There are no million-dollar rewards in store for the featured doctors and patients of ABC News’ new “reality” series “Hopkins 24/7.” Yet far more is at stake in this six-part docu series set in Baltimore’s prestigious Johns Hopkins Hospital than in any prefabricated survival contest on a tropical island.
Series opener focuses on the noble efforts of Dr. Edward Cornwell, chief of trauma surgery, who makes a point of offering preventive outreach to at-risk youths after spending hours at the hospital taking care of victims of street violence and urban drug wars.
The hour also witnesses the trials of a 14-year-old girl who has been diagnosed with uterine cancer and her parents’ battles with the greedy HMOs; in addition, viewers are offered a rare glimpse at a “morbidity and mortality” meeting, in which the docs face critical evaluation of their methods by their peers.
There’s also a very silly segment about Peta, a giant sea turtle who’s brought in after he swallows a superball. That sort of fluff may work on “ER” but is completely out of place in this series’ challenging first hour.
The ABC News crew spent three months, day and night, capturing the dramas of Johns Hopkins on video, and their efforts have paid off.
In the second episode, there are some heart-wrenching moments as parents must decide whether to authorize risky surgery that will remove half of the brain of their sweet 4-year-old daughter.
The show even has a sleep-deprived, first-year intern, straight out of a medical drama, who has to work over 100 hours a week to prove to himself that he really wants to become a surgeon.
Of course, the material will seem familiar to viewers who have caught even one episode of “ER” or “Chicago Hope,” but the strength of this new offering is the brutal power of life’s real dramas.
The docs of “Hopkins 24/7” may all be on their best behavior, as they know they’re being judged by a national TV audience, but at least we know this is as close to the truth as we can get without succumbing to the lure of fiction.
These are the real players who try to make sense out of the chaos of urban emergency rooms on a daily basis, not actors like Anthony Edwards or Noah Wyle who feign exhaustion or compassion for the camera.
Thanks to the sound judgment of exec producer Rudy Bendar and producers Terry Wrong and Peter Bull, the series’ six hours paint an eclectic portrait of what it’s like to work or be a patient in one of the top hospitals in the world today.
The editing is crisp, the audio work first-rate and the camerawork unintrusive. Nevertheless, the subject matter will be a tough sell to auds used to watching “Survivor” castaways bickering and “Big Brother” residents dying their hair green during this long, hot summer.