Monroe Review: James Nesbitt In The House!

MONROE: Thursday 10th March, ITV1, 9pm

First things first: this is not House. Yes, it is a medical drama about a maverick doctor (in this case a neurosurgeon) who has a troubled past (his daughter died of a brain tumour) and is married to his job (leaving his family and friends as second best). But there are fundamental differences. Where Hugh Laurie’s character goes out of his way to avoid contact with patients, family or… well, anybody, Monroe frequently spends time allaying the fears of people he is in contact with. House has a crack team of doctors to help him solve complex medical mysteries, whereas Monroe – although an expert at brain-prodding – seems to get normal cases. Plus, House treats everyone like idiots and has such bad manners that you sometimes start to wonder if rudeness is his profession, whereas James Nesbitt is nice to those who deserve it and rude to those who irk him. Basically, both House and Monroe could save your life, but Monroe won’t make you feel like an idiot while he does it.

Tonight’s first episode sees Monroe treating Alison, an unfortunate woman with a brain tumour – a fairly routine event for a neurosurgeon, one would imagine. We meet his students, Dr Wilson – no, not the one from House – and the cocky Dr Springer whose attempts to form an alliance with one of the other students are met with “I heard you were a bit of a dick.â€? Very true. Dr Wilson sets out her stall as a serial fainter – surely a barrier for a prospective surgeon – by collapsing at the sight of Monroe prodding his patient’s brain (but he likes her, so it’s okay). One of the first lessons in neurosurgery Monroe gives to his two protégées is this: “You’re about to take a knife to somebody’s head. The only difference between you and a psychopath is that you have better A-Levels.â€? A great line, although possibly unfair to psychopaths – some of whom could be very well educated as anyone who has seen Silence of the Lambs will testify.

Anyway, Alison has a tumour in her head that needs to be removed, otherwise it will increase in size and she is unlikely to live for more than five years. Unsurprisingly, she and her fiancé are a little worried about brain surgery and so Monroe gives the chap a pep talk which involves him explaining how he was in the same position and chose the surgery. A stirring moment to be sure, but at the end of the episode he confesses, “for what it’s worth, I’d have done exactly the same thing. Then again, I am a bit of a twat.â€? Maybe he should have mentioned that at the beginning?

There is also a sub-plot involving Monroe’s family, who are obviously less-than-thrilled about the amount of time he spends at the hospital. His son is getting ready to go away to Uni, and the family have a restaurant reservation booked so they can go out together. But, as you can imagine, Monroe misses the meal, exasperating both his wife and son and leading to some rather unwelcome news later in the episode. There is also some drama and an unexpected revelation, leaving the series looking like it could be very interesting and the viewer wondering how they managed to fit so much into this introduction. In fact, the whole thing moves at a terrifying pace, leaving you feeling satisfied, but also like you’ve been assaulted by a man with a bat made of charisma.