'Monday Mornings': Doctors answer for patient deaths in David E. Kelley's new medical drama
Adapted from the book by CNN chief medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta, who also serves as executive producer, "MM" is the first series to take viewers inside the weekly Morbidity and Mortality conference (M&M), where surgeons answer for errors in patient care -- and in medicine, mistakes can mean death.
"That meeting is a hallowed space in medicine that very few people know about and very few people get to see," Gupta told reporters at the TCA Winter Press Tour Friday (Jan. 4).
"The spirit of it is that we learn," said Gupta. "As unsettling as it is to think about, these mistakes [and] unexpected outcomes get discussed openly -- and hopefully everyone can learn from it."
"You have to pay attention in this show -- everything is a potential clue here, things you think are inconsequential end up having significant consequence."
The surgeons on staff at the fictional Chelsea General Hospital are played by Jamie Bamber ("Battlestar Galactica"), Ving Rhames ("Mission: Impossible," "Pulp Fiction), Jennifer Finnigan, Keong Sim, Emily Swallow, Bill Irwin and Sarayu Rao. Alfred Molina ("Law & Order: LA") is the administrator who presides over the M&M meetings.
"Preserving [the surgeons'] credibility and exposing their fallibility is a dance," Kelley acknowledges about making the characters' professional errors the cornerstone of the show. "Some doctors that aren't regulars we can string up like piñatas, [while with] others we want to be more invested in we have to be more careful."
"Some characters get persecuted for the same things several episodes in a row," grumbles Bamber, with a laugh.
Gupta's heavy involvement should at least mean the show itself will more accurately portray medical procedures than most televised dramas.
When filming the pilot, for example, Finnigan reveals that Gupta "came up and showed us how to clip an aneurism in a cow brain."
After believing they'd nailed a particular scene, executive producer Billy D'elia says he noticed Gupta didn't share the crew's enthusiasm. "Sanjay looked so depressed. He said, 'We just killed him!' So we did it again and the show got tremendously better."
"Monday Mornings" premieres Monday, Feb. 4 on TNT.