Brilliant neurosurgeon Gabriel Monroe (James Nesbitt) struggles with his professional and personal lives.
Ignore that synopsis; itís a disservice to this series. Unfortunately, I donít really know how to sum up Monroe. Some have likened it to House, and while itís highly likely series creator Peter Bowker was, uh, influenced by House, this British import isnít a carbon copy of that long-running show. Itís more an amalgam of a bunch of previous shows, with bits and pieces of everything from Trapper John, M.D. to Scrubs on display. And thatís its main problem: itís too bloody familiar.
It is, however, mildly entertaining, and it certainly goes down easy. But because it refuses to do anything surprising or innovative, itís hard to muster much enthusiasm for it, or come up with a whole hell of a lot to say about it. I sort of liked it for what it is, and I burned through the six episodes here in a short amount of time, but Iím still bothered by its dogged refusal to attempt anything new.
Monroe is a gifted surgeon, but heís sarcastic and abrasive around his colleagues; the caustic side of his personality is leavened by a genuine affection for his patients. For me, that makes this show easier to swallow than House, even if it did strike me as a hybrid of Perry Cox and John Dorian. Itís a clear attempt to appeal to as many people as possible, give viewers the best of both worlds, and it works to a degree, but thereís no way to get around the nagging feeling that youíve seen it all before.
In another welcome difference from that show everyone wants to compare this one to, thereís no rote mystery-illness-of-the-week here. Monroe gives you a patient whose diagnosis is clear from the beginning, a quick surgical solution, and a period of recovery. You donít get nine diagnoses, nine different treatments, and then a last-minute save that could have come much earlier had the patient not lied and just admitted to having touched a monkey while visiting the zoo (or whatever it is that happens on House; I donít care for the show and am working from the two episodes Iíve seen). But even that quickly becomes repetitive, as the structure of these episodes rarely ever changes.
Every show like this needs what passes for an antagonist, a coworker with whom the main character butts heads. In this case thatís Jenny Bremner, a heart surgeon who has in more in common with Monroe than either cares to admit. She initially comes across as more detached than her colleague/thorn in her side, but it quickly becomes clear sheís just trying to prevent a repeat occurrence of some traumatic experience from her past. Their relationship plays out more or less as youíd expect, and itís easy to think that it will eventually end up where most such television and movie relationships do.
Running concurrent with all of the medical stuff is a storyline in which Monroeís wife leaves him. It, too, is nothing special, the long-in-coming consequence of both a tragedy that befell them years earlier and one key part of that tragedyís immediate aftermath. Again, itís all standard in the way itís presented, fairly obvious even before the full reveal.
Nesbittís performance goes a long way toward elevating the show. Some of the dialogue is witty, even enjoyably biting at times. The storytelling is speedy, making each episodeís forty-five minutes fly by. And while this may sound odd, I like the amount of detail in the surgery scenes; rather than just tell you whatís happening, this series actually shows you. In fairly graphic detail, too. Iím not sure exactly whatís utilized in these scenes, but the brains, hearts, etc., all look real, which adds some welcome weight to whatís happening.
I donít know if any of that is actually anything, will mean anything to anyone else, but all of those small things make it impossible for me to dismiss Monroe outright. This is another case of a show that could have been better, could have been worse, ultimately just sort of it is, but not is a way that makes you think youíve wasted your time when you come out on the other end.
Monroe is presented in its original 1.78:1 ratio; the transfers have been enhanced for anamorphic displays. Thereís nothing special about the showís look. Aside from the occasional fuzzy shot used to represent the POV of a semiconscious patient, the show has a naturalistic, almost flat style. Colors are free of any sort of push, fleshtones look accurate, and the interiors of the hospital actually look like the interiors of a hospital. Itís obvious the show was filmed digitally, as it has that same sort of sterile softness you see in most modern British shows. Taking all of that into account, the image here provides a very good approximation of the intended look.
The only audio option is a series of English Dolby Stereo tracks. Thereís not much going on in the mix, just dialogue, music, and the occasional effect. The audio here channels this well, although the accents and rapid-fire delivery combine to make some of the dialogue slightly difficult to understand. English SDH subtitles are available.
No extras are included.
Monroe is absolutely nothing special, but it should deliver just enough to please fans of this type of show.