Academic journal article Estudios Irlandeses - Journal of Irish Studies

The Clinic (RTE)

Academic journal article Estudios Irlandeses - Journal of Irish Studies

The Clinic (RTE)

Article excerpt

With recent successes in Irish television drama, including The Clinic (which completed its fourth series in 2006), Bachelors Walk (2001), Pure Mule (2004) and the long running urban soap opera Fair City (1989-to date), it's safe to suggest that television drama in Ireland is in renaissance. An ensemble medical drama serial, based on an original idea by Orla Bleahon Melvin of Irish-based production company Parallel Films, The Clinic links with the international explosion of medical drama, particularly since the 1990s, on our television screens. This Irish medical drama was developed independently in collaboration with Ireland's national public service broadcaster, RTE. Given the history of television drama in Ireland, that journeyed from high activity in the 1960s and 1970s to almost extinction by the 1980s with a trickle of renewal in the 1990s, it is significant that RTE has invested and committed, on a long term basis, to this production.

Parallel Films, the independent production company that produces The Clinic, is a high profile and successful Irish television and film production company, set up originally in 1993 by Alan Moloney to concentrate on feature films and television dramas. Its credits include cinema releases Last of the High Kings (David Keating 1996), A Love Divided (Syd Macartney 1999) and Breakfast on Pluto (Neil Jordan 2005) and the highly acclaimed television dramas Amongst Women (1997), Falling for a Dancer (1998), Showbands (2005/06) and The Clinic. Reflecting changes in the production environment in America whereby many talented writers and directors are more focussed on becoming involved in television drama than feature films due to the changing face of film production in an era of globalisation, Parallel Productions has carved out a niche for itself within the Irish production environment by producing four critically and popularly acclaimed series of The Clinic. While film production tends to be the focus of analysis for many issues around identity within Irish Studies discourse, due to its critical mass this series raises key questions about identity within contemporary Irish society and reflects many of the conflicting allegiances between "Boston and Berlin" that frame our economic, cultural and ideological sensibilities in the twenty-first century. Scrutinising this drama within its generic boundaries reveals many narrative tensions reflective of a society in flux.

The medical drama is one of the most enduring, flexible yet self-contained genres within the television schedule. Since the evolution of television, each decade has produced memorable medical dramas in Britain and America. One of the nascent examples, Dr. Kildare existing first in book, radio and film form, was then transformed into the highly successful television series from the 1960s, featuring young, eager intern Dr. Kildare (Richard Chamberlain) and his more senior mentor and superior Dr. Gillespie (Raymond Massey). From the outset the US medical drama was a locus for human emotional stories explored through the intertwining narratives between on-screen characters. In the 1950s and 1960s these dramas centred on narratives that endorsed and reassured the audience of the medical profession and hospital system in a paternalistic way, principally through the lead doctor who was often portrayed as infallible and god-like. As it evolved and changed over time, medical drama challenged this portrayal, reflecting the change in mood in 1970s America in particular, where the growing counter cultural section of society was questioning and challenging the status quo. This manifested itself in a shift from the emphasis on one or two doctors to an ensemble of medics working in a team. M*A*S*H (1973-1982), one of the most successful television shows of all time, is the genesis of much of the medical drama on our television screens today. Doctors working in a "war zone", not in control of their environment, susceptible to many outside forces and where medicine is a game of roulette, is a scenario not all to unfamiliar in contemporary medical drama. …

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