"'No Angels' Set to Nurse U.S. Viewers"
September 21, 2004 -- A Hollywood Reporter/Reuters article today reported that the "edgy" U.K. nurse show "No Angels" is "up for translation into a Stateside version under Ben Silverman's Universal-based Reveille banner," with Amy Heckerling as an executive producer. If produced, it will be the first nurse-focused U.S. TV drama in over a decade. Many British nurses have found that Channel 4's "No Angels," while debunking the angel myth, has fostered other harmful misimpressions of nursing, including that nurses are underworked, gossiping party twits more interested in sexual contacts with physicians than in caring for their patients. Though we are confident that the industry that produced a classic like "Nightingales" would have no interest in that kind of degrading scenario, we will be sharing with the producers our views on how the new show might provide irreverent fun but avoid reinforcing naughty nurse and handmaiden stereotypes.
As noted in the Reuters story, "No Nurses" is now in production for its second season in the U.K. It follows "a close-knit group of female nurses who live together" as they "struggle with life and death on the wards" but also "share a healthy appetite for uncomplicated sex and full-on hedonism." The Hollywood Reporter includes several quotes from Silverman on his translation thinking. He envisions a less gritty U.S. show that would obviously not focus on the British NHS system, but would add "more sex appeal and glamour." Silverman reportedly does plan to retain the "diversity of social backgrounds" of the "young, single" female nurses (including married, older or male nurses would presumably be going a little too far). The piece deserves credit for raising the Royal College of Nursing's concerns that the original U.K. show does not portray what nursing is really about. Silverman reportedly responded to these with "surprise": "That's also amusing, I think, because the show portrays nursing as the amazingly noble profession that it is, and that aspect will definitely translate to American audiences." So, "amazingly noble," but not "angels." In any case, the piece reports that Silverman is currently in talks with several U.S. networks.
The Center does not have a problem with a responsible media portrayal of a particular nurse (or member of any other profession) as irresponsible, silly, exhibitionist, sexually obsessed, or drug abusing. Moreover, the Center does not think any specific person has an obligation to produce a show that illustrates the full range and importance of the work that highly skilled, autonomous nursing professionals do every day (though it does not seem like too much to ask that someone, someday produce such a show, as is frequently done for physicians).
We do have a problem, though, with a show that through repeated or group portrayals of nurses reinforces long-standing stereotypes that they are frivolous hotties who exist simply to perform menial tasks for physicians and/or hold patients' hands. We object to shows that focus closely on a professional health care setting yet marginalize or misrepresent the critical work of nursing. This is not inevitable in a Hollywood portrayal of health care professions, even for a sitcom. For example, while NBC's "Scrubs" mocks all its major characters relentlessly, it still manages to convey that physicians are highly skilled, even heroic professionals. When it comes to nursing, of course, it's mostly handmaiden city. We do not think it's too much to ask for equal treatment for nurses.
Stay tuned to news alerts. Depending on how our discussions with the show's producers go, we may ask Center supporters to get involved.