Shrewsbury, Massachusetts- Premium cable has a tendency to attract the upper echelon of film folks. McConaughey just came off of True Detective, Scorsese executive produces Boardwalk Empire, and Guillermo del Toro is working on The Strain along with his other projects. Now, Steven Soderbergh, fresh off his break from film, has gone and made a medical period drama to keep himself busy. The show, called The Knick, premiered last week on Cinemax and is already stirring up buzz.
In New York City circa 1900, the Knickerbocker Hospital is one of the most innovative institutions around. Dr. John Thackery becomes the newly appointed chief of surgery and battles his addictions along with his ambition. He clashes with the hospital’s benefactor when he is asked to hire Dr. Algernon Edwards, an African American. Fighting against bills, high mortality rates, and occasionally each other, Thackery and Edwards struggle to attract the right clientele while still providing quality care.
The opening ten minutes of the pilot of The Knick are among the most disgusting and pulse-pounding scenes in television in a long time and it is impossible to look away. The Knick is killer television, expertly blending in the typical medical drama tropes along with the tropes of period drama. Soderbergh has woven an intricate, gritty foray into a time where going into surgery was just as risky as not doing it at all.
The acting is also up to standards as an actor with tremendous pedigree leads talented cores of actors. Clive Owen is great as Thackery and the fights he faces week to week are thrilling to watch. Andre Holland has a lot to work with as well as Algernon Edwards, a skilled surgeon who also has to face the scrutiny of being a black man in a white hospital. Juliet Rylance also stands out as Cornelia Robertson, the main benefactor to the Knickerbocker who constantly butts heads with Thackery.
The Knick is daring and thrilling television searing with historical detail and medical muck. Though hard to watch at times, the operation scenes leave you on the edge of your seat. With Soderbergh’s direction and Cliff Martinez’s score, The Knick has a modern feel to it that doesn’t feel anachronistic to the time period it’s portraying. With a bold start, The Knick is shaping up to be the best medical drama on television.
The Knick is one Fridays @9 pm on Cinemax.