, including Jamie Bamber’s overly invested Ty, Sarayo Rao’s perfectionist Sydney, and Keong Sim’s apathetic-but-efficient Sung.
If there’s one complaint I have, it’s that the first episode introduces us to too many cases in the span of one hour. It’s always tough to put together the first episode of an ensemble drama and especially one with procedural aspects. With The Practice, Picket Fences, and Boston Legal creator David E. Kelley executive producing and helming the pilot, the series should be in pretty capable hands moving forward, but for the first hour, it’s a rollercoaster. A ballsy rollercoaster.
We’re used to cheering at the end of pilots and seeing everything wrapped into a tidy little box to be returned to in a week’s time. Monday Mornings isn’t willing to commit to such order. It would rather be messy and make choices other hospital dramas more concerned with happy endings might not make. To the show’s credit, it realizes something a little more honest: that life isn’t always about happy endings, or even should have or would haves. At the end of the day, it’s about persisting, and encountering new opportunities and experiences along the way.