Fall TV previews
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Fall 2021 TV Preview!
More good portrayals of nursing are coming on the BBC’s Call the Midwife and Netflix’s Virgin River. On the new Ordinary Joe (NBC), the lead character is a nurse in one of three alternative timelines. But Bob Hearts Abishola(CBS) will return with a nurse who decided last season that high achievement required her to become a physician. Ratched (Netflix) will likely have more battle-axe and other stereotypes. And otherwise, the prime-time landscape will be dominated by physician-centric shows, including the new Good Sam (CBS) and Doogie Kamealoha, M.D.(Disney+). Read the full 2021 Fall TV preview...
Fall 2020 TV Preview: Nurse Ratched returns tonight…as a menacing quipster?
Nursing will be back to prime time. The big news is Netflix’s release of Ratched, but the streaming giant will also offer more of the actually-pretty-good portrayal of nursing on romantic drama Virgin River. And it seems there will always be the BBC’s Call the Midwife, with its strong portrayals of nursing. But on the new show Transplant, about a refugee trauma physician, nurses are peripheral helpers. And otherwise, the landscape will be dominated by other physician-centric dramas, ranging from Chicago Med, which has several skilled nurses, to Grey’s Anatomy, which never has. see the full review...
Fall 2019 TV preview: All your favorites, plus the return of Ratched
Call the Midwife will still offer a strong portrayal of nursing. Chicago Med and The Resident will show some nursing skill and advocacy, although physician characters dominate them. And the all-physician narratives of shows like Grey's Anatomy and The Good Doctor will remain. The new sitcom Bob Hearts Abishola features a nurse who seems competent, although she also hopes her son will become a physician. And oh yeah—OG battle-axe Nurse Ratched returns in a high-profile Netflix series that will likely be very damaging to nursing. see the full review...
The fall 2018 TV season offers mixed portrayals of nursing
Call the Midwife can be expected to offer a consistently good portrayal of nursing. Chicago Med and will show viewers some nursing skill, advocacy, and autonomy. But the physician-focused vision of top shows like Grey's Anatomy and The Good Doctor, on which nurses are still handmaidens, will likely dominate another Hollywood season. see the full review...
The fall 2017 TV season offers a few bright spots for nursing
Call the Midwife can be expected to offer a consistently good portrayal of nursing. Chicago Med and even The Defenders may offer glimpses of nursing skill, advocacy, and autonomy. But the physician-focused vision of shows like Grey's Anatomy and The Good Doctor, on which nurses tend to be handmaidens, will likely dominate another Hollywood season. see the full review...
Fall 2016 overview of nursing on television
October 2016 -- The new U.S. prime time season includes many health-related shows, but as in recent years, most are physician-centric. It appears that the only major new hospital show in the traditional fall season is CBS's Pure Genius (premiering Oct. 27). Here, the usual hotshot physician crew is assembled by a tech billionaire who provides free cutting-edge care to those with rare diseases; naturally, his team is headed by a surgeon! Looks like about five physicians and no nurses. Among returning shows, a few do feature nurse major characters, although most of those are not mainly about health care. An exception is the BBC's powerful Call the Midwife, which will be back in early 2017 for its sixth season, with London nurse-midwives providing expert, autonomous community health care in the early 1960s. PB20S's Mercy Street (Jan. 22, 2017), about a hospital treating soldiers during the U.S. Civil War, will return for a second season with nurse central character Mary Phinney, who displays some strong patient advocacy, if not much substantive knowledge. Outlander (Starz) will return in 2017 for a third season of adventures by the intrepid and skilled time-traveling nurse Claire Randall among the rebels of 18th-century Scotland, although Claire (at least in her 20th Century incarnation) has now become a physician. See a trend? Nurse-focused shows must be set in the distant past, when strong women could be nurses instead of physicians! A few crime shows feature nurses. The expanding Netflix stable of Marvel Universe shows includes nurse-to-the-superheroes Claire Temple, now appearing in Luke Cage (Sept. 30)--not a lot of health care, but Claire is skilled, tough, and savvy. And when the BBC's Sherlock returns with a fourth season in January 2017, so will Mary Morstan--the formidable assassin / nurse married to John Watson. But among present-day health-focused programming, physician-focused shows still predominate, including four returning for second seasons. The first, CBS's Code Black (Sept. 28) is about a busy Los Angeles emergency department (ED). The show has one senior nurse character--basically a savvy aide-de-camp to the physicians--and about eight major physician characters. Chicago Med (Sept. 22) also portrays a busy urban ED and is dominated by 6-8 expert physicians, although it has two competent assistive nurse characters, plus an executive who no longer practices as a nurse but has overall responsibility for the trauma center. Fox's Rosewood (Sept. 22) follows a charismatic Miami "private pathologist" who teams with a police detective to solve crimes; no nurses. And ABC's sitcom Dr. Ken (Sept. 23), also back for a second season, features a cranky HMO physician with a faithful nurse named Clark--really more of a lap dog, Clark displays little expertise or authority. Among older shows, there will be more of ABC's Grey's Anatomy (Sept. 22) (sexy, brilliant surgeons; handmaiden nurses) and the Hulu sitcom The Mindy Project (Oct. 4) (quirky but skilled OB-GYN physicians; stooge nurses). NBC's summer show The Night Shift seems likely to return in 2017 with about seven heroic ED physicians assisted by a few competent nurses who actually talk, including the macho regular character Kenny. Please join us in encouraging better portrayals of modern nursing! ...more...
October 2015 -- The new U.S. prime time television season includes many health-related shows, but almost all follow the physician-centric model. CBS's new Code Black (premiering Sept. 30) focuses on an overwhelmed Los Angeles emergency department (ED). The show has one senior nurse character--who brags that he plays "Mama" to physician residents--along with seven major physician characters. NBC will offer a new entry in producer Dick Wolf's "Chicago" franchise, Chicago Med (Nov. 17), which also portrays a busy urban ED. The action-packed show has one seemingly competent nurse character and at least three authoritative physician characters. There are a couple new troubled-physician-genius shows. Fox's Rosewood (Sept. 23) follows a charismatic Miami "private pathologist" who teams with a local police detective to solve crimes. Like TNT's Rizzoli and Isles, this seems to be an odd-couple buddy show with no nurse characters. NBC's Heartbreaker (mid-season) is about a world-class female heart surgeon who must battle people, especially men, who are slow to recognize how awesome she is. There seem to be four major physician characters and one nurse. And ABC's new sitcom Dr. Ken (Oct. 2) is all about Ken Park, a cranky "HMO clinic" physician who is "brilliant" but has no bedside manner. Nurse character Clark reportedly serves as Park's "faithful nurse, confidante and partner-in-crime" and one of his "support staff." Among returning shows, the biggest news is the end this past spring of Showtime's Nurse Jackie, arguably the best showcase for nursing expertise in U.S. prime time history. At least the BBC's powerful Call the Midwife will return in early 2016 for its fifth season, with London nurse-midwives providing expert, autonomous community health care in the 1960s. Outlander (Starz) will return next year with the adventures of nurse Claire Randall among the rebels of 18th-century Scotland, but unfortunately, indications are that Claire will now be a physician, so medicine will likely get credit for her skilled exploits from here on. Also returning, Cinemax's The Knick (Oct. 16) revolves around a pioneering surgeon in the bad old days of early 20th-century New York City; the one nurse character has so far been notable mainly for her co-dependent crush on the drug-addicted surgeon. Back in the present day, we face the return of ABC's endless Grey's Anatomy (Sept. 24) (sexy, brilliant surgeons; handmaiden nurses) and the Hulu sitcom The Mindy Project (Sept. 15) (quirky but skilled OB-GYN physicians; stooge nurses). NBC's The Night Shift (2016) will be back with heroic ED physicians and competent but subordinate nurses, mainly a hunky African-American man who does at least display some skill. And HBO's Getting On (late 2015 / early 2016) will return for a final season of comically sad health workers, mainly nurses, flailing at a backwater geriatric care facility. But there is always hope. Please join us in encouraging better portrayals! more...
Fall 2014 fall television preview
October 2014 -- The fall U.S. prime time television schedule has several new shows with nurses among the regular characters, although there is a notable trend toward the distant past. Outlander, the Starz series which has now aired half its first season and will resume in April, is based on popular books about a British World War II combat nurse who is transported back in time to 18th-century Scotland. There, she falls in with local rebels, has romantic adventures, and occasionally displays impressive emergency health skills--which are mistaken for witchcraft! There's not much health care, but nurse Claire is smart, tough, and ready for action. Cinemax's The Knick, which ended its first season on October 17, focuses on the exploits of early 20th-century surgeons at a New York hospital. The show's tone is unusually harsh and corruption is everywhere, but it still embraces the traditional view of surgeons as the brash 'n' brilliant heroes of health care. The nurses are peripheral handmaidens; the only one who really seems to emerge from the background is also a lover of the main surgeon character. Both shows will be back for second seasons. Perhaps capturing the Fault in Our Stars Zeitgeist, Fox's new Red Band Society follows a group of seriously ill teens in the pediatric ward at an LA hospital. The show has two nurse characters and one physician, but early episodes are consistent with show ads, which label the characters using stereotypes: the physician gets "the hot doc," the junior nurse is "nurse cupcake," and the senior nurse is "nurse tough love" (which is at least better than "Scary Bitch," the label for her seen on some LA bus ads). The show's nurses have some psychosocial skill, but otherwise seem to lack health care knowledge. Another unpromising new show is ABC's sitcom Black-ish, which focuses on a successful black family struggling with its racial identity. Mom is an anesthesiologist who wants her gifted 6-year-old daughter Diane to become a physician too, so in an early episode she takes the adorable tyke to work, where Diane tells the useless emergency nurse who is babysitting her that he is a "man with a woman's job." Physician-centric returning shows include ABC's endless Grey's Anatomy (attractive, brilliant surgeons; handmaiden nurses); the Fox sitcom The Mindy Project (quirky but skilled OB-GYN physicians; stooge nurses) and the CW's Hart of Dixie (returning mid-season) (smart, attractive small town physician; no nurses). Of course, some returning shows are better for nursing. In spring 2015, Showtime's powerful Nurse Jackie will return for a seventh and final season of clinical expertise and creative patient advocacy. Returning for a fourth season on PBS in 2015 will be the BBC's Call the Midwife, which focuses on skilled, autonomous nurse midwives caring for poor women in 1950's London (admittedly, that show is part of the distant past trend). Channel 4's U.K. documentary 24 Hours in A&E will be back for a seventh season, moving from King's College to St. George's Hospital, but we hope skilled emergency nurses will remain key members of the cast. We're not sure which category HBO's patheticomic Getting On (returning Nov. 9) falls into; the engaging portrayal of modern geriatric care seems to view both nurses and physicians with sad-eyed contempt. On the whole, a few good shows for nursing are hanging on in the midst of the flood of physician-centric television, but we are hoping for more before those veterans have to be, like Jackie . . . getting on. more...
Fall 2013 preview
September 2013 -- The fall TV landscape has plenty of physician-centric health shows, but nurses are in the mix. Sure, ABC's popular Grey's Anatomy (premiering Sept. 26) will be back for its 500th season with a dozen brilliant, sexy surgeons and some almost-invisible handmaiden nurses. Mindy Kaling's Fox sitcom The Mindy Project (Sept. 17) will return for a second season with three quirky but skilled OB-GYNs and three demented and/or nasty minor nurse characters. The CW's Hart of Dixie (Oct. 7), about a young New York physician in a small Southern town, will be back. And the cable arts network Ovation will offer A Young Doctor's Notebook (Oct. 2), a "darkly humorous" new series about the travails of a young physician at a remote hospital during the Russian Revolution. But ABC's Private Practice and Body of Proof are gone, and all four of the godlike-physician hospital dramas that premiered on other networks last year failed (Do No Harm (NBC), The Mob Doctor (Fox), Emily Owens, MD (CW), and Monday Mornings (TNT)). CBS will offer the thriller-drama Hostages (Sept. 23), in which a rogue FBI agent kidnaps the family of a surgeon who has been chosen to operate on the President and demands that she kill the chief executive in surgery. An equally plausible new tween sitcom called Mighty Med, about the "superhero" wing of a local hospital, will appear on Disney XD (Oct. 7); it's not clear yet whether superheroes need physicians or nurses. Other shows will clearly have nurses. MTV has a new reality show called Nurse Nation (now called Scrubbing In) that "follows nine twenty-something travel nurses all assigned to work at a new hospital in a brand new city for 13 weeks." NBC's Parks & Recreation (Sept. 26), the local government sitcom with respected nurse and public health official Ann Perkins, returns. Ricky Gervais's new Channel 4 "comedy-drama" Derek, available in the U.S. on Netflix (Sept. 12), focuses on the "quirky" staff and residents at a nursing home, whose director Hannah is sometimes described as a nurse. Channel 4's documentary 24 Hours in A&E has just finished its third season in the U.K., with skilled nurses among its cast, but only the first season has aired in the U.S., on BBC America. Also in the U.K., ITV Studios is filming a new drama called Breathless (early 2014) "about a group of doctors and nurses working in a London hospital in the 1960s, a world in which everything and everyone has their place." In spring 2014, Showtime's powerful Nurse Jackie will return for a sixth season of clinical expertise, creative patient advocacy, and perhaps more unfortunate suggestions that nurses report to physicians. And returning for a third season on PBS will be the BBC drama Call the Midwife, which focuses on eight (!) skilled, autonomous nurse midwives caring for poor women in 1950's London. So on balance, the new season could sound worse for nursing. Join us in tracking it! See the full review of the upcoming television season!
Fall 2012 TV Preview: Nursing in the Media
September 2012 -- More new health-related shows arrive in the fall U.S. television season, and there is actually one new nurse-focused show--the six-part BBC drama Call the Midwife, which focuses on Anglican and lay nurse midwives (apparently eight of them!) who care for poor women in 1950's London. The show, a big hit in the U.K. earlier this year, will air on PBS (premiering Sept. 30). Hollywood-wise, there do seem to be a couple sidekick nurse characters, but the primetime landscape will still be dominated by physician characters--we count 47 physicians to 2 nurses. This year, the four new network shows have different spins on Hollywood's health care portrayals, but none seems likely to question the prevailing view that only physicians really matter in health care. Fox's The Mob Doctor (Sept. 17) tells the story of one of the nation's "most promising young surgeons" who is "caught between two worlds as she juggles her promising medical career with her family's debt to Chicago's Southside mob." Right. And although the surgeon's "protective best friend" is nurse Rosa Quintero, the other three hospital characters are all physicians. In Fox's sitcom The Mindy Project (Sept. 25), created by and starring The Office veteran Mindy Kaling, the lead character is a romantically challenged OB-GYN; in addition to the four physician characters, there is a "male nurse" who is a "reformed ex-con." In the new NBC drama Do No Harm (mid-season), the lead neurosurgeon character has a "dangerous alternate personality," but aside from that unusual concept, the show seems to be dominated by its five physician characters. The CW's Emily Owens, MD (Oct. 16) sounds like the most conventional new show. It's not just the name; with all six major characters apparently pretty young surgeons struggling valiantly to grow up, it's Grey's-tastic! And speaking of which, among veteran shows, ABC's Grey's Anatomy (Sept. 27) still has about 14 surgeon characters and no nurses as it starts its ninth season. A few episodes last season did feature "Nurse Eli," the boyfriend of star surgeon Miranda Bailey and a nurse who displayed some health care skill and patient advocacy, but even that plotline ultimately confirmed that nurses are physician subordinates, with Bailey dumping Eli in a way that implied it was because he was just a nurse. The Grey's spinoff, ABC's Private Practice (Sept. 25), limps back for what may be its last year with plenty of heroic physicians but no significant nurse characters. ABC's Body of Proof (mid-season), about an elite surgeon-turned-medical examiner, returns for a third season having lost all its police characters, but none of its four physicians. The CW's romantic comedy-drama Hart of Dixie (Oct. 2) returns for a second season with the concept of a cute young New York physician who finds herself in a small Southern town. Lest we forget the one bright spot on premium cable, Showtime's powerful Nurse Jackie (spring 2013) will return early next year for a fifth season of Jackie's clinical expertise and creative patient advocacy, and if last season is any guide, some unfortunate suggestions that nurses report to physicians. On the whole, Hollywood looks set to continue telling viewers that health care is all about smart, commanding physicians, and nurses are their low-skilled helpers.
Maybe we should be happy about Call the Midwife, as limited as its broadcast time and its PBS audience will be, and about the two nurse sidekicks in the new Hollywood shows. The past two prime time broadcast seasons had been essentially nurse-free, something that had not happened in more than 40 years. Up until 2010, there had always been at least one (usually only one) major nurse character on some health-related prime time broadcast show. Of course, in 2009, an amazing three nurse-focused shows were introduced, including one on a broadcast network, NBC's Mercy, and TNT's summer show HawthoRNe. Mercy lasted one regular season and Hawthorne three summer seasons, so the only one left is Nurse Jackie, with its fierce, vastly talented (and flawed) central nurse character Jackie Peyton and her skilled protégé Zoey Barkow. Still, it is a premium cable show with 12-episode seasons and even fewer viewers than HawthoRNe had.
Other shows have featured nurses or nurse characters. During this past summer, ABC broadcast the latest of producer Terence Wrong's reality series about prominent hospitals. This one, the 8-part NY Med, focused on New York Presbyterian Hospital, and like Wrong's Boston Med (2010), there were occasional appearances by nurses among the extended scenes presenting physicians, particularly surgeons, as moral and intellectual heroes. As before, the nurses did display a minor amount of knowledge and some slight skills, but no viewer will come away thinking that nursing is a great health profession like medicine is. The summer menu also included NBC's Saving Hope, which sounds like a parody of TV health melodrama, but which was actually a serious drama about a surgeon who lies in a coma while those around him try to cope with his absence. There were three minor recurring nurse characters, Victor Reis, Jackson Wade, and "Olivia," but the 10 major physician characters dominated in the standard ways. There is also a recurring nurse character A&E's The Glades, which just finished its third season. In that show, the lead detective character's girlfriend Callie Cargill remains a competent nurse with occasional chances to show clinical skill, but she also seems to remain a medical student, reinforcing the wannabe physician cliché. And during the regular season, one character on NBC's sitcom Parks & Recreation (Sept. 20), Ann Perkins, is a nurse.
These characters are generally positive, at least within the contexts of their shows, and perhaps there is some benefit to that--the implied message that nurses can be strong and decent and have normal intelligence, which mildly counters some nursing stereotypes. But none of the shows really displays much nursing, and none is likely to greatly alter anyone's views of the profession.
So what remains? A wave of serial dramas whose faces and premises may shift, but which still embody the core assumption that physicians do everything that really matters in modern health care, including many key tasks that nurses do in real life, with the occasional direct insult to nursing thrown in for good measure. See more details on the shows below!
September 2011 -- Health-related shows in the new U.S. television season are dominated by nearly 40 physician characters, and there appears to be no major nurse character on any prime time broadcast show. Two new shows have different spins on Hollywood's health care portrayals, but neither seems likely to question the industry's view that physicians are everything. A Gifted Man (CBS, premieres Sept. 23) centers on a brash 'n' brilliant neurosurgeon, nothing new there, but the twist is that his ex-wife recently died and her ghost is back to make him a better human being! There's no sign, though, that she'll be imparting any divine wisdom about the value of nursing. Hart of Dixie (CW, Sept. 26) offers not just an awesome pun on the lead character's name, but a romantic comedy-drama about a cute young New York physician who finds herself in a small Southern town--how will she cope? It'll be without recurring nurse characters, anyway. The returning shows also remain virtually nurse-free. ABC's surgeon-worshipping Grey's Anatomy (Sept. 22) still has no significant nurse characters as it starts its eighth season. A few episodes last year did feature hunky nurse Eli, who actually displayed a little skill and briefly stood up to the physicians, but by season's end he was mainly a love interest for attending surgeon Miranda Bailey and no longer did any nursing work on screen. ABC's Private Practice (Sept. 29), a Grey's spinoff, used to have minor nurse character Dell Parker, but it killed him off two seasons ago. Fox's diagnosis-is-everything House (Oct. 3), which is starting its eighth and possibly final season, has still had no significant nurse character, unless you count all the ciphers who say "yes, doctor!" as being essentially one character. ABC's Body of Proof (Sept. 20), about an elite surgeon-turned-medical examiner, returns for a second season with no significant nurse character. Like last year, nurses will not be completely absent from the small screen. The powerful, nurse-focused off-season show Nurse Jackie (Showtime) will return for a fourth season in 2012. And a new 14-part documentary airing on BBC America, 24 Hours in the ER (Sept. 27), profiles nurses and other staff, not just physicians, at London's King's College Hospital. Sadly, the summer show HawthoRNe (TNT) was recently canceled after three seasons; the show had flaws, but it did present a strong, expert nurse executive and regularly showed bright nurses improving patient outcomes. Some non-health-related shows also have minor recurring nurse characters, but we rarely see any strong, expert nurses in clinical settings. So this year the television landscape looks set to remain dominated by the notion that health care is all about smart, commanding physicians, and nurses are little more than low-skilled helpers. more...
Fall 2010 TV Preview
September 2010 -- As the 2010-2011 U.S. television season starts, there appears to be no major nurse character on any regular prime time broadcast show for the first time in more than 40 years. In part that is because so many of the health-related shows from last year have left the air, including all of the shows that premiered in 2009, notably NBC's generally helpful nurse drama Mercy, but also CBS's physician-centric Three Rivers and Miami Medical, which did each have one recurring nurse character. Other departures had little effect on the portrayal of nursing, including the ends of the long-running Scrubs (ABC), which had shed its lone nurse character the prior season, and FX's nip-tuck, which never had a significant nurse character. The one returning show that did have a nurse character, ABC's Private Practice (premieres Sept. 23), killed him off at the end of last season, when nurse midwife Dell Parker died from a car crash, just after giddily announcing that he had been admitted to medical school. The dominant hospital shows, Fox's House (Sept. 20) and ABC's Grey Anatomy (Sept. 23), still have no nurse characters as they start their seventh seasons. There appear to be just two new shows with any real health care focus: ABC's Body of Proof (October), which stars Dana Delany as an elite surgeon-turned-medical examiner, and ABC's Off the Map (mid-season), a new product from Grey's creator Shonda Rhimes about five young physicians who work to save the poor at a remote clinic in South America. We see no nurse characters anywhere, though there are conflicting signals about whether one minor character on Off the Map is a nurse or physician. Leaving aside that mid-season character, of the five health-related prime time broadcast shows that are slated to start seasons this year, regular physician characters appear to outnumber nurse characters by roughly 37 to 0. Of course, nurses will not be completely absent from the small screen, since non-regular season cable shows Nurse Jackie (Showtime) and HawthoRNe (TNT) will return for third seasons in 2011. And there is even a nurse character on A&E's new summer police drama The Glades, which will return next year (though she is carrying on Dell's Hollywood dream by attending medical school). But given the dominance of the broadcast shows, which attract millions more viewers to many more episodes, the television landscape will remain dominated by programs that reinforce the false notion that physicians provide all important health care. more...