Boasting a large and consummate ensemble cast, Chicago Hope bears all the winningly eccentric, quirky, creative ticks, which are the instantly recognisable hallmark's of Ally McBeal creator, David E. Kelley's stewardship.
The series chronicles the turbulent professional and private lives of the staff of the Chicago Hope Hospital, a high profile, ultra modern medical facility based, like its rival ER, in American's second city. Chicago Hope was initially perhaps unfortunate to premiere directly opposite the hugely successful ER and partly because of this and the fact that the early episodes were almost unremittingly serious, it faced an early struggle to find a secure and appreciative audience base. However, to combat this, as the season progressed the tone of the episodes was increasingly lightened and a number of younger, more relaxed characters were introduced to help bring a more humanistic dimension to the moral and ethical dilemmas, both private and professional, which formed the core of the series complexly intertwined storylines. This approach proved to be the key to the show's future success, and from the second season onwards, viewer loyalty as well as critical acclaim began to build steadily.
Aside from consistently good writing and challenging storylines, the real delight of the series lies in the uniform excellence of the large ensemble cast of talented actors who effortlessly breath life into the interesting and well drawn characters of the hospital's staff.
Holding centre stage is Hector Elizondo's wonderfully judged bedrock performance as the perpetually put upon Chief of Staff Dr. Phillip Watters, the person charged with the often thankless, always challenging task of balancing hospital politics and desires, egos and his problems of his often brilliant, but rebellious staff, and that staff boasts some of the cream of the US acting profession employed to peak effect, including Dr. Aaron Shutt, (Adam Arkin), a world-renowned neurosurgeon who has recently returned to the operating theatre following a long story arc which saw the character forced to abandon surgery for a time following, ironically, a brain injury of his own for a brief foray into the field of psychiatry. Another outstanding character is Broadway musical star Mandy Patinkin's Dr. Jeffrey Geiger, a troubled surgical genius who has recently returned to the show following a lengthy absence in the pivotal position of the hospital Board Chairman, dedicated to ensuring that the renowned institution maintains its commitment to curing, whilst maintaining its ability to generate serious money.
Although somewhat unfairly eclipsed by the massively, all-pervading presence of rival medical drama ER, the five-time Emmy Award winning Chicago Hope proved to be in its own right an expertly produced and acted medical drama of the highest order.
Published on December 3rd, 2018. Written by Laurence Marcus for Television Heaven.