Friday, 11 March 2011


Gabriel Monroe is a genius neurosurgeon, a falsely arrogant virtuoso whose flamboyance hides a true interest for his patients but also pains from the past. He sure knows how to deal with the case of a woman with a brain tumour but has no idea that his family life is a mess. And his wife is going to give him a crash course.

Award-winning writer Peter Bowker (Wuthering Heights, Occupation) certainly didn't do a favour to Monroe, his latest creation, when he told that he hoped it would achieve a similar dramatic intensity to that found in House (1). In some circles The Wire is the wildest dream of what Brit dramas should be and maybe House is its medical equivalent in this perspective. But med dramas existed long before Gregory House's antics and there was a time when The Wire was not the fantasy island of some TV execs or critics.

James Nesbitt stars as Gabriel Monroe, a brilliant, witty and unconventional neurosurgeon who suffered a personal tragedy and in this respect he's more Dr. Jeffrey Geiger, the character played by Mandy Patinkin in Chicago Hope (1994-2000), than House. He has a Wilson too but it's a woman trainee (Michelle Asante) with a propension to fainting, and his bedside manners are better than those of the Princeton-Plainsboro maverick doc. Nesbitt, served by Bowker's sharp script, is at his best in Monroe and he needed to after the bonekickeresque The Deep.

When it comes to dramatic intensity the scenes between Gabriel and his wife Anna (Susan Lynch), right out of the pages from the Eddie Fitzgerald great book of marriage counseling, are the most interesting aspect of this premiere. On the minus side, the annoying visual effects and the clichéed use of songs. We'll give the character played by Sarah Parish, cardiac surgeon Jenny Bremner, benefit of the doubt even if she shouts "Huddy" every time she faces Monroe. And we're interested in how Springer (Luke Allen-Gale) will evolve.

We recently got dramas far (far!) less watchable than this first episode of Monroe (2), seen by 6.0 million viewers (average). The 6 x 60-minute series is produced by Mammoth Screen and co-produced by Ingenious Broadcasting and Capico Productions. It is executive produced by Peter Bowker, Michele Buck and Damien Timmer. Jennie Scanlon is the producer and Howard Ella is co-producer. The first three episodes are directed by Paul McGuigan (Sherlock) and episodes four, five and six are directed by David Moore (Merlin, The Forsyte Saga).

(2) You know what we're talking about.

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