TNT’s new medical drama MONDAY MORNINGS, Monday nights at 10 PM, spotlights a real but little-known fact of hospital life: the weekly Morbidity and Mortality Conference. It is here that doctors come together to discuss patient deaths and patient saves. The series stars Alfred Molina, Ving Rhames, Jamie Bamber, Jennifer Finnegan and Bill Irwin.
David E. Kelley (creator of DOOGIE HOWSER, M.D. and CHICAGO HOPE, along with PICKET FENCES, ALLY McBEAL, THE PRACTICE and BOSTON LEGAL, among others) co-created MONDAY MORNINGS with fellow executive producer Dr. Sanjay Gupta. After a morning Q&A panel at the Television Critics Association press tour, Kelley takes a moment to talk about the challenges of doing a medical show and what he hopes viewers will derive from it.
ASSIGNMENT X: How much of this show, if any of it, is meant to be informative to the viewer as far as, “These meetings are real and could affect your life if you are hospitalized”?
KELLEY: Well, I guess it should be informative. It’s first and foremost meant to be entertaining and compelling and dramatic, but we want to be authentic. I don’t think it’s necessary that the audience walk away feeling educated, but that’s a nice plus, if they learn something in the process. It definitely is a goal to be accurate. Sanjay and all our medical consultants are real sticklers.
AX: You did CHICAGO HOPE for six seasons. Was there any feeling after that of, “Oh, my God, I don’t want to do a medical show again”?
KELLEY: Yes, for about ten years. [laughs] CHICAGO HOPE was hard work, and it was mainly the research involved. This is also hard work, because I feel like I’m becoming a de facto doctor or going to medical school because of all the reading and research you’ve got to read just to prepare to get ready to write a show. Fortunately, I’ve got Sanjay and the crowd-sourcing that comes with Sanjay, because he’s got access to doctors all over the world. I also have people on set who come from medical worlds, so they get me up to speed and in fact write some of it themselves. Sanjay has written a couple scripts, so I don’t feel the same burden maybe that I did in CHICAGO HOPE, but it’s still a bear. The medical stuff is a bear
AX: How is it having a writing partner who’s also an actual doctor?
KELLEY: Fantastic, because it’s a great sense of security. If you’ve met him, he’s just a wonderful soul, a great human being, so the collaboration is terrific from the start. He’s a neurosurgeon, so I’m certainly not giving him notes on neurosurgery and I have a great trust in his storytelling instincts, having read his book, so it’s pretty easy.
AX: What would you most like people to know about MONDAY MORNINGS?
KELLEY: I guess I’d like them to know that if they sample it and watch it, they’ll be entertained and moved. I think that what will be incumbent upon us to get out there is that it’s different from other medical shows. Because a medical franchise – it’s not reinventing the wheel. They’ve been done before, they’ll be redone in perpetuity. But this wheel has very different spokes and it’s very different and the signature piece of this series is going to be that Morbidity and Mortality Conference. We go behind the veil and doctors really get quite Socratic with each other with respect to their individual practice of medicine.
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Article: Exclusive interview with MONDAY MORNINGS creator David E. Kelley