It's Memorial Day and summer is almost here, but that doesn't mean that the constant stream of new TV is going to stop. NBC is about to bring us a brand-new medical drama, the San Antonio-set The Night Shift. But is the show a legitimate attempt to recapture some ER magic in a low-stakes summer environment, or simply yet another case of a network burning off a show outside of the traditional TV season? Find out in the latest edition of Hey TV.com, Should I Be Spending More Time Outside and Less Time Programming My DVR?!
The Night Shift? Wait, NBC is so desperate that it' remaking a 1992 movie starring the Fonz and Beetlejuice?
If only, right? Unfortunately, this version of The Night Shift is a literally titled series about the insanity that occurs in an San Antonio emergency room between sundown and sunrise. Many of the employees of San Antonio Memorial have previously served in the military, and they work to keep their patients (who are often of the low-income variety) alive while trying keep their own lives together.
Who's behind the show and who's in it?
Somewhat oddly, The Night Shift was developed by Gabe Sachs and Jeff Judah, a writing duo who worked on Freaks and Geeks, created ABC's Life as We Know It, and helped shepherd The CW's 90210 reboot to the airwaves. I guess they wanted to make the big jump from the melodramatics of high school life to the more adult world of the ER. The cast is full of people you'll recognize: Jill Flint (Royal Pains) plays the well-meaning shift leader; Freddy Rodriguez (Six Feet Under) is the less well-meaning, penny-pinching administrator; and Ken Leung (Lost), Brendan Fehr (Roswell), and Daniella Alonso (Revolution) portray a trio of other doctors. The key face you might not be familiar with is the very handsome one belonging to Eoin Macken, who plays bad boy and former war medic T.C., who's also an ex-boyfriend of and nuisance to Flint's Jordan, and current fling of Alonso's Landry.
When does The Night Shift take over?
The series debuts on Tuesday, May 27 at 10pm after the two-hour premiere of America's Got Talent. It's the summer, but you can't say that NBC isn't trying to make this one work a little bit.
Which of the patients in the waiting room is this show for?
Are you the kind of person who is still smarting over NBC calling the code on ER a few years back or who still scrubs into Grey's Anatomy for the shenanigans and romantic entanglements? If you answered yes to both questions, The Night Shift might be right in your wheelhouse.
What about The Night Shift is worth saving?
Surprisingly, quite a bit. There's nothing about the show that will catch you off guard; this is a medical drama through and through. It rarely leaves the emergency room, and when it does, it's to follow the heroic doctors as they respond to some horrible accident. Similarly, the characters are all basic types—the prick administrator, the ruggish rebel, the ruggish rebel's straight-laced ex, the bumbling interns, the one with a big secret, etc. However, I've seen the series' first three episodes, and The Night Shift seems to know exactly what it is, and it's really trying to be the best possible version of that.
The show's primary wrinkle is its military connection, and it does a solid job of integrating the characters' personal experiences and traumas from their time in the Middle East into the present-day medical emergencies. The San Antonio setting and New Mexico location-shooting give the show a reason to occasionally move the action outside, which is nice. There's also some stuff, particularly in the pilot, about the corporatization of hospitals and medicine, particularly in a post-ObamaCare universe, that could be better but still adds a nice "real world" layer.
But The Night Shift's real strength is its cast. The show is a testament to what happens when a bunch of rock-solid professionals get the opportunity to work with some decent material and play off one another. Ken Leung's a real treat, this is a good role for Brendan Fehr, Freddy Rodriguez is committed to doing weird stuff in every scene, and Eoin Macken and Jill Flint are somewhere between fine and good. Overall, there's a sense of camaraderie and comfort among the actors that very easily translates to the characters, and that makes the more rote storylines easier to swallow.
What about the show is on life support?
I mean, it's a medical drama, your mileage is definitely going to vary based on how much you enjoy (or don't enjoy) the genre.
In a post-ER and -Grey's Anatomy world, every one of these shows thinks it has to do ridiculous stunt accidents to hold the audience's interest, and that kind of stuff drives much of Episodes 2 and 3, as if The Night Shift were trying to integrate a major network note. The pilot doesn't rely on localized disasters, but feels extremely choppy and poorly edited, as if the producers tried to integrate scenes from multiple shooting periods (I haven't found any info regarding reshoots, but it definitely wouldn't surprise). There are also a few instances where the series tries too hard to remind the audience of T.C.'s time in Afghanistan by showing some very fast and mostly useless flashbacks; those aren't great.
So, should I watch it?
Yeah, assuming you like hospital dramas, I think you should check it out. Look, I know summer is not the relaxing TV watching period that it once was, but The Night Shift doesn't have to hustle much to produce an enjoyable medical procedural. The characters are relatively well-developed within a few episodes, there's a fine mix of episodic medical cases and ongoing character stories, and nothing is particularly ridiculous or overwrought. The Night Shift won't be the best show to debut this summer, but it's the kind of series that'll work if enough people give it a chance without just assuming it's a burn-off. At worst, DVR a few episodes and watch 'em when it gets really hot outside and you just can't imagine leaving the house.
The Night Shift premieres Tuesday, May 27 at 10pm on NBC.