Doctor Doctor

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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.

6 Comments:

  1. Wow, really disappointed with this article & some comments. I thought Doctor Doctor had a great first ep. with an excellent cast & a tight script. Really couldn’t see the comparison to Doc Martin or Northern Exposure, except in rather vague ways …and so what? Also, sorry David, but he wasn’t “spitting out vague prescriptions and sick notes” before he was “hauled before the medical board” but after! Plus, I certainly didn’t find Hugh “instantly unlikeable”!?! Whether it’s the script or Corser’s excellent acting, he is one of the most likable and perceptive characters in the show in spite of his many flaws. That’s part of what makes it so enjoyable to watch!

  2. Wow, they’ve just produced the Aussie version of Doc Martin, albeit without the charm of the sleepy fishing village of Portwenn and I dare say without the wealth of quirky characters. What is it with Australian drama that manages to channel the worst dross of the last 3 decades of production. Very little imaginative new stuff on main stream free to air, no wonder more and more people go to subscription services or just download. A shame really!

    • See ‘Northern Exposure’-it’s an old idea-and one has to wonder how good an idea having a surgeon try to be a GP in a small community-very different skills and abilities needed but I suppose it will be part of his personal growth to not have a ‘god complex’.

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