Hey TV.com, Should I Watch Cinemax's Early 1900s Medical Drama The Knick?

Original TV programming is the shiznamaladingdongabong these days, and not just for networks that want to serve a niche audience and build a brand—everyone wants a prestige drama on their schedule. I mean, even Lifetime is giving it a go with The Lottery. Lifetime! And now Cinemax—which until its recent foray into action thrillers was known only as a place where randy teenagers could get their nipple fix—is teaming up with some big names to produce a drama that barely has any boobs in it! But will The Knick mark the dawn of a new era for HBO's horny little brother, or is it a weak attempt at emerging from HBO's shadow? I've seen the first episode and I'm here to let you know whether the series is right for you in the latest edition of Hey TV.com, Gimme Your Opinion on This Show I've Never Heard Of!


The Knick, so this is a show about NBA superstar Carmelo Anthony? Or Jose Calderon?

No no no! "The Knick" is Knickerbocker Hospital, New York City's premiere destination for the sick and injured at the start of the 20th century. Set in 1900, The Knick is a period piece that centers on Dr. John Thackery as he ushers in the era of modern medicine—while dealing with bloody gore, hand-crank medical equipment, and mountains of corpses piling up on operating tables. But that's not all: The Knick also explores the administrative side of the hospital, race relations, and the classic drama fodder known as "personal demons."


Who are the people operating on this thing?

The Knick was created and written by Jack Amiel and Michael Begler, whose previous credits include Raising HelenThe Shaggy Dog, and The Tony Danza Show. In other words, the project is a bit of departure for them. But The Knick's real voice and tone come from executive producer Steven Soderbergh (the movie genius behind Traffic), who directed all 10 episodes of Season 1 and incorporates plenty of his usual flair. 

In front of the camera, Clive Owen (Children of Men) dominates the screen as Dr. Thackery, André Holland (the best part of 1600 Penn) plays an African-American doctor in a hospital whose top brass wants it to remain lily white, and Jeremy Bobb (Hostages), Juliet Rylance (British theater), Eve Hewson (Bono's daughter), Michael Angarano (Sky HighWill & Grace), Eric Johnson (Smallville), and Matt Frewer (Orphan Black, M-m-m-m-m-ax Headroom) round out the talented cast. 



When does The Knick plop onto the operating table?

The Knick premieres Friday, August 8 at 10pm on Cinemax. Yes, Cinemax. Right, THAT Cinemax. I'm not kidding! Cinemax! 


Who will enjoy The Knick?

Film nerds who like Steven Soderbergh will lap this right up; there's lots of natural light, handheld camerawork, exquisite framing, and steady shots where actors just sit there acting in silence. This is some of the director's best work since the days of TrafficErin Brokovichand Out of Sight. Viewers who yearn for medical dramas that aren't all about doctors sleeping with each other will dig this, too. And if you have even the slightest interest in the history of medicine, I suggest you set a series recording STAT. 


Okay, Doc. What's the good news about The Knick?

Visually, The Knick is stunning—though I'm a huge Soderbergh fan, so I'm predisposed to liking his stuff no matter what. However, I don't like many period pieces, and one thing The Knick does really well is modernize the historical drama in such a way that it feels timeless. Soderbergh's direction definitely plays a large part in that, but so does the score: Soderbergh's frequent collaborator Cliff Martinez (formerly of The Red Hot Chili Peppers, who worked with the director on SolarisTraffic, and The Limey) has crafted a musical landscape that sounds almost futuristic, and it's works so, so well (here's a sample). Why? Because The Knick, like AMC's computer-pioneering drama Halt and Catch Fire, is all about visionaries and a future that we the viewer see as the past. Yet it never stops being thrilling, even if we know that nanobot surgeons are still years and years away. 

One thing that pleasantly surprised me about Episode 1 was the wealth of interesting characters it introduced, providing a fascinating look at how hospitals operated in 1900. Consider, for instance, the gruff ambulance drivers who act more like dog catchers than life savers in order to increase the organization's profits, or the nuns who work in the hospital and practice their own traditional medicine when the doctors aren't looking. There's a lot more to see than just surgeons cutting people open.

And when surgeons do cut people open, it's like watching a butcher at work. The Knick is not for the squeamish, but its procedures are presented so matter-of-factly that it's difficult to tear your eyes away from the splashing blood and flapping flesh... as opposed to, say, a plastic-surgery program on TLC, 'cause those things are naaaaaasty. 



Okay, Doc, give it to me straight—what's the bad news? 

You'll never walk again! Other than that, I'm not sure there's anything glaringly worrisome about The Knick. It can be dark (both visually and tonally), and some of the medical jargon may whiz over your head, but it's generally very solid. 


So, should I watch it?

I am prescribing you 10 one-hour doses of this series, otherwise you may die! Okay, maybe you'll live, but you'll miss out on one hell of a good show. 


I'd like a second opinion.

Fine! Here's a trailer. 




The Knick premieres Friday, August 8 at 10pm on Cinemax.


Comments (37)
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Aug 09, 2014
Wait, there's ANOTHER show that's flawless and brilliant that I have to watch? I'm getting new show fatigue. I'll get back to this one later.
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Aug 08, 2014
I don't know. It doesn't seem to have any plot -like what is it about other than cutting (dead) people in pieces? Seems like the usual gore and sex.
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Aug 08, 2014
"a period piece that centers on Dr. John Thackery as he ushers in the era of modern medicine"

But does he walk with a cane and making sarcastic bon mots to his co-workers, all while flaunting authority and doing things his own way?
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Aug 08, 2014
Okay, so there's very little that can make me queasy, but old school medicine is definitely one of them. I find it fascinating in the abstract, but truly disgusting to watch. I want to be able to like this, but I'm flat out not sure I'm going to be able to watch it. At least not after dinner.
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Aug 07, 2014
If it's half as good as Banshee it'll be awesome, another winner for Cinemax.
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Aug 07, 2014
Why Clive Owen? Of all the actors in all the world, why did it have to be him?
I'm not a fan, FYI!
I've been looking forward to this show I'm just a little concerned about the lead and his propensity to overact.
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Staff
Aug 07, 2014
THE KNICKS SUCK

wait.
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Aug 07, 2014
oh God, Dr. Queen all over again? ;)
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Aug 07, 2014
I chose #2 because I think there needs to be a 2.2 option . I want to watch it but I have no faith it will make it and hate knowing it will just be a waste of my time committing to it.
I fell for the same thing with Magic City. Once I started watching I was hooked, but the Friday night numbers for tv were killing it. I can't imagine cinemax is going to be the one "station" that doesn't care about ratings. Stations were in parentheses simply because one show does not make you a network, yet.
I am thrilled it isnt up against the Sunday night bevy of amazing shows. But the fact that they weren't willing to put it on say a Wednesday or Tuesday and instead push it to Friday gives me pause in believing they will stick with it if it flounders a bit. the only reason Extant is still on is because Spielberg owns it, Soderbergh may be giving us quality, but Hollywood doesn't build altars to him just yet.
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Aug 09, 2014
If everyone felt the way you did then every show would be cancelled after one episode, just saying.
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Aug 08, 2014
Their biggest hit 'Banshee' does just fine on Friday bringing in the biggest numbers for anything the network ever tried. Friday at 10 is where Cinemax has put every single one of its original dramas ('Strike Back', 'Hunted', and 'Banshee') . People know that if they want to check out an original Cinemax drama that they are on Fridays at 10. Why start bucking the trend now? They've successfully launched 2 shows at that time slot and even 'Hunted' got a second season but after BBC pulled out of the production agreement, it kind of died at Cinemax after they had first renewed it on their own and were going to revamp it so they could continue it but it hasn't happened yet. I think last year they were producing a 4 hour miniseries entitled 'Sam Hunter' and I never heard about it again.

They could chose Friday or Saturday (cause they aren't going to put it against 'The Leftovers' (because big brother isn't going to let them do that against 'The Leftovers') and they picked Friday. Friday will get better numbers than Saturday. They do OK in this spot.
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Aug 08, 2014
Excuse me should have said 'BANSHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!'

So sorry for that mistake. 'Banshee' is the best damn show on television. Don't agree? Don't care.
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Aug 07, 2014
I fell for the same thing with Magic City. Once I started watching I was hooked, but the Friday night numbers for tv were killing it.

True. Excellent show, beautifully produced, under-appreciated. But hey, we're talking about a country that thinks BBT is a good show.

I can't imagine cinemax is going to be the one "station" that doesn't care about ratings. Stations were in parentheses simply because one show does not make you a network, yet.

True again. They have to ditch their porn before anyone takes them seriously.
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Aug 07, 2014
They have Banshee and most of us loved it.
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Aug 07, 2014
First off, I agree with cuculhain that there needs to be a fourth option, or at least number one needn't be as strong (not that it needs to be taken literally, since we're playing with medical language and all). I want to watch it, but it's not the priority that the first option makes it sound like, and number two sounds too indifferent.

On Cinemax and people taking it seriously, I agree and disagree. I've never watched it, but I certainly know the name -- EVERYONE does, and it's because of it's role on pop-culture in delivering the 'porn' you guys mention. A show will be taken seriously regardless of the network (or non-network) that airs it if the show is any good. Cinemax as a whole more or less draws sniggers or sighs (and head-shaking) when mentioned, but it's already a household name.
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Aug 07, 2014
Ok Tim, now I want to watch this show! I'm not too much into period dramas but the visual look seems stunning and I'm a great fan too of Soderbergh (a.k.a. the man who deserve the Best Channing Tatum's booty shot Award).
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Aug 07, 2014
Oh for God's sake! I don't have much time but I have to watch this!
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Staff
Aug 07, 2014
preach!
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Aug 07, 2014
Man this show looks good, like seeing the trailers I had no doubt it would be awesome. This 'preview' really makes me happy.
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Aug 07, 2014
Damn it will they stop producing these period dramas? They sure go after my weaknesses. Ok fine, another show I'll add to my seasonal watching list. At least I can make room for this as True Blood and Boardwalk Empire are ending....
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Aug 07, 2014
and with Boardwalk Empire having a shortened (blah!) final season. There's room.
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Aug 08, 2014
Have you ever seen the show London Hospital? This looks like an even better version of that show.
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Staff
Aug 08, 2014
I hadn't heard of it. British accents, I try to limit my intake.
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Aug 07, 2014
My problem with period dramas is that they rarely focus on the events and settings that made that period noteworthy and instead come up with boring plots and characters to further bury the interesting aspects of that period into the background.
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Sep 18, 2014
I agree, even shows like Boardwalk Empire that have a rich history to depict get bogged down with extraneous characters. However, I am getting a sense that this show is a bit different, it is compelling drama with history as a rich background. A good example is the early issues with electricity and two straight episodes that allude to Edison and his inventions (who lived close to NYC at this point). I am curious though, does anyone know if this show has a source book like Boardwalk Empire had?
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Sep 18, 2014
Not entirely sure on that, but all things considered, anyone that could get ahold of medical dictionaries and surgery manuals published at that time would not only have one hell of a frightening laugh, but one heck of a road map for graphic storytelling.
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Aug 07, 2014
Is Clive Owen doing a Hugh Laurie, i.e., adopting a faux American accent?
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Aug 07, 2014
Considering the synopsis listed him as an African-American doctor set in 1900, I'd imagine he won't have an American accent, possibly not any sort of standard English accent either.
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Aug 07, 2014
Too bad, so he will be subverting his normal accent.
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Aug 06, 2014
A Steven Soderbergh period piece on a premium channel starring Clive Owen's mustache, I am so gonna watch this.
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Aug 06, 2014
Pegged this months ago for me. Time will tell. If Tim likes it , then its probably bad. LOL
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Aug 06, 2014
Definitely adding this to my lineup. Need to cut something though (heh).
Perhaps Justified or Silicon Valley.
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Aug 06, 2014
If you cut Justified Boyd Crowder will blow you up. True story.
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Aug 07, 2014
Boyd Crowder doesn't scare me anymore. That precisely the problem with the show. It's draggin ass and Raylan's hat stinks.
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Aug 07, 2014
As long as you don't diss his jeans we can remain friends.
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Aug 07, 2014
Yeah, but skipping Silicon Valley will taint your soul for eternity. Likely story.
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