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Television Collision: Documentary TV Can Be Riveting

Written by: Phoebe Raven, CC2K Staff Writer

ImageIn the entire first year of the Television Collision (which celebrated its birthday on June 16th- Happy Birthday to me!) I have never once written about documentary television. Probably because I didn’t use to watch a lot of it. The misnomer “reality TV” certainly doesn’t count, and neither do “reality competition shows”, so we will dismiss my entries about So You Think You Can Dance or Project Runway and it’s officially true: I like escapist television.

But last week I discovered Boston Med. I was simply on my mission to check out all the new Summer Shows 2010 and I actually groaned in displeasure at the thought of having to watch yet another medical show, but that was before I knew Boston Med was a documentary show. It chronicles the day to day work of three hospitals located in Boston, three of the best hospitals in America: Massachusetts General Hospital, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Children’s Hospital Boston.

Now, being a Boston-aficionado, the show had me at the tracking shot across the Charles’ River towards the Boston skyline with the Prudential Tower and Hancock Place in the dusk. My heart melted right at that shot and continued to be overwhelmed with the real life medical stories the first episode told. Yes, sure, you can derive a lot of drama from the way you edit a show and how you choose which scenes to include and what music to play in the background, yadee yada. And yet the emotions portrayed on Boston Med ring more true and hit home a lot more than anything on Grey’s Anatomy ever could, because we know on Grey’s it’s only characters, whereas in Boston Med these are actual people, doctors and patients, who are suffering or just trying to make it through the day.

Yes, of course it helps that none of the doctors we got to meet so far are particularly hideous (on the contrary) and very chatty, charismatic people. But really, if you were making a documentary, would you choose the awkward, silent outsider to follow. Well, maybe you would, but not if you wanted to sell the documentary to ABC.

ImageWhat I liked about Boston Med (or the first episode at least) is that is gave you an insight into the kinds of people doctors at such high profile institutions are. How do they deal with all the emotions that are thrown at them from patients and their families? How do they deal with their own emotions during cases, which they definitely have? Why did they even become doctors? And could it be true that you can’t choose to go into medicine, it chooses you?

Far too often people think of doctors as “half-gods in white”, who are supposed to be able to fix everything or as mere service workers who don’t have to be respected, because the internet can diagnose just as well as that chimp in a lab coat. Too rarely are doctors ever seen as humans just like you and me, who make mistakes, who are tired at the end of the day and hence maybe a bit grumpy at times, but who also spent a lot of money and time on getting an education that in the best case will enable them to save lives.

It might sound overly dramatic to conjure up such words as “life” “death” or “morality” or “real-life heroes” when talking about doctors, but ultimately the medical personnel in any country are a vital part of what keeps a society running, so they deserve more respect than they are sometimes given. Not the unfiltered admiration all the fictional medical shows have tried to install in us (you know, where medicine is all fun and games and sex with your co-worker and medical breakthroughs every week), but the real, ingrained in your heart, showing when you go see your family doctor respect.

In any case, I recommend you give Boston Med a chance (Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on ABC). It may be a serialized documentary, but it’s flashy enough (in the way it cuts dramatic scenes against each other) that you’ll enjoy it enough to last you until Grey’s Anatomy returns. Incidentally on the same network, too. Shonda Rhimes, are you watching Boston Med?




Recommended Collisions with your Television

(combine at will, all times EST, only new programming listed)


Tuesday, June 29th  
 8 p.m.  Pretty Little Liars (ABCFam)
 9 p.m.  
 10 p.m.  Law & Order: Criminal Intent (USA)
Wednesday, June 30th  
 8 p.m.  So You Think You Can Dance (Fox)
 9 p.m.  
 10 p.m.  Hot In Cleveland (TVLand)
   In Plain Sight (USA)
Thursday, July 1st  
 8 p.m.
 9 p.m.  So You Think You Can Dance (Fox)
   Rookie Blue (ABC)
   Burn Notice (USA)
 10 p.m.  Royal Pains (USA)
   Boston Med (ABC)
Friday, July 2nd
 8 p.m.  Friday Night Lights (NBC)
 9 p.m.  
 10 p.m.  Party Down (Starz)
   Miami Medical (CBS)
   Merlin (SyFy)
Saturday, July 3rd
Sunday, July 4th
Monday, July 5th
 8 p.m.  Persons Unknown (NBC)
 9 p.m.  The Good Guys (Fox)
   Huge (ABCFam)
 10 p.m.