Review: Casualty’s Mid-life Crisis

September 12, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

casualty.jpgBBC1, Saturday 13th September, 8.20pm Alert Me

This Saturday, Casualty is a whopping twenty-three series old and all of a sudden it’s feeling a little reflective.  The longest running emergency medical drama series in the world, it has been plodding on in weekly strides for 12 years and is deeply embedded in the BBC’s weekend TV slot.  Now it’s back, but it seems to be in the throws of some sort of mid-life crisis.

Over the years, patients have come and gone (most to get roles in Eastenders or The Bill), doctors have fooled around with nurses, and nurses have fooled around with paramedics.  Faces may have altered but the format remains, still opening with shots of an unwitting member of the public, filling you with a kind of bored dread as you wonder what horrific injury they’re about to suffer and then remember that you’ve been here before and you’re actually kind of numb.

It cannot be denied that episode one, a cliff-hanging two-parter, is dramatic.  There are some genuinely edge-of-seat moments mostly involving the impalement of someone on a spike and the rescue of people from a burning building.  But the main thrust of the thing is a sort of indulgent stretch out on the shrink’s couch as the show attempts a self-reflective profundity by splicing the action with snippets of personal reflection.

Called ‘Farmead Menace’ in reference to the nearby council estate, which is the main source of their A and E patients, a documentary crew follow the hospital staff as they pull together in an alarming crisis.  This is all just a bit cheesy.  Although there are some genuinely funny moments, i.e. Big Mac the porter trying to have his say, the overall effect of the documentary ploy is a spurious attempt at social commentary- Casualty cheering on the NHS as if the fictional hospital drama actually had some affiliation with the real-life institution.

By the end of the episode you feel a bit violated, as though you’ve just emerged from being an impromptu ear for a stranger’s woes on the bus to work, which potentially could have left you touched but actually it all just seems inappropriate and you’re simply glad to get away as you pull up to your stop.

By Susan Allen