After watching ABC’s critically acclaimed medical drama “Wonderland” waste away in the ratings after a few weeks, one would question the logic behind yet another primetime hospital show. But Lifetime, which has developed a knack for creating original series, delivers a pleasant surprise with this estrogen-laden drama.
“Strong Medicine,” made with the intent to educate its viewers through drama, doesn’t waste any time getting directly to the point. The first 10 minutes of the pilot meets child abuse and ovarian cancer head on. In less capable hands, issues-oriented stories like these could come off as heavy-handed lecturing.
But writer Tammy Ader and executive producer Whoopi Goldberg have clearly thought the concept through. All of the medical stories discussed in magazines, on talkshows and around water coolers are deftly played out here through the cases that come before two very different but equally determined women.
Dr. Luisa “Lu” Delgado (Rosa Blasi), who runs a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants south Philly women’s clinic, is very committed, although her treatments aren’t always by the book. She does what needs to be done to keep people healthy and safe even if it means bending the rules. Helping her out is Peter Riggs (Josh Coxx), a male midwife and RN and the feisty Lana Hawkins (Jenifer Lewis) who knows how to navigate her way through red tape.
Dr. Dana Stowe (Janine Turner) is a Harvard grad who enjoys her high-profile spot as head of research at prestigious Rittenhouse Hospital. Although she lacks a warm bedside manner, she strives to find more answers and money for research in the field of women’s medicine.
Both doctors have family issues that fuel their passion for work. For Lu, it’s to make sure that women without means don’t die from lack of proper medical treatment, as her mother did. For Dana, it’s to get out of the shadow of her Noble-prize nominated father and prove herself.
When Lu’s clinic loses its funding, renowned physician Dr. Emerson (Goldberg in a guest role), decides to merge the clinic and Dr. Stowe’s practice together, believing that, ultimately, the two doctors have the same goal.
An odd couple forced together under tight conditions isn’t exactly a new concept, but it works well here thanks to earnest performances by the two main stars. Turner is a savvy choice as the power career woman who cries behind closed doors, and Blasi plays Lu with the appropriate amount of competence and shear pluck.
Director Robert Lieberman’s camera is all over the place in the pilot, vacillating wildly in style between the two main locales. Scenes at the inner-city clinic are herky-jerky while those at Rittenhouse General are more sedate. One hopes the handling of these two worlds will be better merged in future episodes. Otherwise, tech credits are very solid.