Does the world of television need yet another medical drama?
The answer depends on where you sit—for an audience weary of disease-of-the-week medical series, the answer is probably no.
But for a producer who knows that good medical shows hook audiences in, the chance to do something different must be irresistible.
Enter The Good Karma Hospital, a medical comedy-drama with a difference.
While its opening scenes show our heroine, distressed young doctor Ruby Walker (Amrita Acharia, Irri from Game of Thrones) coping with a serious relationship breakdown with a side order of bullying from an officious nurse at her English hospital, things are about to change.
Dr Ruby has taken refuge in the bathroom to try to control her raw emotions, and someone has left behind a magazine featuring a tantalising full-page advertisement for work opportunities at a swish Indian hospital, with plenty of sun and sea.
On arrival in India, Ruby finds that for her the supposed swanky hospital is a mirage, as she is taken to the basic but quaintly-named The Good Karma Hospital with its mix of eccentric medical staff and real medical and social issues faced in an under-resourced hospital in a developing country.
The leading light of the hospital is experienced yet crusty Dr Lydia Fonseca (Amanda Redman of New Tricks fame). Brusque in the extreme, she breezes in with a dismissive attitude towards her latest recruit. However, her tough exterior hides a softer heart that she occasionally reveals.
While Redman and her partner of convenience Greg O’Connell (Neil Morrissey) are obviously Caucasian, the delight in this series is that the cast is a welcome melting pot of mixed ethnicities, from hospital owner Ram Nair, played by veteran Indian actor Darshan Jariwala, to young surgeon Dr Varma (James Floyd), who has an English father and Indian-Singaporean mother. Acharia has a Nepalese-Ukrainian background but grew up in Norway with her medical practitioner father and family.
Episode one reflects the cultural difficulty of a couple with several daughters who are determined that the current baby will be a boy. But it’s another girl, and we witness some heartbreaking scenes of rejection before a human touch intervenes and the baby is accepted, despite being the ‘wrong’ gender.
The lack of operating theatres in the under-resourced hospital also ends in tragedy, with only one young victim of an accident being saved. Overall this series delves into what are very real issues for people and medical services in rural India.
If you like your medical shows with a dose of reality, good scripts and an interesting and diverse range of medical staff, this is the one for you.