Porters: Life in the Hospital Underbelly

Premise

An aspiring doctor starts as a hospital porter (orderly in North American parlance) determined to work his way up to the lofty heights of doctor-hood.

This is a pretty slim premise and I admit, I didn’t tune in because of it. No, I wanted to see how Rutger Hauer fit into a British TV series.

But after one episode, I’m sold. The aspiring doctor finds out what life is like as part of a team of porters in a UK hospital and this is the most appealing aspect. We’re not following the doctors and all that life-n-death stuff. There are no whining patients, no dramatic races to the emergency ward, just pure comedy as we watch porters pick up the pieces after everyone’s dead… or are they?

This is the medical equivalent of (if you can imagine it) Star Trek: Red Shirts. These are the people who do the real work and get none of the glory, and it’s fun to watch.

Casting

I’m almost always impressed with the balance of personalities in UK productions and Porters does this well. Between the porters and the nurse in charge, the bases are covered. Despite the slim premise, this well-balanced cast brings this show to life.

Directing

No complaints here. One way to tell if a director is doing his job is to compare the performances of the least—and most—experienced actors. If the experienced players are holding their own while the inexperienced seem… off somehow, the director isn’t living up to his title.

But in Porters, I see none of that. The acting works no matter who’s doing it. And by the way, you’ll see a guest appearance by a well-known US actor that’s a treat to watch.

Story

Introductory episodes aren’t always long on emotional involvement what with all those character and situational introductions to get out of the way. But here we’re grabbed by our shirtfronts and dragged into young aspiring doctor’s pain and embarrassment after he makes the mistake of answering a dead patient’s cell phone. The other porters all get into the act to help him regain his emotional equilibrium in a very satisfying way.

Plot

This opening episode isn’t long on plot—again due to intro stuff—but it does manage to crank one out during the latter half of the episode. It’s slim—to be expected in a comedy of this type—but the mechanics play out well and serve to cement Young Aspiring Doctor’s relationship with the rest of the porter team.

Writing

A lot of British comedies of this kind will rely on banter, those annoying exchanges where characters stand around explaining every second word because no one’s listening to anyone. None of that here. Conversations are natural, but find funny every step of the way. My hat is off to Zeff and Sefton, the Dans who make up the writing staff. These guys know their stuff and wrote an engaging first episode.

Conclusion

This series could be the new Red Dwarf out of the Dave studios. With a fine well-balanced cast, writers who aspire to that greatness displayed by the Grant/Naylor team and a director who keeps all the kittens in the box, Porters could go far.

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