I went into 'Monroe' knowing only two (2) things: the first was that it was a British TV show of six (6) episodes set in a hospital, and secondly that it starred the brilliant James Nesbitt ('Murphy's Law'). But, after just ONE episode, what I quickly learnt was that 'Monroe' is easily the best TV show I have watched - either side of the Pond - in the past DECADE!
Honestly, it has everything a compelling TV show should and still manages to maintain a healthy balance between medical proceedures, sarcasam, tense moments, supposed lost causes, jokes, and even romance! It drives at the heart of brain surgery and heart proceedures full on, graphically most times (so beware if you intend on eating whilst this show is on!), and yet mixes personal lives, reality-based-problems, and sexual tension with equal bouts of intrigue.
Coming across as a lighter-hearted version of an overly-dark, depressing 'House,' this UK show chock full of high-risk medical emergencies - usually two an episode, one for Monroe re: brain and one for the heart surgeon Dr. Jenny Bremner (Sarah Parish - 'The Pillars of the Earth') - is fast-paced, slick, spot on with regard the feelings shown by all patients concerned, and never once tries to be something it's not ie: 'House'!
In the opening episode, we learn that Monroe (Nesbitt) lost his own teenage daughter to a brain surgery a few years back, and that once his teenage son finally leaves the house for University, that his wife follows suit - given that Monroe had had an affair around the time of their daughters death. All this and Monroe still manages to perform his medical duties to 100% perfection.
In 'Monroe,' as the cases are brought to the surgeon's attention we the audience get a quick flashback sequence of how it all came to be the for patient. Also, whereever the people are in the hospital, a quick flash of some hospital informational mile marker is shown to us to bring us up to speed. Also, unlike 'House,' this show was actually filmed in a real, old building, which makes it all seem and feel so much more real, so much more believeable. Indeed, the production was based in the old Leeds Girls' High School in Headingley!
And so through the episodes, as noted above, we get a brain surgery case each time along with a heart proceedure. Or, in the case of the fifth episode, one of each on the same woman - hours apart - and actually one of Monroe's more aspiring interns! We also have a heart-wrenching heart proceedure on an old lady that doesn't end as well for all concerned, and in-house affairs that you can say the very same thing about!
Monroe is a gambler - poker and the horses - has a fling with a foreign coffee server at the hospital, has to rebuild his relationship with his son after the break-up of his marriage; and try and become civil with his wife for the son's sake! Oh, and doesn't seem to get any sleep at all! Throughout the entire first season, anything that can go personally wrong does, but at the same time the balance is perfect that anything that can go right (on the operating tables), for the most part, does.
In the final episode, the sixth, Monroe's house is empty, he is spending more time in his daughter's left-as-it-was bedroom, and his best (only) mate Shepherd (Tom Riley) is talking of leaving the hospital. Add to that a case that comes in on a 13 year-old girl caught up in a car accident that leaves her, basically, dead, it all comes full circle for Monroe. This episode WILL bring tears to your eyes, be forewarned!
And luckily for me, and all those others that WILL fall in love with the show, as the show broadcast on ITV (UK) to strong ratings a second series was commissioned in July 2011 and will begin production this year! Yay!!
Russell A. Trunk