Despite the plethora of medical-themed programming on TV, I always attempt to give at least the early episodes of each new series I watch a cursory glance. This was how I found myself examining Good Sam, the latest entry into the saturated US medical drama market, only a week after I first became aware of its existence. As may be predicted from the title of this post, my first impression was not the most positive.
Good Sam—at least in its early episodes—is an amalgamation of all the worst aspects of American medically-centered television. The first glaring issue is the casual nepotism which pervades the entire enterprise. I am well aware that the children of doctors are more likely to go into the field themselves (as I am one such person), but there is ideally a point where conflict of interest policies and meritocracy come into play.
In the modern era, even the concept of a department chair being treated as almost hereditary feels strange all the more so when the inheritor’s other parent is the institution’s Chief Medical Officer. While it is briefly mentioned that the character in question was the best choice out of the applicants for the vacant post, that simply defies logic due to a huge discrepancy between experience and responsibility. There are continual assertions made stating that the main lead is unready to head a department, which is portrayed through the resentment of her predecessor in the role who seeks to return and he is extremely right. I cannot imagine an institution or a physician willing to accept a person in their first attending job as a department chair. From the standpoint of recruiting fellows, representing the department and, yes, having the requisite experience of a strong professional record prior to taking the head is a must.
The final but most striking negative point of the show is the inclusion of drama, which would appear desperate on a multi-season show running out of ideas in the first episode. Looking closely at the power dynamics in sexual relationships, the acceptability of a relationship between a fellow and a department chair, who is also her close friend’s father, is shaky at best and a surprising inclusion in a show that is attempting to build itself an audience and define itself in 2022.
Perhaps the only good point about the show is Jason Isaacs in his portrayal of the nominal villain. As with most of his roles, Isaacs projects an air of authority and, perhaps most notably, is the only one who seems to act within reason—that is, aside from his questionable relationship mentioned above (almost certainly shoe horned in to prevent his charism from making the audience take his side).
Perhaps I have been spoiled by the fantastic medical drama from abroad in recent years, such as Hospital Playlist, but I know that even a field as often portrayed on TV as medicine can tell new and unique stories. Sadly, Good Sam takes the worst, most hackneyed concepts of the past and exposes just how stale and, at times, uncomfortable they have become. In summary, Good Sam at least in its first two episodes is just bad.
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