Tag Archives: NYC

Behind The Scenes Reality


You can’t make it through a week in New York City with out spotting a Haddad’s dressing room trailer. Movies and television shows are shot continuously throughout the year and throughout the boroughs. Whether the shot is an exterior (there is no substitute for the real city) or interior, the streets are lined with trailers and crews. In certain neighborhoods it’s next to impossible to not be in a background shot. Less elaborate shooting is harder to spot but most likely happens more frequently. Student films, illegal shoots (done without permit and too much attention), news crews, ‘celebrity’ interviews at events (oft times the category of ‘celebrity’ is broad enough to include those recognized only by their extended family), and the creator of ‘celebrity’; reality shows.

In this town, you can not swing a restylane filled cat without hitting a reality show participant or shoot. Cooking, chatting, mating, dieting, contest, gossip & housewife shows are all shot here. In addition there are several more niche shows that go in and out of production. There was a restaurant show, not a sitcom like It’s A Living (that was a nice little show) but a behind the scenes show (like anyone wants their worst fears of what happens in a restaurant kitchen confirmed). Currently a hospital reality show is being shot in NYC. A previous season was shot at a Boston hospital and now it’s our turn. If memory serves; an intern (or two or three) are followed and recorded and we learn a bit of their personal life (or it being a perpetually on-call intern; their lack of a personal life.) I suppose the premise is interesting for anyone contemplating a life in medicine. If it’s an interest in blood & gore one has, there are shows that do that kind of thing better. This series almost poses as eduinfotainment. Almost.

Ignoring for a moment the ethics (or simply good taste) of filming people experiencing a medical emergency (and it’s always a medical emergency being filmed; elective surgery rarely provides drama.) Let us instead consider the reality of this reality show. I was on set (otherwise known as accompanying someone to the E.R.) yesterday and had the opportunity to witness the sausage being made. Upon check-in I noticed a gaunt unnaturally white man clad in scrubs and carrying a handheld television camera like it was a scythe. There he was in Admitting. Oh look who’s that guy in Radiology? Wait didn’t I just see you in the ambulance bay? He’s Waldo sniffing out an ’emergency.’ And like a good made for T.V. movie, his prayers were answered. An elderly woman arrived in the throes of anaphylactic shock. She could speak and she could breathe, but it was serious. It was as if a bomb went off; the floor emptied and every nurse, doctor, and other scrub wearing personnel crammed into the bay. The 10 foot by 10 foot space came to resemble a clown car, with countless people entering and exiting. There was not a single nurse or physician available to the other patients in the E.R. for 45 minutes. The woman was intubated and moved to a room within 15 minutes. So what’s wrong with the math? Why did it take at least a dozen people to intubate a compliant elderly woman? Why did a 15 minute procedure waylay personnel for 45 minutes? Waldo. Not only did each doctor retell the horror and drama directly to the camera, a nurse slowly enacted calling for a room (which was already procured) for the camera. Doctors spoke fervently about the extreme danger and mystery of anaphylaxis and then disappeared back into the bowels of the hospital. The granddaughter of the patient, a weeping shaking teenager was all alone; except for the hospital handler guiding her to speak to the camera. If you’re still reading this, you might want to stop now.

For the next hour the nurses, interns, and attending physicians chatted excitedly about the event. Overheard was; “Oh my god I was like okay we can do this” and “Wow that was wild.” Now if I’m not mistaken an emergency room (in a world famous teaching hospital) sees its fair share of emergencies. Anaphylaxis is dangerous and certainly an emergency but is it rare? Is any emergency rare enough to warrant an OMG from the staff? The chatter, tempo and general ambience was that of a junior high school fire drill. Was it all for the benefit of Waldo? Does the very presence of a camera alter people’s behavior? Usually. Were there personnel that showed up for this particular emergency knowing the footage would make it into the final cut? A quick Google search verified those emergency guests are regulars on the show.

My guess is that this event will make for 10 minutes of footage (5 real minutes and 5 slow motion & recap moments.) What won’t make it onto the show are the patients that we left alone for 30-40 minutes at a time. We’ll never see the elderly incoherent patient never seen by a hospital handler let alone an actual doctor. The camera did not pick up on the man left on a gurney in the hallway for 7 hours while many bays were empty. The camera missed the attending physician checking on a patient without looking at the chart or asking any questions. The audience will never see this doctor making a surreal diagnosis completely unrelated to the presenting issue, answering his cell phone, and rushing out for his one-on-one with Waldo. Maybe I’m darker than most, but I’d watch that show.


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New York State Of Mind

I’ve always fancied myself the Carnac of human behavior and motivation.  I admit, I’ve been known to get flummoxed by habitual bad behavior (tantrums and bullying in the workplace, obliviousness of others in public, etc.) but by and large I find most behavior and/or language to be easily decipherable.  In truth even the bully at work is pretty simple; he fears being discovered, (it’s just difficult to remember that when the behavior takes on science fiction proportions.)  People grooming themselves in public or throwing their garbage at the feet of others, or talking at full volume (on the phone or at a baby) or polishing their nails on an airplane, aren’t evil they probably could have just greatly benefited from a firm swat on the behind at some point, as a gentle reminder that they are not in fact all alone in the universe.

I really do believe that there is very little we say or do that doesn’t speak to how we feel.  We may not know it at the time, but that doesn’t mean it’s not happening.  Of course this isn’t to say that everyone in our realm can read our minds.  A future mother-in-law asking a bride if she can wear black to the wedding, might feel very overweight and not in fact be planning a stealth boycott of the nuptials.  But I assure you there was some feeling behind the query.

So here I sit with my Dr. Nick’s Academy certificate in peopleology and I feel my training/talents ebbing.  I find myself less adept at reading intent.  It’s not slang or inflection or even means of communication that has me floundering.  I can see through all that as if it were mere cement and I engaged my super-x-ray vision.  I am beginning to suspect that my kryptonite, if you will, is the proliferation of snark.  I am fluent in the Don Rickles wannabe variety of snark (for the motivation of this genre of snark see bullying above.)  But there is a subtler variety, one that might even be categorized as “whining.”  On the street, and in the media, I keep hearing these urban whines: People complaining about the livability of the city.  It is objectively bizarre to begin with (ahem, have you ever heard of the 1970s?! you think Disneyfied NYC is hard?) but it also is completely illogical.  Unless you are in a witness protection program, presumably you are free to leave.

I suspect that these grumblings and mumblings are not the noise coming out of a jilted resident on his way back to Indiana.  I have a feeling that what all these complaints really mean is “I thought it would be different, and before you can point out how I’m not where I thought I’d be in life, I’m gonna shoot the first shot.”  But as I mentioned, I’m not entirely sure.  What I do know is that there is something cloyingly adolescent about the negative Nancy natterings.  Snide remarks about paying huge amounts to live in a tiny box, have a certain; “I meant to do that” element to them.  (By the way, when did people decide that what they were paying for in urban housing was somehow related to square footage?)  Speechifying about the dirty tiles in the subway station is reminiscent of a teenager kicking the gravel at the Colosseum and complaining to his parents; ‘it’s really dusty here.”

Negativity is every bit as contagious as happiness.  It also feeds itself like a cruise ship passenger.  It doesn’t make someone hip to hate, it just makes them a bit toxic.  If it’s too loud, too crowded, too hot, too cold, too pricey, too smelly, toodaloo.  It’s a big world, surely there’s someplace for everyone.  If in fact, the grumblings, whining, pithy-esque condemnations are not geographically specific and just a new hipster affectation/slang; ack!  Please let it run a swift course.

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Posted by on March 12, 2012 in Cultural Critique


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