Emergency is the kind of show I can only watch through my fingers.
Observationals and docos that are candid about injuries, surgical procedures and people in pain, always leave me in the foetal position. With that in mind, I saw some of Nine’s new Emergency series on my TV, and heard a fair bit of it as I gazed upon the cracks in my ceiling.
The series from WTFN (Paramedics, Bondi Vet, The Living Room, Ask the Doctor) is filmed at the Royal Melbourne Hospital which, we are reminded, has over 80,000 patients a year and some 400 doctors and nurses.
Expert from their work on Paramedics, WTFN know this terrain well, honing in on the drama, elevating the staff and maximising the jeopardy. But they are also brilliant at giving viewers fly-on-the-wall access without cameras interfering with their life and death work.
The series is centred on the Emergency Department which, by its very nature has already cast for the most extreme of cases. In the door they come: victims of vicious assaults, horror car crash victims… every one of them a perilous situation for our doctors and nurses to turn around.
Episode one profiles three cases, a stabbing victim, a factory worker whose hand was mangled in machinery, a pregnant woman with a dislocated shoulder and a car accident victim. Breathe, breathe, breathe….
Senior Emergency Physician Dr. Emma West is tasked with assessing an aggressive man who has been stabbed. In police custody (and with a blurred face), he is also under the influence, yelling in agony and not co-operative with staff who are trying to assess his injuries. This is difficult to watch from the safety on my couch, but the staff are rock solid on his care, even as he lashes out.
Director of Emergency Dr. Mark Putland, who tells us “every day there’s something big,” meets 23 year old factory worker Zac, whose right hand became trapped in machinery. There’s more squeamish descriptions about digits, skin and blood, all contrasted by a resilient young man who finds the optimism. “I got lucky. As lucky as can be.”
Emergency Physician Dr Michelle Thornhill is confronted with 30 year old expectant mother Fraya, who has a dislocated shoulder. But she is carrying pregnant twins and any medication could harm her unborn babies. Are you serious? There’s enough bloody jeopardy without making things worse.
Finally Senior Emergency Dr. Jonathan Papson and Emergency Physician Dr. Mya Cubitt have to attend to 23 year old Jack, whose car slammed into a pole. He has been airlifted to the hospital for life-saving treatment.
With no shortage of jeopardy, producers strategically build things to cliffhanger commercial breaks, underscored by dramatic music and pitch perfect narration from actor Susie Godfrey. Watching how staff remain calm and selfless is to be expected in a show entering a fairly crowded genre. It’s also worth remembering this was all filmed before the added stress of COVID-19. Give them all an OAM and a Logie.
Nine probably hasn’t had a long-running medical hit since RPA and while this has a long road ahead to come close, it’s off to a very sound start.
Did I mention I won’t be watching?
Emergency begins 8:30pm Wednesday on Nine.