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Fall '04: "Medical" Malpractice

I watched Medical Investigation last night. I would never have tuned in to such a show, except it stars Neal McDonough, late of the marvelous Boomtown, naturally, and I like him so much as an actor, I figured I might as well see what the show was about.

What it is about is being as much like CSI and Crossing Jordan as possible. Granted that I have seen neither show since its first season, but from what I recall, they both feature grainy cinematography, you-are-there shaky camera work, and an intricate case pieced together using tiny details by a team of experts with cotton swabs, magnifying glasses, latex gloves, and those clear plastic face masks. Not to mention a lab full of petri dishes and whatnot where someone can open the door and say, “Give me some good news.”

What those shows also seem to have in common is that I don’t give one tiny palsied crap about them. And Medical Investigation is no different, despite McDonough’s efforts.

I say “efforts” but what I mean is he memorizes his lines. In the episode I saw he wasn’t given anything else to do but furrow his brow and rush in and out of rooms saying, “Give me some good news.” In short, Neal McDonough is badly wasted in this show.

This episode centered around some cases of some awful, super-deadly, mysterious disease. At first only porn stars were getting it, so the small army of nameless cast members descended upon various porno sets with their swabs and magnifying glasses and latex gloves. Then a housewife came down with it, so we were treated to the age-old scene where the doctor has to ask “some hard questions” of the husband, like is he sleeping around, is she sleeping around, and are you poisoning her to get the insurance money or just for shits and giggles? This despite the fact that the husband first appeared with a big flashing sign reading INNOCENT over his head.

Then it turned out that what all the victims had in common was plastic surgery implants from the same doctor — judging by the style of the suturing! So our intrepid cast descended upon the plastic surgeon’s office, the doctor appearing with a big flashing sign reading GUILTY over his head.

Turned out — this is great — everyone had this hyper-deadly bacterium from South America which — Neal McDonough worked out in about three minutes — came from the surgeon’s tropical fish tank, which was cleaned and drained weekly by a service, whose workers poured the old tank water down the surgeon’s hot tub drain, where the bacterium lodged in the filter, starting a nice algae colony where the bacteria could thrive and get back into the tub’s clean water and get all caught up in the doctor’s eyebrows — eyebrows! — so that when he went into surgery thereafter and put on his glasses, the bacteria would be dislodged and float down into his patient’s open wounds and poof! Make everyone sick.

I wish I were making this up, but I’m not.

At the end, the porn star and housewife recovered, the porn star reunited with her estranged father, the housewife’s family gathered round the bed, the doctors all looked pleased with themselves, Neal McDonough said something along the lines of “All in a day’s work,” credits (or in this case, blames) rolled.

I have no doubt that the National Institute of Health and the Center for Disease Control track down stuff like this every so often. I’m sure there have been even more convoluted and confusing disease vectors in the world. But just because it really happens doesn’t make it interesting prime time television. A fun little read in the science section of a newsweekly, maybe. Maybe, if the doctors involved are entertaining enough or the disease weird enough.

But to support a whole hour of TV, we viewers need something more interesting. I bet we’ll get it, too, as MI begins to cover worldwide epidemics, terrorist sabotage, serial murderers with biochem degrees and too much time on their hands, and so on and so forth. Remember you read it here first.

Let me suggest a good plot for a future episode: A deadly airborne disease invades the Hollywood studio where MI is made and wipes all the writers, producers, and directors who make dreck like this off the face of the Earth. The studio is then forced to hire people with original ideas for a change, and primetime TV stops sucking.

Oh, wait, that already happened at HBO, Showtime and FX.

The only good thing that came out of watching this show was, near the end, when we reached the obligatory pop song playing over the montage of everyone’s tearful moments, I recognized the song as one I downloaded a few weeks ago. I’m finally ahead of the obscure TV soundtrack pop song curve!


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