When doctors watch medical shows on TV, we tend to roll our eyes. As a neurologist, I'm particularly critical when I see episodes about headaches always turning out to be brain tumors, stroke patients with mouths drooping on the wrong side, and coma patients waking up and jumping out of bed. So when I heard about a new CBS primetime series named for the weight of the human brain, 3 lbs, I must admit I had my doubts. But the show seems to have gotten it right…so far.
Its three main characters reflect personalities that you, as visitors to our offices, might recognize. Dr. Doug Hanson (played by Stanley Tucci) personifies the impersonal but talented neurosurgeon who wastes no time on pleasantries, while Dr. Jonathan Seger (Mark Feuerstein) is his touchy-feely protégé who likes to get to know his patients before operating on their brains. My favorite member of the medical team is, of course, Dr. Adrianne Holland (Indira Varma), the confident and reassuring neurologist. We like to try to solve all your problems without actually exposing your brain, she boasts in the pilot episode.
Indira would have made a terrific doctor, James M. Schumacher, M.D., the show's chief medical consultant, tells me. She has an unquenchable need to learn and a certain natural curiosity that make her perfect for this role.
Dr. Schumacher has been teaching her how a neurologist interacts with patients and showing her how to perform a real neurological exam. The Harvard-trained neurosurgeon travels from his Florida practice to the New York City set twice a month to advise on the more technically intensive scenes. He shows us how to handle every instrument during surgery, Feuerstein says. To prepare for his role, Feuerstein observed an old friend from high school remove a brain tumor. It was just an amazing experience for me, he says. It just blew my mind.
In one scene, Hanson operates on a tricky little astrocytoma in an area of the brain affecting language and memory. The anesthesiologist jokes, If you're ever resecting tissue in my temporal lobe, do me a favor and burn out junior high. That combination of entertaining humor and neuroanatomy-done-right has me hooked. And Dr. Schumacher hopes it will appeal to you, too. I want viewers to know that we are going to do our best to be ethical and that we are not going to deceive them, he says.
It's good to see a medical drama with a real doctor in the house.