Film­maker stands back to let dra­matic sto­ries tell them­selves

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - ARTS & LIFE -

THERE’S a lot to be said for just stay­ing the hell out of the way. It’s this film­mak­ing strat­egy, and the care­fully con­sid­ered de­ci­sion to let the com­pelling hu­man sto­ries tell them­selves, that makes the ABC doc­u­men­tary se­ries NY Med an ex­er­cise in bril­liant sim­plic­ity.

NY Med, which pre­mieres Tues­day at 9 p.m. on ABC, is the lat­est deep-inside look at the world of hos­pi­tals and doc­tors by doc­u­men­tary pro­ducer Ter­ence Wrong ( Hop­kins, Bos­ton Med). And in this riv­et­ing eight-part sum­mer­time se­ries, as in his pre­vi­ous work, Wrong make the right choice, which is ac­tu­ally a fairly rare oc­cur­rence in the realm of U.S. net­work “doc­u­men­tary” se­ries that tend to favour over-pro­duc­tion, con­trived con­tro­versy, un­nec­es­sary com­mer­cial­break cliffhang­ers and over­wrought, voice-of-doom nar­ra­tion.

NY Med opts to let the real, dra­matic sto­ries of real, ev­ery­day peo­ple speak for them­selves, and the result is a stark, un­flinch­ing se­ries that will res­onate deeply for any­one who has ex­pe­ri­enced a med­i­cal cri­sis first-hand or helped a loved one nav­i­gate a jour­ney through the health-care sys­tem.

The key to Wrong’s ef­fec­tive­ness is ac­cess — in pro­duc­ing NY Med, he and his team spent a full year fol­low­ing the doc­tors, nurses and sup­port staff who work in sev­eral New York City hos­pi­tals. With the un­prece­dented ac­cess they were af­forded, they would nec­es­sar­ily have recorded hun­dreds upon hun­dreds of in­di­vid­ual sto­ries and then faced the daunt­ing task of edit­ing thou­sands of hours of footage down into eight one-hour episodes.

Each of the in­stal­ments pre­viewed is an emo­tional roller-coaster, mix­ing heavy real-life drama with mo­ments of out­right silli­ness, and high­light­ing mostly pos­i­tive out­comes while rec­og­niz­ing the raw truth that many med­i­cal prob­lems sim­ply can­not be fixed.

Tues­day’s opener fea­tures a young mother of two who has learned she has a ma­lig­nant tu­mour deep inside her brain, and that sur­geons’ at­tempt to re­move it in­volves a tricky bit of neu­ro­surgery in which she will be wide awake so she can com­mu­ni­cate with doc­tors to en­sure they don’t dam­age cru­cial ar­eas of her brain.

There’s also a man await­ing open­heart surgery; his physi­cian, as it turns out, is Dr. Mehmet Oz, the world­fa­mous TV per­son­al­ity who, in this con­text, is shown as a skilled car­diac sur­geon do­ing the work he was clearly born to do.

(Later in the se­ries, Oz finds him­self on the other side of the doc­tor/pa­tient equa­tion, hav­ing de­cided to fol­low his own oft-re­peated ad­vice and submitting to the colonoscopy he has long been put­ting off. The re­sults are quite re­veal­ing.)

Among all the dire, tense drama of NY Med’s first hour, there’s also a case in­volv­ing a man whose use of a pop­u­lar erec­tile-dys­func­tion drug has cre­ated a very painful last­ing-more-than-fourhours stim­u­la­tion that re­quires med­i­cal in­ter­ven­tion, and a man treated for food poi­son­ing who be­comes smit­ten with one of the nurses and re­turns, weeks later, with a flower-en­hanced date re­quest.

Aside from a brief, in­tro­duc­tory voice-over and a few well-cho­sen mu­si­cal en­hance­ments, NY Med is their sto­ries, pre­sented by a very smart film­maker who had the good sense to stand back and let them do the telling.


Dr. Mehmet Oz ex­am­ines a pa­tient in NY Med doc­u­men­tary se­ries.

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