Medical dramas are a longtime TV staple, and even though the genre has evolved, almost always present hard-working pros as just the kind of doctor you'd want in a pinch. Fox departs from that idealistic prescription, a little, with "The Resident," a more cynical new series -- suffering from a serious subtlety deficiency -- that the network will launch Sunday on the back of the NFL playoffs, before joining its Monday lineup.
Whether Americans, caught up in an ongoing debate about the healthcare system, will warm to a more jaundiced view of medicine remains to be seen. Perhaps that's why the show doesn't totally abandon being aspirational, while simultaneously trying to carve out enough space to distinguish it from other white-coated network fare.
Matt Czuchry ("The Good Wife") is the resident of the title, Dr. Conrad Hawkins, an abrasive but committed doctor who happens to be having a complicated relationship with Nic Nevin ("Revenge's" Emily VanCamp), an equally stalwart, plainspoken nurse practitioner.
"Medicine isn't practiced by saints," she explains in the premiere. "It's a business."
We only meet them, however, after an opening scene that introduces the swaggering chief of surgery, Dr. Randolph Bell (Bruce Greenwood), who botches a procedure, and who Hawkins firmly believes is a menace to the hospital's patients, without having enough evidence, or juice, to dislodge him.
The show is produced by a team that includes, among others, directors Antoine Fuqua and Phillip Noyce. Co-creator Amy Holden-Jones states in the press notes that the characters are up against "a money-driven system," one that operates with "virtually no oversight."
"The Resident" thus incorporates discussion about things that other medical shows traditionally overlook -- beginning with lapses in care that can, in a worst-case scenario, cost lives. (A character notes that "medical error" is the third leading cause of death in the U.S.)
That's balanced, however, by those who are eager to do good, with Greenwood's character being such a nakedly malevolent presence as to practically snort brimstone out of his nostrils. Bell, in fact, is more of a salesman than a doctor, so much so that someone describes him with a reference to "Grey's Anatomy," saying, "McDreamy is real."
There is also, predictably, a breaking-in-the-newbie subplot. Hawkins takes a wide-eyed (and in these shows, aren't they always?), Ivy League-educated intern (Manish Dayal) under his wing, while providing career advice to a talented young doctor (Shaunette Ren-e Wilson) who suffers for her complete lack of political skills and bedside manner.
This season has already produced a pretty conventional new medical hit in ABC's "The Good Doctor," and the aforementioned "Grey's" has proven to be one of TV's most enduring hours. Fox doesn't need those kinds of numbers for "The Resident" to earn a spot in its rotation, but it's still going to require that viewers weaned on "Dr. Kildare," "Marcus Welby" and "ER" are open to a scripted dose of bad medicine along with the good.
"The Resident" premieres Jan. 21 at roughly 10 p.m. ET (after playoff football) on Fox.