The James Nesbitt-starring 'Monroe' is sharp enough to keep operating (Channel Hopper)
‘Get it right and no one is impressed. Get it wrong and it’s catastrophic’. We could be flies on the wall at an ITV drama commissioners meeting, but in fact it’s one of several memorable lines from the opening episode of Monroe (ITV1, Thu 10 Mar, 9pm). Written by Peter Bowker and directed by Paul McGuigan, the show has all the warning signs of emergency service cliché: is there a TV cop or doctor these days who isn’t a brilliant maverick with personal problems? When praised for his efforts on the operating table, James Nesbitt’s mercurial medic sums it up with this quip: ‘I only did what anyone would have done with a medical degree and a borderline personality disorder’.
Thankfully, the sprightly, no-nonsense script and pulsating, blurry-edged direction keep things on the right side of hackneyed, chucking about notions of loyalty, truth, death and rivalry while the action pokes around a patient’s exposed brain matter and Sarah Parish’s heart surgeon constantly bickers with Nesbitt’s neuro-dude, particularly hitting his nail on the heard by criticising Monroe’s ‘twinkly self-regard’. Like the upsetting Seinfeld double bass motif, the jaunty banjo number which bursts in whenever anyone is striding down a corridor might be the only thing about Monroe that will eventually grate. And unfortunately hospital dramas are packed with corridor-striders.