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Monroe: Season 1 - Review

Monroe

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

JAMES Nesbitt medical drama Monroe proved to be a sharp witted, emotionally involving and hugely enjoyable addition to ITV’s early spring line-up – and one that’s well worth owning on DVD!

The drama followed the fortunes of Nesbitt’s high-flying brain surgeon, Monroe, as he sought to juggle a busy career with the break-up of his marriage and possible estrangement from his son.

It also followed the fortunes of several co-workers, most notably Sarah Parish’s fellow surgeon (who specialised in the heart rather than the brain) and Tom Riley’s anaesthesiologist (and best friend), as well as a group of interns hoping to get a boost to their fledgling careers.

Written by Peter Bowker and co-directed with visual panache by both Paul McGuigan (first three episodes) and David Moore (last three), the show existed in the same medical realm as House but displayed a greater sense of heart, especially during the second half of the season.

For while Nesbitt’s surgeon initially displayed the same cavalier attitude and brash confidence of Hugh Laurie’s similarly brilliant American counterpart, Monroe was more prone to pangs of conscience and overall kindness towards patients.

What’s more, much of his darker side was informed by the death of his daughter years earlier… to a brain tumour in the operating room. And it was this back-story that provided the backdrop to the extremely poignant final episode, in which Monroe rallied to save another teenage girl who had suffered life-threatening injuries in a head-on car crash.

Nesbitt proved an endearing presence throughout – one who was undoubtedly cocky and sometimes unlikeable (especially when meddling in the private lives of his colleagues), but one who almost always managed to redeem himself.

Riley, too, proved a solid presence (call him the UK’s Robert Sean Leonard if you will), bickering playfully with Monroe while trying to understand his ever-changing ‘secret’ relationship with Parish. He was arguably the show’s most flesh and blood character… the kind-hearted everyman within the hospital full of egotists, and his presence often brought much light relief.

Yet he could also be dramatic when required and his own turmoil was often convincingly portrayed.

Parish, meanwhile, remained an enigma throughout… an apparently cold, clinical surgeon afraid of opening herself up to emotional encounters whose detachment from colleagues and Riley’s love interest failed to ring true. She played it well, but there were times when she struggled to feel like a real character.

Of the medical cases, most resonated in some way – whether it involved the age-old science versus religion debate involving a man who thought he had a direct line to God, or the race-against-time struggle to save a colleague.

And, unlike some UK medical dramas, these came with a pronounced sense of urgency and pace, so as to make such episodes genuinely exciting.

Of the other (minor) criticisms, some of the camera work felt a little too flashy for its own good and threatened to pull viewers from the heart of the drama, while Luke Allen-Gale’s Springer was too much of a one dimensional bad guy and could have done with some fleshing out.

But in the main, Monroe did more than enough to warrant a second season, which we hope will shortly be announced!

Related: TV’s hottest doctors

Certificate: 12
Episodes: 6
UK DVD Release: April 25, 2011