You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

TV Review: ‘The Knick’

Clive Owen, Andre Holland, Jeremy Bobb, Juliet Rylance, Eve Hewson, Michael Angarano, Chris Sullivan, Cara Seymour, Eric Johnson, David Fierro, Maya Kazan, Leon Addison Brown, Matt Frewer  

The Knick” represents a creative stretch for Cinemax, which has thus far confined its original-series efforts largely to a boobs-and-bullets niche intended to resemble the kind of movies this HBO satellite regularly features. Yet while it’s easy to understand the channel’s attraction to the marquee pairing of Clive Owen and director Steven Soderbergh, it’s harder to fathom what drew them to a brooding, blood-stained drama set in a New York hospital, circa 1900. Yes, the barbaric nature of medicine — evolving though it was — remains grisly stuff, but once that point’s made (and made again), it’s tough to see what breakthroughs “The Knick” has left to offer.

Owen plays John Thackery, a brilliant and innovative surgeon who, along with his mentor Dr. Christiansen (Matt Frewer), chafes at the high mortality rates at the hospital (from whence the series derives its name). Yet if Christiansen finds his own escape, Thackery takes refuge in narcotics, hiding his habit by shooting the stuff into his toes.

An opening on the hospital staff, meanwhile, leads the progressive administrators to push Thackery to hire Algernon Edwards (Andre Holland), an African-American doctor who has been plying his trade in Europe. At first, Thackery steadfastly resists, harboring no interest in either breaking the color barrier or in employing a physician he’s convinced most of his patients will be reluctant to see.

Edwards chafes against the prejudice, but can’t help but be impressed by Thackery’s boundary-pushing innovations, which include attempting to devise a new method of trying to save the infant and mother in the case of a distressed birth.

Certainly, it’s interesting to see this period portrayed without a Victorian love story or Jack the Ripper in it, and Owen brings considerable intensity to the role of yet another TV doctor raiding his own medicine cabinet. There’s also some striking imagery in the surgical theater in which Thackery demonstrates procedures, or in the opium den where we first meet him; and the strange spectacle of ambulances employing cutthroat tactics to land and deliver well-heeled patients to medical facilities.

Written by Jack Amiel and Michael Begler, the entire run of the series was directed by Soderbergh — a departure from those feature directors who kick off a show and then move on. The resulting episodes, however, are a bit like an impressionistic painting: intriguing to look at, perhaps, but not always clear in conveying what the actual intent is. And while the characters and their relationships do progress, for the most part those arcs develop along assiduous and fairly predictable lines.

The question for Cinemax, which has sought to differentiate itself from HBO by being the Walmart to its Bloomingdales, concerns its long-term plan for the show. The channel clearly elevates its ambitions here, but with a project seemingly more deficient in commercial appeal, barring the auspices and lead, than even the toniest premium platforms would dare.

Healthcare, obviously, remains much in the news, and the series is notable for capturing how far we’ve come in little more than a century from what looks like the Dark Ages. That said, there’s simply not much at “The Knick” to justify the visit, even if someone else is springing for the co-payment.

TV Review: 'The Knick'

(Series; Cinemax, Fri. Aug. 8, 10 p.m.)

Production: Filmed in New York by Ambeg Screen Products and Anonymous Content.

Crew: Executive producers, Gregory Jacobs, Steven Soderbergh, Jack Amiel, Michael Begler, Michael Sugar, Clive Owen; supervising producer, Steven Katz; producer, Michael Polaire; director, Soderbergh; writers, Amiel, Begler; camera, Peter Andrews; production designer, Howard Cummings; editor, Mary Ann Bernard; music, Cliff Martinez; casting, Carmen Cuba. 60 MIN.

Cast: Clive Owen, Andre Holland, Jeremy Bobb, Juliet Rylance, Eve Hewson, Michael Angarano, Chris Sullivan, Cara Seymour, Eric Johnson, David Fierro, Maya Kazan, Leon Addison Brown, Matt Frewer  

More TV

  • Gloria Vanderbilt Dead at 95

    Gloria Vanderbilt Dies at 95

    Gloria Vanderbilt, a famous model and socialite who was often a subject of fascination in the worlds of fashion and media, has died at 95, according to a report on CNN, where her son, anchor Anderson Cooper, has worked for several years. From a young age, Vanderbilt led a tumultuous life, one marked by a [...]

  • kinetic-content-ceo-Chris-Coelen-renews-deal

    Kinetic Content's Chris Coelen Re-Ups as Company Makes Scripted Move (EXCLUSIVE)

    Chris Coelen has extended his tenure as CEO of Kinetic Content as the LA-based production business moves into scripted TV. Kinetic is part of the Red Arrows Studios stable and has been built on unscripted fare, with a roster of factual entertainment, formats and lifestyle series including “Married at First Sight,” the “Little Women” franchise [...]

  • BABY

    Italian TV Producers Head to L.A. With High-End Series Pitches (EXCLUSIVE)

    Looking to replicate the success of “Gomorrah” and “My Brilliant Friend,” a clutch of Italian TV producers is making the trek to L.A. to pitch high-end TV series based on local properties steeped in crime and history. Top outfits such as Fabula Pictures, the makers of Italian Netflix original “Baby,” and Lux Vide, which is [...]

  • ChileVision-y-Mediapro-Studio

    The Mediapro Studio, ChileVision Sign Co-production Pact, Set ‘El Discipulo del Chef’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    MADRID  —  Spanish production powerhouse The Mediapro Studio and Chilean broadcast network ChileVisión, part of  Turner Latin America, have signed a co-production pact, kicked off by “El discípulo del Chef,” an ambitious entertainment format. One of Mediapro’s big new unscripted plays, the show will be introduced to buyers at October’s Mipcom trade fair. The title [...]

  • david-tennant-in-netflix-procedural-criminal

    David Tennant, Hayley Atwell Among Guest Stars in Netflix Procedural ‘Criminal’

    A host of guest stars have signed on for “Criminal,” the stripped-down Netflix procedural set in France, Spain, Germany and the U.K. The action takes place within the confines of a police interview suite. There are three 45-minute episodes set in each country. Guest stars in the British installments include David Tennant (“Good Omens”), Hayley [...]

  • Baztan Elizondo Guardián Invisible

    Conecta Fiction: Spain’s Navarre Primes Film-TV Gameplan

    MADRID  — Navarre has been a long-term film and TV shooting locale thanks to diverse and sometimes stunning landscapes that take in the Bardenas Reales badlands, immortalized in titles such as “The World Is Not Enough” and “Game of Thrones.” One of Spain’s richest regions, Navarre has historically levied its own tax regime, which led [...]

  • Jeremy Sisto, Ebonee Noel, Dick Wolf,

    Dick Wolf Plots Cross-Network Crossover Between CBS, NBC

    Veteran television producer Dick Wolf, best known for creating the “Law & Order” franchise, is eyeing a cross-network crossover between his CBS freshman procedural “FBI” or its in-the-works spinoff “FBI: Most Wanted” and one of his NBC shows, such as “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” or “Chicago P.D.” The decision whether to go with [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content