The cruel reality
In 1994, the best TV series ever set in a hospital was released in the United States. This is ER (Urgencias), which was a great follow-up for those who had already enjoyed Open Heart in the previous decade. ER showed, in a very realistic way, how the emergency department of a Chicago hospital works, mixing treated cases and the personal stories of the health professionals. Then came many other series related to “doctors”, from House to Grey’s Anatomy, via Central Hospital. One of the most recent, and already receiving rave reviews, is This Is Going to Hurt (Movistar), presented as a dramatic comedy. And it is true that it has a very British humour - it is a BBC production - but having seen it all, it can be said that the drama wins by a landslide.
The main character is Adam Kay, a young doctor who works in the gynaecology and obstetrics department of an NHS (the UK’s National Health Service) hospital. Kay is arrogant, sarcastic, and very ungifted for social interaction, which doesn’t make teamwork easy. But he is also a doctor who is tired of endless days of work, who can’t stand his superiors and who, in spite of everything, tries to help his patients as much as he can. In the first episode, tiredness leads him to make a mistake that ends in unexpected consequences. This mistake will haunt him throughout the whole season, in parallel with the ups and downs of the relationship with his boyfriend, a designer who is much more fun and extrovert than him, and who constantly has to compete with a job as absorbing as helping women give birth.
The series is based on the 2017 book This Is Going to Hurt. Crazy stories of a resident doctor, which soon became a bestseller in Britain and comprises a set of autobiographical stories written by Adam Kay (yes, he is a real person) while working as a gynaecologist (from 2004 to 2010), before leaving the profession to become a writer and screenwriter. Hence the realism of the plot, even if the main character, played by Ben Wishaw, is constantly addressing the viewer, breaking the fourth wall, explaining how he feels or making politically incorrect comments.
Wishaw’s performance holds the full weight of the series - he already won a Golden Globe in 2019 for the miniseries A Very English Scandal - providing hilarious moments - like when Adam decides to earn extra money by accepting a shift in an exclusive private clinic - as well as stressful and sad ones. The doctor’s character evolves as the story progresses, especially his relationship with the intern Shruti Acharya, whom he initially treats condescendingly, but who ends up becoming his confidant. Shruti also has to deal with all the pressure of the service and prepare for her speciality exams. All this in a hospital with a lack of human and material resources, where the walls fall apart and the alarm bell rings continuously.
All in all, both a fun and shocking series, which makes no reference to the pandemic and also serves as a tribute to health workers and public health.