Thursday, October 3, 2013

My All-Time Favorite Series – Workplace Drama

One of my readers, (thank you Marge) asked if I'd recommend my top ten series and once I got started, well, try as I might to winnow down the list, my top ten grew, I ended up with sixteen — and even that was a sacrifice!  So to spare you all, I'm breaking up my favorites into segments and I hope you'll agree with, watch, and enjoy my choices or if you disagree, post your favorites in the Comments section and set me straight!

Where's George Clooney??
There are many hospital dramas but this one has it all.  At County General Hospital, our main guy, Dr. Mark Greene is a balding thirty-something who struggles with being a great doctor as well as a good husband, father, human being and, not surprisingly, those roles are continually in conflict. Created by Michael Crichton, long-running ER (1994 - 2009)  gave us George Clooney, Julianna Margulies, Noah Wylie, Maura Tierney, Mehki Phifer, Goran Visnjic, Thandie Newton, Julie Delpy, among a host of fine actors who are still popular— long after ER's fifteen terrific seasons came to an end.  What I liked most about this medical ensemble was the interplay between the crushing demands of their work, the painful crises of their relationships, and the intimacy created by those tensions.

Some of the regulars on Third Watch
I passed over all the police dramas that came before and after to select Third Watch (1999 - 2005) because this series followed police, firefighters, and EMS personnel through their daily drama of saving others while their own lives were spinning out of control.  The cast of characters — Sullivan, Yokas, Boscorelli, Davis, Nieto, Dougherty, Zambrano, and Taylor — seemed to be just real people embroiled in real life at work and at home. There were the good-looking stand-outs (actors Coby Bell, Eddie Cibrian, Bobby Carnevale, Kim Raver) but most of the players were your everyday, ordinary sort of folks you'd see in uniform on any city street corner.  While watching them do heroic work, we also witnessed their alcoholism, regret, sexism, infidelity and all the other flaws that made them (and us) human. [NOTE: I confess I have never seen The Wire...]

The West Wing (1999 - 2006) If ever there was a crazy, fast-paced workplace, this deeply driven and demanding chaotic office inside the White House was it.  I love the West Wing and Aaron Sorkin.  If you haven't already, read both links to find out why.

Mad Men (2007 - )  Though this wasn’t my exact era I can  completely relate to the times, the cerebral chic, and the bustle of working on Madison Avenue.  The office environment n this series was much as it was when I was working at Random House.  People drank like fish and while the execs didn’t have visible bars in their offices (this was the 70s) they did have bottles in their desks or credenzas.  Alcohol was a basic part of your day.  We drank at lunch, we drank after work.  Every day.  And it was all hard liquor — I can’t remember anyone drinking beer or wine.  Scotch was my drink of choice.  There were forays into Bourbon Manhattans, Kamikazes and White Russians (for dessert) but in those days, I always came back to Scotch — Dewar’s on the rocks with a twist at lunch and Johnnie Walker Red anytime after five.  I wonder I lived through it.

In an earlier post I wrote about Mad Men, but I still haven't tired of Don Draper, Peggy Moss, Roger Sterling and all the other deliciously entertaining members of Sterling, Cooper, Draper, Price and luckily there's more to come.  From “Last week, AMC announced that the final season of Mad Men, like that of Breaking Bad before it, will be split in two, with the first seven episodes airing in the spring of 2014 and the final seven one year later.”  Geez.  They sure know how to make you wait.

This is by far the most unusual and interesting workplace we see on series television because it's not an ensemble but almost a one-man show.  Following the Israeli show it's based on, In Treatment (2008 - 2011) takes you on a journey of psychological exploration of why we do what we do — to ourselves and to those we love.  Dr. Paul Weston is a psychiatrist and Monday to Thursday each episode focuses on his session with one of his patients — on Friday Dr. Weston sees his therapist.  As Gabriel Byrne listens and responds day after day, week after week, we see the gaps and traps of each patient's story — the dueling couple, anorexic gymnast, suicidal Navy pilot, troubled teen, aging actress — you name it, Dr. Weston sits and absorbs the fears, lies, and frustrations of his clients — as he fields, feels, and occasionally fumbles his enormous responsibility (as shrink and actor) in this grueling marathon of a show.  Each of the three seasons introduces us to a new cast of four tortured souls as they are aided or abetted by this handsome doc.  For those of you who believe in the importance (and the power) of therapy, this is a voyeuristic view inside our insides.
TV has accustomed us to the anti-hero but in Nurse Jackie (2009 - ) this strong female — nurse, mom, and take-charge coworker — is seriously flawed — addicted to pain meds and working in a place that's conducive to supporting her habit.  Edie Falco is a delight to watch as Jackie bullies her way through the day while caringly and competently serving the patients and staff of All Saints Hospital.  We like Jackie.  She's a no-nonsense gal who's great at her job and focused on her family — except for her preoccupation with her habit and her affair with the hospital pharmacist who keeps her supplied.  Though her life was disintegrating (rehab, divorce, custody fight over the kids) Jackie's now back on track with her sobriety, a quirky team of doctors and nurses (Anna Deavere Smith is divine), and a new cop-boyfriend who really, really, really likes her — flaws and all.  Happy to report, not-your-average-Nurse Jackie's coming back for season six and we'll get to see how her now-drug-free life plays out.  Are you ready to watch?

Next up: My All-Time Favorite Series – Family Life


  1. "6 Feet Under" -- after the 5 seasons were over -- I actually needed bereavement counseling. -- I reeaaalllllyyy loved that show.....
    And the
    "The Wire" -- Whoa.....

    1. Well those are two I never saw and I do know The Wire universally gets high praise...I may have to invest in watching! Thanks!

  2. Dewar's!!!!! Oh yes, I remember 2 room-mates who had a stash in their Finch Dorm Room :) Who could that be !!!!

    1. Now was that me? I honestly can't remember...maybe it was all that hard liquor !

  3. Replies
    1. I liked Rescue Me but ... I can't say I felt compelled to watch it the way I did with these other series...but I did like it!