Tears flow early and often in this medical reality show, which offers cutting-edge surgeries accompanied by more music than an average episode of “Nip/Tuck.” Although the cynical part of me wants to mock it, series definitely taps into the feel-good reality wave, and strictly from a practical standpoint the procedures are far more laudatory than augmented boobs or, in the case of “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” a new porch. Short on grisly surgical shots and long on “Aw” moments, “Miracle Workers” could be just the cure the doctor ordered for ABC’s case of the Monday-night blahs.
More than anything, this new series is reminiscent of “The Body Human,” a CBS franchise of a few decades ago that featured doctors helping patients with vexing conditions, usually culminating in a heart-warming celebration of their success. It’s all a grand bit of wish-fulfillment, particularly for those of us who can’t get our damn HMOs on the phone.
Granted, the producers of “Miracle Workers” have updated their “Body” with some modern-day elements. Instead of the sonorous tones of narrator Alexander Scourby, for example, our guides through the surgical process are a couple of “compassionate doctors,” per the promos, teamed with nurses, who enthuse over the gee-whiz operations while attempting to build suspense regarding the outcome.
Each hourlong episode features two patients, oscillating between their stories before the payoffs (complete with conspicuous product integration for a pharmaceutical chain in the opener) updating their status. Todd Heritage, for example, is a 34-year-old father of three who has been blind since his youth, while Vanessa Slaughter, 47, suffers from a degenerative bone disease that, despite a series of operations, has left her wheelchair bound.
Will Todd see? Will Vanessa walk? They’d better, or the show’s title is seriously off base.
Confessionals by patients and family members foster a sense of intimacy, while animation demonstrates the surgery, sparing the squeamish any more shots of blood than an episode of “Grey’s Anatomy.” The series does seem to pose major logistical challenges, given the prep work and recovery time necessary to see each case all the way through, making the show’s viability as a regular series (“The Body Human” aired as occasional specials) a bit of a high-wire act.
Of course, being uplifting by itself isn’t a sure-fire prescription for success, as NBC discovered with the equally syrupy “Three Wishes.” Still, “Miracle Workers” is a polished product that should benefit from promotion during the Oscars, one that provides the appealing prospect of better lives through medicine, and by extension, television. Even for a cynic, that’s not a bad formula.