Monroe Review: Series 2, Episode 1

MONROE: Monday 1st October, ITV1, 9pm

ITV1’s House-lite medical drama Monroe returned tonight for a second series of neuro-strife and former Yellow Pages flogger James Nesbitt was back as the complicated, wise-cracking protagonist of the show’s title. Gabriel Monroe is so non-conformist that he probably eats ice cream as his main and pasta for desert when he’s on a dinner-date. Though I don’t suppose he eats at traditional meal times, because he doesn’t play by the rules, the bloody maverick-genius.

Eighteen months have passed since the last episode, and this second series sees the arrival of Alistair Gillespie (Neil Pearson) as St Matthews’ new Head of Clinical Services. This alters the dynamic of the show, as Gillespie sets about undermining the titular neurosurgeon’s authority at every turn. His decision to hire Nurse Specialist Lizzie Clapham (Tracy-Ann Oberman) to provide emotional support for neuro and cardiac patients infuriates Monroe, who believes he should be talking to the patients himself.

The Monroe-Gillespie medical power struggle is one of the more interesting aspects of the programme. Monroe defies Gillespie by opting to perform potentially deadly surgery on a patient two other hospitals have deemed too risky to operate on. Said surgery is certainly more gruesome than your average hospital drama, with doctors prodding away at bloody bits of brain that look like raw slabs of steak. The tension is a little lacking, and the programme is hamstrung by the sense of predictability that Monroe’s big gamble will pay off in the end.

Sarah Parish’s sourpuss Dr Jenny Bremner has just returned from maternity leave to find that her role in the hospital has diminished. She also has a post-natal depression subplot which seems a little out of kilter with the rest of the show’s internal hospital politics, and a bit too Holby City. Her perma-miserable face resembles the look of someone who’s just found out they’re being transferred to work in Crewe.

Monroe’s got enough on his plate in his private life. His marriage has crumbled and he’s living alone in a bachelor pad. His son, who attends university, reveals he’s going to get hitched to a fellow student. All of which leads our doctor-hero to reach for the Merlot late in the evening. The high-functioning alcoholic doctor is a rather clichéd trope, shorthand for “mid-life crisisâ€?. James Nesbitt’s performance is engaging enough though, even if all his characters seem to just be a variation of James Nesbitt. Ah, the perils of being a ubiquitous TV actor.