Watch What We Say
By Jason Lee
June 19, 2009
Summer is upon us and with it comes all of the stereotypical summer-y activities like family trips to a national park, hiking mountain trails, shopping for short shorts and going to the beach. You know, summer stuff. You'll notice, however, that I didn't mention "watching TV" as one of those iconic summer activities . . . that's because summer television is usually as appetizing as Aunt Murial's rhubarb pie, two days after Thanksgiving.
Not to worry.
This week on Watch What We Say: And you thought YOUR hospital was crowded and overly complicated.
"We know drama." More than just a company slogan for TNT, that bold statement carries with it the insinuated promise of better dramatic programming. It suggests an insider knowledge of a particular genre of television that distances the network from other wannabes . . . after all, if TNT knows drama, then it stands to reason that other networks don't know drama, or at least, not as well.
Since TNT apparently knows drama, it's little wonder that they chose a medical drama to open their summer slate. Medical procedurals provide a number of inherent advantages for creating 60 compelling minutes of television: they get to feature a large cast filled with quirky characters, they benefit from an ongoing stream of even quirkier patients that can deal with any number of medical problems over the course of a single or series of episodes, they deal with life or death situations that can instantly ratchet up the show's intensity and due to the extended workdays of most hospital workers, personal and professional stresses often mix together.
Clearly, TNT knows this and has accordingly leveraged each and every advantage in the creation of HawthoRNe, a 60-minute medical drama that airs Tuesday nights at 9:00 pm. And herein, perhaps, lies part of HawthoRNe's problem. The show feels bloated. There's just too much here – too many characters, too many problems, too many storylines. In the end, I just found that I didn't care anymore, which is problematic when you're dealing with life and death.
The glorious Jada Pinkett Smith plays the titular character of Christina Hawthorne, the chief nursing officer at Richmond Trinity Hospital. The pilot episode takes place on the one-year anniversary of her husband's death (although we don't find out very much about how he passed away) where Hawthorne must cope with an exhausting array of trials from her staff, supervisors, patients and family members. This either provides her with a justified reason for popping two Xanax or a welcome distraction from the events of a year ago . . . or both.
The episode moves at breakneck speed, interspersing various problems with patients with interpersonal struggles while hinting at troubles in Hawthorne's own past:
We have a slightly deranged homeless woman that shows Hawthorne a beautiful newborn baby boy that she's found. After Hawthorne takes the baby into the hospital for medical care, we find out that the homeless woman is actually the child's postnatal mother.