When I started seeing promos for The Night Shift, NBC’s new medical drama about a sexy soldier-turned-surgeon, I had two thoughts: 1) There’s no way this character does the soldier thing better than Owen Hunt on Grey’s Anatomy, and 2) This show is everything Enlisted was talking about when it brought about the “Afghanistan excuse,” a.k.a. ex-soldiers using “I was in Afghanistan” as a way to be cool/get out of something. And now, having watched the premiere, I’d say my first impression was pretty valid.
The Night Shift desperately tries to be different from other medical dramas by emphasizing one thing: It takes place at night. It’s the night shift, which is completely different from the day shift, a Captain Obvious-esque fact that was flat-out stated in the premiere. More specifically, the show went on to describe the night shift as an “undisciplined zoo” full of ex-soldiers and current soldiers and people who want to do crazy things like treat patients without insurance and drink beer on the roof. Why? Because they work when everyone else sleeps, which means they’re unpredictable and dangerous and cool and so super sexy you can’t even handle it. Did I mention that the roof is their actual break room, complete with a basketball court? Because they’re cool. And dangerous. And sexy.
But one thing this show needs is a chill pill. I get that it’s full of a bunch of night owls who are especially badass for working at — you guessed it! — night, but there isn’t a single patient that gets more than 5 minutes of screen time. The doctors jump around the ER so much that not even the main character, the maverick of all mavericks, T.C. (Eoin Macken), gets enough time to develop as a character. By the end of the hour, he’s nothing more than a hot ex-soldier who punches people a little too easily, has a war story for every new patient he finds, and can spot a spinal decapitation with the naked eye. So he’s also sort of a wizard. Also, he was kicked out of the Army, so he’s like really, really cool.
With only 10 minutes left in the premiere, the show tried to pull some heartstrings by involving a drunk driver plot, but again, it was so rushed that my tear ducts didn’t even wake up from their slumber. Although my eyes did widen when the show tried to add complexity by throwing in a gay soldier at the last-minute. It was sloppy, and more than anything, this hour left me feeling like I’d just revisited my teen years, when I’d spend hours in front of the television watching soap operas. Well, either that, or it made me feel like I’d entered the world of Dr. Sexy M.D. from Supernatural, where everybody calls each other “doctor” at all times.
As Enlisted taught us, you can’t “Afghanistan” everything, and this show relies too heavily on the soldier element, causing any actual story to slip through the cracks. But hey, the doctors are cool, and nobody said the cool kids were complicated.
Also, is Eoin Macken the poor man’s Michiel Huisman? I’m not saying it, but I am asking it. I’ve been told by a colleague that he was great in Merlin. Perhaps they should play brothers. Thoughts?
I’ll leave you with a bit of wisdom the show taught me: “You really can’t perform surgery when you can’t see that well.” And no, this quote had nothing to do with the fact that they work at night. But they do.