Try as he may, Dr. Hugh Knight is no Dr. Gregory House.
Yes he’s a gifted heart surgeon -and frankly a bit of an arsehole- but he’s also about to derail his own career.
Boozing it up, spitting out vague prescriptions and sick notes, this dashing but arrogant poster boy is hauled before the medical board.
“You used to be George Clooney. But now you’re more like Charlie Sheen,” one colleague tells him.
Welcome to Nine’s new drama Doctor Doctor in which Rodger Corser features as a ‘rockstar’ surgeon whose bad behaviour lands him on the impaired registrants list. For his punishment he is tasked with working for a year as a general practitioner in the bush where he is most needed.
But Whyhope is also his hometown, and the last place on earth he wants to be.
His probation is a secret to all except Whyhope Hospital supervisor Penny (Hayley McElhinney), who is decidedly non-plussed about her new charge. She plans to keep him on a short leash, and neither hits it off. Initially things go better with hospital administrator Ken (Charlies Wu) but it’s an acquaintance that will quickly sour.
Arriving amid his parent’s 40th anniversary, he surprises mother Meryl (Tina Bursill), father Jim (Steve Bisley), brother Matt (Ryan Johnson) now married to his former girlfriend Charlie (Nicole da Silva), and teen foster brother Ajax (Matt Castley). While mum is happy to see her “golden boy” home, it’s an awkward bond between father and son.
His former romance with Charlie will test relationships (try to forget they were Rush colleagues) but Hugh also lies to everyone about how long he is set to stay in town….
“Who would have thought I’d end up with everything?” brother Matt quips.
Meanwhile playing GP does not come easy for this lad, having to resort to Google to diagnose the simplest of symptoms.
“I’ve been a specialist for 10 years, I’ve forgotten stuff,” he admits.
He even has sex with a patient (surely grounds for the probation to fail?), and later befriends nurse Aoife (Shalom Brune-Franklin), who is herself a tempting party-girl.
Visually the setting of this piece written by Tony McNamara is certainly inviting. Refreshingly, Whyhope isn’t full of country bumpkins but demonstrates diversity, modern social connections, imperfections and a very hip family brewery run by brother Matt, named Arcadia.
The pastoral scenes echo Flying Doctors and McLeod’s Daughters and are amongst the better scenes -and surely won’t hurt international sales.
Director Peter Salmon keeps things light as it establishes its characters and reveals its backstory. Yet again Nicole da Silva oozes charm while Shalom Brune-Franklin is a bright new discovery. Tina Bursill’s local councillor Meryl harbors her own secrets and Hayley McElhinney reminds us direct authority figures run in the family.
The cast also features John Batchelor, Dave Eastgate and a concealed Zoe Carides (who presumably resurfaces later).
Rodger Corser is more arrogant than his Beautiful Lie tennis champ in this piece and there are big demands of him appearing in almost every scene. As a fish out of his own water, Hugh hides behind black sunglasses, his Hyundai car (of course) and views his former world with disdain.
Consumed by his own success, Hugh is instantly unlikeable which is always a risk for a central character in a show that aspires to be a family drama (cocaine scenes notwithstanding). Hopefully watching his flaws being tested is where this piece is headed. Is there more to him than party boy knocked off his perch?
The concept of the medical fraternity addicted to their own substances is worth exploring (Nurse Jackie anyone?) but it probably works better as niche rather than broadly-appealing drama, which is what Essential Media is doing here.
Once the first episode is out of the way Doctor Doctor will have to find the heart of its leading man or turn him into a complete anti-hero who is endlessly fascinating. In the first episode there is a foot in each paddock, but there is added focus in the second episode that suggest it may be worth sticking around.
Doctor Doctor premieres 8:40pm Wednesday on Nine.