“The Resident,” premiering Sunday on Fox before taking up its regular Monday post the following night, is a meat-and-potatoes hospital show in which mostly pretty people, mostly in lab coats, try to work or game or fight the system (and each other) in order to help their patients or help themselves.
If it doesn’t break any new ground in the genre, it efficiently delivers a familiar mix of ethical conundrums and colorful characters, with just enough blood and sex to seem “real” in TV terms.
If it is unusual in any way, it’s that it is perhaps more than usually frank about what hospitals do for money, and the likelihood that merely being admitted to one increases your chances of never leaving. “Medical error is the third leading cause of death in the United States after cancer and heart disease,” says alliteratively named nurse Nicolette Nevin (Emily VanCamp, from “Revenge”).
You will also learn that 1 in 7 hospital patients get an infection they didn’t come in with. Still, the show is more in favor of hospitals than against them, and says so in just about those words.
The resident in question is Dr. Conrad Hawkins (Matt Czuchry, “The Good Wife”), a tattooed rebel we first see biking recklessly to work; (That he is on a bicycle, and reckless, and upon arrival pours an energy drink over a car parked by an able-bodied man in a handicapped space, tell us us all we need to know about him.) Like most central characters in doctor shows, Conrad – no one he likes calls him Dr. Hawkins -- is essentially a superhero: smarter, quicker, better and better-looking than your ordinary sawbones.
Like all modern superheroes he has his issues – indeed, he seems like a jerk at first – but he is not an oddball. Dr. Kildare, Dr. Casey and “McDreamy” are his forerunners, not Dr. House. That he is carrying a torch for nurse Nicolette, his ex (whose online dating profile now specifies, “No gamers, no slackers, no doctors”), helps keep him sympathetic.
Brand-new intern Dr. Devon Pravesh (Manish Dayal) finds himself officially under the wing of Conrad, who guides him toward enlightenment with the inscrutable harshness of a Zen master. “Everything you thought you knew about medicine is wrong,” Conrad says to begin with and goes on to insult Devon’s tie – the fact that he’s even wearing one – and Harvard education before asking him, “What are you into, white, black, brown, men?”
“I don’t understand,” Devon reasonably replies, and is further mocked, before being left with his finger up a patient’s backside. It’s all for his own eventual good, of course.
Bedeviling their days is shaky-handed chief of surgery Randolph Bell (Bruce Greenwood), an inflated ego housed in a failing body; the very first thing that happens in the pilot episode is Bell killing a patient during a routine appendectomy. (The selfie-taking nurses weren’t helping, it’s true.)
Bell, who is the hospital’s gray-haired pop star and literal poster boy, is not beyond blackmail or bribery or posting his own reviews online to sustain the fiction that he is someone you would want holding a scalpel within 10 feet of you. To be sure, Conrad is capable of a little blackmail himself, and other things that possibly might not be legal to get what he wants, but since he serves the deserving, we cut him slack — he’s the rule-breaking hero, not the rule-breaking villain. His is the good god complex.
Created by Amy Holden Jones (creator of the short-lived “Black Box,” about a neurologist with bipolar disorder), Hayley Schore (a staff writer on the emergency room drama “Code Black”) and Roshan Sethi (also a staff writer on “Code Black” as well as a medical consultant on “Black Box”), the show is busy but, for the moment, shallow. In the two episodes available to review, Devon represents a learning curve more than a character. Shaunette Renée Wilson’s Dr. Mina Okafor combines superior surgical skills with inferior social skills – on the spectrum, as we say now – amusingly enough. But she, too, needs an opportunity to breathe.
Medical shows are, of course, one of the pillars of TV drama, alongside cop and lawyer shows, westerns and things that are like westerns but might take place in space, a mythical kingdom or after the apocalypse. Like all television genres, its popularity waxes and wanes; but as long as people get sick and at least sometimes recover, there will be shows set in hospitals. It doesn’t matter how many times the doctors get out the shock paddles or how many ballpoint-pen tracheotomies they perform. (Something of the sort happens here, in Episode 2.) Somehow this stuff doesn’t get old, even when it gets old.
When: 7 p.m. Sunday and 9 p.m. Monday
Rated: TV-14-DLSV (may be unsuitable for children under the age of 14 with advisories for suggestive dialogue, coarse language, sexual content and violence)
Follow Robert Lloyd on Twitter @LATimesTVLloyd