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Monday, August 11, 2014

The Knick Review: Artist in Residency

If there was one thing I truly loved about FX's Nip/Tuck it was the aggressively realistic portrayal of plastic surgery. A better depiction of the self destruction of vanity there has never been.  The only problem was, oh I don't know... the cartoonish hyper reality of everything else. It had me going for a while though, right up until the penis-less serial killer and his incestuous twin sister... you know what? I'm boring you. I'll move on.

Ever since then; I have waited for a show to seize the potential in the bloody reality of practicing medicine, and Cinemax's  "The Knick" has taken up the mantle with a coked up bewilderment that almost approaches a Gilliam joint. But yet it still remains rooted in it's 1900's reality, aggressively 80's synth soundtrack or no. The best thing I can say about the soundtrack is that it didn't annoy me and that's the highest praise I can give synth. But I'm getting sidetracked agian, what the hell is the Knick?

It's the Knickerbocker Hospital in New York and the show is centered around Clive Owen's Dr. Thackery as he tries in vain to advance medical knowledge to the point where people have a better chance in a ward than on the street. Something that has only started happening very recently. Thank god Thackery's got anesthetic, or else the opening (sorry) c-section scene would have been exponentially harder to watch. And this is hard to watch... but in the best way possible. There is real tension and horror in these sequences and they are of some of the best TV I've seen this year and I include The Leftovers in that pile. I should do a Leftovers review come to think of it...

But it wouldn't be a 2000's golden age drama without an anti-hero angle. So don't worry, Thackery isn't just a brilliant (artisanal) medical mind, he's also a coke addict who's closed almost every vein in his body. I'm thankfull we've already gotten the "fall from grace" angle out of the way already, but it would be nice to see a genius on TV or film that didn't have some crippling character flaw for the sake of it.

Either way, Owen's up to the task and towers over the rest of the cast. They're good, Andre Holland and Chris Sullivan, particularly. But no one is frankly well written enough to steal focus. At least not yet, anyway.

But I'd put up with miscasting for a look into this New York. Child labor, patient poaching, health inspector bribery, visual progress metaphors via the electrification of the hospital, it's the details that this period piece spends a majority of it's energy. It's time and resources well spent. Don't believe me? You can watch the pilot right now and then tell me off in the comments.

Move along people, no dramatic potential here...

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