Presidio Med

Tobias Peterson

Diverges from ER in that it is, oddly, more conservative.

Presidio Med

Airtime: Wednesdays, 10 PM EST
Cast: Blythe Danner, Dana Delany, Anna Deavere Smith, Sasha Alexander, Julianne Nicholson, Oded Fehr, Paul Blackthorne
Display Artist: John Wells, Lydia Woodward, Chris Chulack
Network: CBS
Creator: Chris Chulack

Two aspects of Presidio Med made it noteworthy even before its debut. First, as promotional spots repeated, it's "from the makers of ER." Technically, this means that executive producer John Wells is a member of the same creative team that developed ER, winner of 17 Emmys and a Peabody Award.

Second, Presidio Med has a distinguished cast, mostly female, which marks one major difference from ER. Blythe Danner (perhaps best known now as Gwyneth Paltrow's mother) plays Dr. Harriet Lanning, a matronly OB/GYN who counsels the other women doctors on staff. Among these is Dr. Rae Brennan (Dana Delany, who returns to a medical drama after her acclaimed role as an Army nurse in China Beach), who, in the show's debut, returns to San Francisco after a stint in a medical camp in Pakistan. Anna Deavere Smith (The West Wing) plays Dr. Letty Jordan, a straightforward, no-nonsense cardiologist, Sasha Alexander (Dawson's Creek) is Jackie Colette, a carefree, policy-bending plastic surgeon, and Julianne Nicholson (who appeared on Ally McBeal) plays the fiercely independent pediatrician, Dr. Jules Keating.

As strong-willed as these characters might sound, to describe Presidio Med as "ER for women" would be a gross simplification. If it appeals to a female demographic, it does so with complications, at once mobilizing gendered stereotypes while also gesturing toward a more progressive notion of women in medical dramas (as doctors and not nurses, as featured protagonists and not tangential characters or the love interests of male leads).

In addition to its lineup of women doctors, Presidio Med diverges further from ER in that it is, oddly, more conservative. Rather than a kinetic, chaotic emergency room, filled with blood flying, chests being cracked, and tubes being fed into the bodies of accident victims, Presidio Med takes place in a private practice, where patients arrive calmly and by appointment, for treatment of non-life-threatening ailments (at least, they're not usually life-threatening). This calmer mood prevails even in the set design, as deep purple and wood grain replace the halogen-glazed linoleum of ER's trauma rooms.

Rather than emergencies on the premiere episode, we see a small boy being treated for cat scratches and a woman undergoing liposuction. Certainly, not every case on ER is a bus crash and not every patient on Presidio Med will have only minor scrapes (the second episode featured a firefighter who was a burn victim). But the general set up is clear: as employees of a private hospital, the women doctors are far removed from ER's "masculine" action.

The doctors themselves have stereotypically feminine specialties or concerns. Harriet is an OB/GYN, and scenes of her delivering babies bookend the show's debut. Jackie's first operative act is the aforementioned liposuction procedure. Plastic surgery is not the exclusive domain of women (on the show, a 14-year-old boy later comes in wanting a nose job), but the pressure to conform to unrealistic body types and features has resulted in more women undergoing plastic surgery than men. Consequently, Jackie's medical focus skews to a majority of female patients.

Even when their medical specialties are not specifically focused on women's "issues," the doctors' "femininity" is frequently underlined. Jules has a growth on one of her ovaries and worries that she might not be able to have children. Rea is alternately troubled by her inattentive husband and tempted by Dr. Nicholas Kokoris (The Mummy's Oded Fehr), a mysterious doctor who follows her from Pakistan (where they worked together at the camp) in an attempt to woo her to his side. Babies and husbands dominate the lives of these characters, as babies and appearances dominate the professional lives of Drs. Lanning and Colette.

Whether through their medical focus (gynecology, plastic surgery), their personal problems (fertility, the other man), or their working environment (clean, quiet, and safe), the women doctors of Presidio Med neatly align with stereotypical notions of femininity. While they are ostensibly progressive models of successful professionals, Presidio Med offers nothing, other than their careers, to distance them from traditionally gendered roles or behaviors. While they are at the pinnacle of their careers in a male-dominated line of work, they are also very much conventional "women."

This kind of stereotyping is not limited to the women (or even American) characters, however. The show also mobilizes conservative masculine stereotypes: the only male doctor on staff, Dr. Matt Singerland (Paul Blackthorne), gets into a fistfight while playing basketball, is dumped by one blonde before immediately trying to pick up the next, and obsesses about sports. With his British accent, Singerland comes off as a testosterone-charged version of Hugh Grant, without any of the polite behavior.

In light of PM's stereotypical representations, ER, ironically and despite its preponderance of male protagonists, offers a more unusual woman doctor in Kerry Weaver (Laura Innes, this month's Advocate cover girl), a lesbian who runs the emergency room with efficiency and authority. As a lesbian with authority in a difficult situation, Weaver's sexuality expands the usual concept of professional women in the workplace. By comparison, Presidio Med's highly feminized doctors conform to a much more rigid set of social expectations about women. Weaver, of course, is only one woman on ER. Nonetheless, she pushes expectations and possibilities much further than Presidio Med does.

So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.