Monday Mornings On TNT: What To Expect [Set Visit & Advance Review]

Tonight, TNT viewers will be treated to something new: “Monday Mornings“, a new medical drama series from award-winning producer David E. Kelley (Boston Legal, The Practice) and practicing neurosurgeon and CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta. The series stars Ving Rhames (Pulp Fiction), Alfred Molina (Spider-Man 2, TNT’s The Company), Jamie Bamber (Battlestar Galactica), Jennifer Finnigan (Better with You), Bill Irwin (CSI: Crime Scene Investigation), Keong Sim (Glee), Sarayu Rao (Lions for Lambs) and Emily Swallow (TNT’s Southland).

Here is the official synopsis of the series:

Set at the fictional Chelsea General Hospital in Portland, Oregon, Monday Mornings follows the lives of doctors as they push the limits of their abilities and confront their personal and professional failings. The title refers to the hospital’s weekly morbidity and mortality conference, when doctors gather with their peers for a confidential review of complications and errors in patient care.

Leading the staff at Chelsea General are Dr. Harding Hooten (Molina), the steely-eyed chief of surgery, and Dr. Jorge Villanueva (Rhames), the hospital’s trauma chief. Their cadre of medical talent includes hotshot neurosurgeons Dr. Tyler Wilson (Bamber) and Dr. Tina Ridgeway (Finnigan); the abrasive Dr. Buck Tierney (Irwin); the socially challenged Dr. Sung Park (Sim); the petite-but-formidable Dr. Sydney Napur (Rao); and inquisitive resident Dr. Michelle Robidaux (Swallow).

Yours truly had the chance to watch the pilot episode AND visit the set of the series to chat with the cast and executive producers about what viewers can expect in this new drama. Before I delve into what I thought of the show, let’s first look at what the cast and crew had to say about the show:

Bill D’Elia – Executive Producer
 

D’Elia has worked with David E Kelley for a number of years and has developed a great working relationship. His job is to bring David E Kelley scripts to life by running the day to day on set while Kelley comes up with the stories each week

What makes Monday Mornings different according to him, aside from the interesting characters, are the Monday morning conferences about Morbidity and Mortality (M&M) because they show a different side of what it takes to be a surgeon. The drama of a regular medical show hinges on cases and doctors but M&M adds a new element where we find out the truth behind the good or bad outcomes. So there is a bit of mystery in each episode.

Sanjay Gupta (Executive Producer)
 

Gupta shared that the most surprising thing with having the series come to life is the attention to detail that goes into each episode. The surgery set is so accurate that it is almost ready to use in real life.

When coming up with stories, Gupta suggests ideas and Kelley puts them together in the scripts.

Adding to D’Elia’s point about what makes the series different, Gupta explained that it has an educational component where people see the truth behind the surgeons.

Ving Rahmes (Dr. Jorge Villanueva)
 

Rahmes shared that he loves the role because of the truth and honesty of the series and he feels that his grandkids will be able to see what he stood for as an actor.

He also feels his character, Dr. Jorge Villanueva, is close to him because David E. Kelley wrote the characters in a way that sounds like him.

Keong Sim (Dr. Sung Park), Sarayu Rao (Dr. Sydney Napur) and Emily Swallow (Dr. Michelle Robidaux)
 

When asked what attracted them to their characters, Rao explained that she finds that her character, Dr. Sydney Napur, has a lot of passion. Swallow finds her character, Dr. Michelle Robidaux, very eager, but she is still a resident, smart, capable but surrounded by giants so she is still learning. As for Sim, he thinks it’s fun to play an unpolished character like Dr. Sung Park with an Archie Bunkeresque quality with language problems and bad bedside manners.

When asked what makes this show different, they explained that it’s a medical drama with very interesting characters presented in a very unique way. In addition, the audience will get an insight into the M&M meetings where you see the doctors in a very honest manner.

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Now that we have heard from the cast and crew, what do I think of the series based on the pilot episode?

I have to admit that I was not really eager to watch the show as I am not a big fan of medical dramas in general. Seriously, you have seen one and you feel like you have seen them all.

Thankfully, I am happy to say that Monday Mornings was a surprisingly refreshing take on the medical drama genre. The hook of the series is indeed those Mortality and Morbidity conferences and boy, there is a lot of drama in there. However, one gets the sense that the drama is not just there to spice things up but to move things along as it unveils an aspect of the medical profession that we rarely get to consider, i.e. Doctors facing their mistakes in a brutally honest fashion. It’s gripping, I tell ya!

These engaging dramatic moments are only further enhanced by the wonderful performances of the cast such as Alfred Molina’s Dr. Harding Hooten, the hard-nosed chief of staff or the talented but slightly arrogant Dr. Tyler Wilson played by the wonderful Jamie Bamber. However, my favorite character of them all has to be Dr. Sung Park played by the wickedly talented Keong Sim. What could have been a cringe-worthy stereotypical character turns out to be one of the most interesting ones to watch. Sung is cool, brash, unwittingly funny and just great to watch. Heck, I hope they give us a Park-centric episode this season.

Overall, Monday Mornings is a show you should watch even if you don’t like medical dramas. It won’t revolutionize TV or your life as you know it but it will certainly entertain you for a solid hour with great drama and great performances. With only a 10 episode order for its first season, this should be an easy show to squeeze into your weekly TV watching this season.

Monday Mornings premieres tonight, February 4th, at 10 p.m. (ET/PT).