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September 2011

Monroe - season 1

cast: James Nesbitt, Tom Riley, Sarah Parrish, Manjinder Virk, and Susan Lynch

creator: Peter Bowker

273 minutes (15) 2010
widescreen ratio 16:9
ITV Global DVD Region 2

RATING: 8/10
review by Matthew S. Dent

Monroe - season one

Monroe is a TV series about an acerbic-yet-genius doctor, with an attitude which borders on personality disorder, a scant number of friends, and a personal life like being strapped to the underside of a rollercoaster ride. Sounds a little... familiar, doesn't it? But before I get stuck into what makes Monroe tick, I'll put your doubts to rest. This is not House. Honestly, it doesn't even seem to be trying to be House - something which could maybe be forgiven, considering the near universal appeal of Hugh Laurie's fame vessel.

Monroe might be a bit odd, but he never has the unhinged sociopath feel of House. He goes about his day with a gleeful energy, and actually responds like an adult to setbacks and problems. The mocking of his hapless 'best friend' is similar to House, but really I think that's just the 'friendship' model which TV and film are working to at the moment.

So, if it's not House, how does Monroe stand in its own right? Actually, it's rather good. James Nesbitt has been floating around this sort of very British TV drama for a long while now, and he's gotten very good at it. He's funny and entertaining to watch, and at the same time maintains a sense of believability. The rest of the cast aren't quite up to Nesbitt's standard, but they perform admirably, oscillating between likable and not, as a real person might.

Sarah Parish's performance as emotionally challenged cardiac surgeon Jenny Bremner struggles to begin with, but as the story progresses her character comes into its own a bit more, through a relationship twist that I hope the writers didn't intend to surprise anyone.

There were, to begin with, problems with the pace. From the first episode, there's very little exposition and straight into neurosurgery and the mad life of Gabriel Monroe. It might be replicating the all-go life of the medical professional, but as an entertainment drama it's a little unsettling, and risks alienating some viewers. However, as the story pans out over the series, you adjust to the pace, and it becomes fairly engaging. It's well written, and the sympathy created for the characters is demonstrated midway through with a personal crisis episode that actually works.

So, overall, I'd say this is certainly one of the better new British TV series I've seen recently. It's entertaining, and finishes on a note that says there is certainly more mileage in the tank - without resorting to the somewhat suspect renewal-seeking tactic of ending on a cliff-hanger. It's a good, entertaining series, and there are a lot worse things you could waste your time on.



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