“The Night Shift” on NBC
Albuquerque gets another chance to shine in the spotlight (sort of) thanks to NBC’s locally shot medical drama “The Night Shift.” Though filmed in Albuquerque, the show is set in San Antonio, making it more of a “Longmire” prospect (shot here, but set in Wyoming) than a “Breaking Bad” deal (shot here, set here). Although, at the end of the day (or night as the case may be), “The Night Shift” has probably got more in common with “Killer Women” (ABC’s quickly aborted midseason replacement) than with AMC’s long-running smash.
Surprising no one, “The Night Shift” is set during the night shift at a frantic, financially strapped hospital emergency room. (A helpful time stamp pops up on the bottom of the screen in case you don’t know what time looks like at night.) It’s more or less a generic medical drama—a genre that has operated on a formula virtually unchanged from “Emergency!” to “St. Elsewhere” to “ER” to “Grey’s Anatomy.” The faint twist here is that most of the doctors are ex-military. What bearing this has on the actual show is hard to say. Not like it’s set in a VA hospital. (How timely would that have been?) It’s possible the show intends to deal with hard-hitting issues like post-traumatic stress and the difficulty of veterans to reintegrate into society. But I doubt it. For now we just get a lot of characters name-dropping “Fallujah.”
Chief among our roster of hunky, sexy, totally military-grade doctors is TC Callahan (Irish actor Eoin Macken from the BBC’s “Merlin”). He’s the expertly unshaven one who likes to take his shirt off a lot. There’s also the smokin’ hot Latina one, the nerdy Asian one and the unrealistically gay one just for good measure (but everybody’s ex-military, so don’t ask, don’t tell). But these doctors aren’t merely content to help sick people. No. These are Action Doctors. They race off to accident scenes, fight crime and punch out dickweed hospital administrators who care more about the bottom line than they do about patients. Also, they’re sleeping with/have slept with/will sleep with all of their coworkers.
Poor Freddy Rodriguez (“Six Feet Under”) gets the short end of the character stick, having to play the aforementioned dickweed hospital administrator. At the end of the pilot episode, it’s revealed that he was once a brilliant surgeon but has lost his ability to practice because of degenerative eyesight. He’s not really a dickweed, you see. He’s a wounded soul who cares too damn much—which is kind of worse than just being a dickweed.
“The Night Shift” tries to thread that delicate needle between drama and comedy. It’s really just a drama, but it’s got aspirations of being “M*A*S*H,” so the docs are all irreverent, rebellious rule-breakers who occasionally crack wise. It’s nowhere near on par with “M*A*S*H.” But it might be equivalent to “After MASH,” the way-too-straight-faced sequel set in a stateside veterans hospital that lasted all of nine episodes back in 1983.
It’s not that “The Night Shift” is terrible or does things particularly wrong. It’s just so blandly conceived—from its stock-photo characters to its been-there, done-that storylines. (Will they pull off this week’s risky, never-before-performed procedure and save the cute little kid?) There’s a reason NBC is airing this over the summer. And unfortunately, it ain’t because the show will be employing any more New Mexicans come fall.
“The Night Shift” airs Tuesdays at 8pm on KOB-4.