Magazine article The Spectator

Comprehensive Prescription

Magazine article The Spectator

Comprehensive Prescription

Article excerpt

IT would have been fun to be at the planning meeting for Harley Street (ITV, Thursday), the new medical drama series about a group of stunningly good-looking doctors in private practice. 'Look, we get all the bloody bits, the emotional traumas, and the scenes where someone's pushed down a hospital corridor on a trolley at about 40mph while the doctor yells incomprehensible instructions -- plus money! And fabulously beautiful settings!' 'Yurss, problem is, people love the NHS.

They suspect Harley Street is for hedge fund managers and diplomats from corrupt tyrannies. They're not going to identify.' 'So, we make the doctors deeply caring.

One of them is black -- ticks the inclusive box. Why not have him refuse unneeded skin injections to a young model who's in the grip of an evil scumbag manager? So he pretends to give the injection but takes the cash anyway.' 'That makes him look crooked.' 'No, but he only sends the evil scumbag out to get the cash so he can make it look like he did give the injection! Now, the young white doctor.'

'He has to be a serial shagger, so we can get lots of women in their underwear giving him simulated oral sex. But, I know, he gets attached to a poor mad patient whose pregnant wife is in turmoil.' 'Enough?' 'Maybe not. Why not make his sick father morally opposed to private health care?

Turns out he's getting terrific treatment from the NHS -- great news for our C, D, E viewers.' 'Another thing -- we've signed James Fox.

Who does he play?' 'He plays James Fox, of course -- doesn't matter what name we give him . . . ' Problems, problems. It must have taken scores of meetings to work the thing out.

Shows like this look clipped together from disparate parts, as if a child had taken all their favourite Lego bits and stuck them to each other. The result is interesting but doesn't resemble anything you'd recognise.

Harley Street is, though, quite a bold experiment. Unlike American soap operas (Dallas, Dynasty) which are generally about the rich, British soaps tend to be about the poor -- Corrie, EastEnders, Emmerdale. Presumably producers fear that we will resent wealthy people, whereas Americans aspire to be like them. …

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