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.