"The Night Shift" is not, as you may have hoped, the long-awaited TV version of the 1982 Ron Howard morgue comedy, but rather a new hospital drama prescribed by NBC for your summer Tuesdays. In some ways, it is like a placebo, lacking substance, but not ineffective. In others, it is a kind of gaily packaged generic equivalent to some better-known brand.
The setting is San Antonio Memorial Hospital, deep in the heart of Texas — home, we are told, of "the only trauma center in 10 counties." So we are going to be seeing a lot of trauma. And, as an occasional on-screen time stamp reminds us, reminding us of the series' title, we will be seeing it at night.
Things are different after dark. Some of the doctors are battle-trained (and sometimes battle-scarred) veterans — which, dramatically, says, "Stay out of our way and let us work." They are disinclined to follow rules, and at times even the Hippocratic oath. (More than one doctor turns off the morphine drip for an unlikable patient.)
"It's an undisciplined zoo," new hospital boss Michael Ragosa (Freddy Rodriguez) complains. "Last week someone stole my cellphone and sent erotic texts to my dentist." Ragosa, who is the only person here not called by his first name, is all about the money and the liability. (Though stick around, and he will show you his hidden depths.)
"They work hard and they play hard," new interim night-shift boss Jordan Alexander (Jill Flint) responds.
Of the hard-working, hard-playing rule-breakers, none is less open to persuasion, nor less valuable, than Dr. TC Callahan (Eoin Macken), whom we meet waking up from a battlefield flashback, in jail after a bar fight. (It is his routine, seemingly.) He is unshaven and bruised, and yet somehow, it suits him. Heading off to work on his motorcycle, "Fortunate Son" blasting on the soundtrack, he stops along the way to help save a man with a tree branch poking through his middle — bad form, apparently, from the legal point of view.
"Did you not learn anything from being kicked out of the Army?" asks Jordan, who is also TC's ex-girlfriend, when he finally gets to work. "You are an amazing doctor but for some reason they thought they were better off with you — during a war."
Ken Leung, Daniella Alonso, Brendan Fehr, Jeananne Goossen, Robert Bailey Jr. and JR Lemon play other doctors and nurses on staff. As is not unusual among television shows, capability and physical attractiveness go hand in hand.
At times it feels almost as if the show, which roots around in the cliches and tropes of medical melodrama like a kid in an attic costume box, has been made as explicit as possible, almost to the point of parody. It tries to make it easy for viewers disinclined to work too hard with summer almost here. It is a minor, even a silly thing. But I have watched eight episodes with little pain, and … I have watched eight episodes.
'The Night Shift'
When: 10 p.m. Tuesday
Rating: TV-14-DLV (may be unsuitable for children under the age of 14 with advisories for suggestive dialogue, coarse language and violence)Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun