for peace … for freedom … for Canada

Monroe: Series 1

Release Year:    2011

Studio:    Acorn Media

Format:    Colour; NTSC; Widescreen

Rated:    Not Rated

# of Discs/Episodes:    2 / 6

Running Time:    274 minutes

DVD Release Date:    May 29, 2012

Screenwriters:    Peter Bowker

Directors:    Paul McGuigan, David Moore

Actors:    James Nesbitt, Tom Riley, Sarah Parish, Susan Lynch

DVD Features:    SDH subtitles

E: Top Picks Rating:    8.5/10

Acorn Media Write-up: 
With a dose of “House” dark humor and an infusion of humanity and warmth, the gripping medical drama, MONROE, debuts on DVD from Acorn Media. Acclaimed Irish actor James Nesbitt (“Murphy’s Law”, Woody Allen’s “Match Point”, and the upcoming “Hobbit” films) stars as Dr. Gabriel Monroe, a neurosurgical genius with a quick wit and a heart to match his titanic ego. Following no rules but his own, Monroe infuriates colleagues and terrifies interns with his glib repartee and arrogant self-regard. MONROE offers a riveting look inside the high-stakes medical profession. Series 1 premiered on ITV in March 2011; a second season has been commissioned. MONROE made its US debut on Acorn’s streaming service, Acorn TV, earlier this year but has not aired on US television.

Pitting his formidable skills against high-risk medical emergencies is only one of Monroe’s challenges. He and his team must also navigate the toll that medicine takes on patients and doctors – especially when dealing with their personal lives. As slick as he is with a scalpel, Monroe struggles at home as a husband and father, and at work he clashes with brusque heart surgeon Dr. Jenny Bremner (Sarah Parish, “The Pillars of the Earth”). Tom Riley (“Lost in Austen”) also stars.

Jon Ted Wynne Review:
Inevitably, the new British medical series MONROE will be compared to the American hit “House”. There, now that that is over with, MONROE can be discussed on its own merits and not on how well or poorly it compares to something else.

When the long-running police drama “The Bill” was cancelled from ITV’s line-up in 2010, one of the programs proposed as a replacement was a medical drama focusing on one central character (unlike many other ensemble-type shows set in hospitals). Obviously any program that relies on the charisma of one central actor stands or falls on the merits of that artist. Fortunately for MONROE, James Nesbitt is the star in question.

For many North Americans, their first significant exposure to Nesbitt’s talents was in the excellent police drama “Murphy’s Law”, which began with a healthy dose of humour and ended on a very dark note five seasons later. Monroe is a much more stable character than Murphy, though he is also a man of extremes, brutally honest about both his genius-level surgical skills and his personal flaws. Nesbitt has an inherent charm that works heavily in his favour as an actor, allowing him to portray meanness, even occasional pettiness, while reassuring the audience that these actions are temporary, that underneath he is a decent, sensitive guy.

The initial series of MONROE (this DVD set) is comprised of six episodes. Much of the first episode is exposition, and we quickly learn that Monroe has a wife on the verge of leaving him and a son just starting university. He’s a ladies’ man, which forms the basis of his wife’s distrust, loves to play poker with his colleagues, and has a family tragedy that, in part, drives him to do what he does.

Once the scenario is established, the plotting is allowed to take hold. While there are few surprises for anyone remotely familiar with medical dramas, it’s the reactions and responses of Monroe himself that really pique the viewer’s interest.

Of the supporting cast, there are no real stand-outs, but perhaps as the series grows (a second series has been commissioned) they will each have the chance to develop. Meantime, if you’ve ever wondered how hard it is for the actors in hospital dramas to spout technical terms, it isn’t easy. There is a great example in one of the later episodes of having to rattle off difficult medical terminology. It comes from the supporting character of Mullery, played by the young actor Andrew Gower in his first professional role. This feat is truly impressive to hear. Flashes like this suggest that the supporting characters will shine, given the chance.

One final note: even with Nesbitt at the helm, the character of Monroe has to be someone about whom we care. After the first five episodes his Irish wise-cracking charm was beginning to wear a bit thin. But towards the end of episode six, Monroe really let his guard down in one scene with his estranged wife. With a talent like Nesbitt, it’s a moment that makes the entire series worth it. It’s a pertinent and timely reminder of Nesbitt’s brilliance as an actor, as well as an overdue glimpse into the inner life of Dr. Gabriel Monroe, beneath the veneer. MONROE isn’t great hospital drama–yet–but it is developing into an outstanding character study. Fans of James Nesbitt won’t be disappointed.