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Pitch black medical satire
on 17 March 2007
Medical drama's generally leave me colder than a naked Jamaican on the polar plateau .... chained to a fridge but "Cardiac Arrest" which ran on B.B.C.1 from 1994-96 was something else altogether and undoubtedly led the way for programmes like "Greys Anatomy " and "House"- shows which aren't fit to lick it's blood spattered boots.
The programme was written by Dr Ged Mercurio -a junior house doctor at Drumchapel hospital on the outskirts of Glasgow - under the alias John MaCure (geddit?)and was largely based on his experiences working for the NHS. Actually filmed in Glasgow( A mate of mine living in Glasgow at the time worked as an extra on the series) Cardiac Arrest gave a less than positive slant on life within the NHS but received wide spread praise from within the medical world , well the junior ranks anyway, for it's swingeing accuracy.
This is a world of deeply cynical , often incompetent carers with a pitch black humour and caustic sensibilities that belies the propagated media view of doctors as serious conscience ridden professionals . While it would never do to claim that all doctors are as contemptuous as the ones in Cardiac Arrest you just know that people like this do exist and probably more often than you would comfortably think.
The cast are superb with Helen Baxendale in her breakthrough role as Dr Claire Maitland a vibrant, sexy and deeply misanthropic individual with a tongue as sharp as a diamond tipped scalpel and a carnal appetite that would make Paris Hilton blush. Andrew Lancel is Dr Andrew Collin, the rookie on the ward and the one who's idealistic view of medicine is gradually eroded by what he encounters- both patients and colleagues. My favourite is the cocky yet out of his depth Dr Rajesh Rajah played with charismatic glee by Ashen Batti who provides most of the series real slapstick moments. Dr Sarah Hudson (Selina Cadell) provides the bedside manner of a snake hypnotising a tree frog. Peter O'Brien better known for a role in "Neighbours "plays a typically (in my experience of Australians though not necessarily doctors) confident brash Australian doctor.
People as duplicitous, negligent and downright lazy exist in all professions yet somehow, certainly up until this series we didn't think they existed within the NHS. Considering the enormous stress and pressure these people work under it's actually a miracle there aren't more like them. Cardiac Arrest should have been required viewing for those who profess to run the NHS but all that it did over it's three seasons is provide top notch relevant , highly entertaining drama and satire which when you think about it is what it was all about. If only there was a drama on contemporary TV half as enjoyable and bitingly wicked as every one of the 27 episodes featured here.