They’ve done it with cops, they’ve done it with lawyers, and there are even TV teachers who aren’t as honourable as you would expect of their profession. Now, it’s time to shine the spotlight on corrupt doctors.
The for-profit healthcare trope is not uncommon in television shows, but it usually appears in small doses amid the larger practice of curing people. In the new American medical drama series The Resident, it’s the running theme.
When one of the characters says that cancer is “our No. 1 revenue stream”, you can expect misdeeds from the shady doctors of Chastain Park Memorial hospital to squeeze money from the sick.
You won’t be surprised then to learn that the chief of oncology is one of these sleazy doctors. Now, women villains are usually interesting – they’re nasty but fascinating. Dr Lane Hunter (Melina Kanakaredes) is just – how do we put this nicely for a family newspaper – the female dog in sheep’s clothings.
The other person you want to stay away from, especially if he has a scalpel in his hand, is the chief of surgery. It’s an open secret that Dr Randolph Bell (Bruce Greenwood) no longer cuts it as a surgeon … and he knows it too.
In the first episode, he kills a patient during a routine procedure and gets his team to cover it up.
So, who are the heroes who take on the bad guys? That’s where the titular resident and his not-so-merry band of young cohorts come in. They’re painfully serious about everything, at least in the first few episodes. Come on guys, you get to treat some kooky patients with bizarre ailments, crack a smile!
Senior resident Conrad Hawkins is the (let’s count the clichés together) renegade doctor with a god complex and contempt for the greedy, bureaucratic hospital where he works.
Played by Matt Czuchry, Conrad – all blond, broody and bada** – doesn’t have to say it but you hear him: “I’m a doctor and I work in this big shiny hospital but I’m just like you. I wear a hoodie, I have tattoos, I ride a bicycle to work, I feel your pain.”
He’s nice to patients and surly to all but former girlfriend Nic (Emily VanCamp), who is everyone’s favourite nurse practitioner – more highly qualified than a regular nurse, less than a regular doctor but often better at their job.
Conrad is assigned to supervise first-year resident Devon Pravesh (Manish Dayal). Here’s yet another stock character: The wide-eyed newbie with an Ivy League degree, hard-working immigrant parents and something to prove.
Rounding out the justice league is Nigerian doctor Mina Okafor (Shaunette Renée Wilson, most recently seen in Black Panther).
She has no social skills but is a brilliant surgeon and the only one who knows how to operate the hospital’s fancy robotic device that allows her to do surgery remotely.
No prizes for guessing who Dr Bell gets to do his job by threatening deportation, and takes all the credit for it.
Hospitals need to make money and The Resident shows us the dark side of American healthcare.
As with those dirty cops and lawyers we’ve watched before, the series makes us wonder if the people who have pledged to have our best interests at heart can be trusted.
Making veteran doctors unscrupulous and having the younger ones the moral crusaders is also a twist in the medical drama genre.
That said, they could have made the characters more charismatic.