WHAT IT’S ABOUT Dr. Conrad Hawkins (Matt Czuchry, “The Good Wife”) is senior resident at Chastain Park Memorial Hospital in Atlanta in “The Resident.” He’s smart enough, also insufferable, and puts the new resident, Dr. Devon Pravesh (Manish Dayal) through first-day-on-the-job torture. Pravesh rises to the challenge because, while Hawkins may be obnoxious, he fundamentally has a good heart. That may be why his ex-girlfriend, a nurse practitioner, Nicolette Nevin (Emily VanCamp, “Revenge”) and a young doctor from Nigeria, Mina Okafor (Shaunette Renée Wilson), put up with him. Meanwhile, there’s the top dog at Chastain, Dr. Randolph Bell (Bruce Greenwood), an ethically compromised careerist who kills patients under his care but somehow avoids the crush of medical malpractice suits he so richly deserves. Then there’s oncologist Dr. Lane Hunter (Melina Kanakaredes), who observes the zoo and its two alpha-male zookeepers from a cautious remove.
MY SAY Young Dr. Hawkins is the sort of guy you’d like to punch in the face, except his face is too cute to punch and, besides, the face of old Dr. Bell is even more punchable. But he has a cute face too, so let’s just forget about punching anyone’s face for the moment. Instead, let’s ask the big questions, like: How could two good actors end up playing such obnoxious characters in a boilerplate medical drama that sets out to make them so contemptible in the first place?
Here’s one possible answer: So that viewers will align themselves with those residents who actually are likable and relatable and who also, as fate would have it, have cute faces too. That’s the conceit of “The Resident,” also the structure, and — with two episodes as evidence — it actually appears workable.
Hawkins and Bell stake positions at the extreme opposite ends of the medical ethics spectrum. Hawkins wants to ultimately do the right thing, even if that means doing the wrong thing, such as mercy-killing a brain-dead patient without parental or legal consent. Bell also wants to do the right thing, as long as “right” means keeping him at the top. As chief of surgery, he’s lost his fastball. His hands shake, he can’t learn new skills, and he knows the career clock is ticking. That means he must do a lot of wrong things just to survive.
So there you have it: A familiar medical show filled with broad strokes and broad characters that might — like “The Orville” and “9-1-1” — bring some viewers to the party too.
BOTTOM LINE Painfully familiar hospital drama that starts off sloppy but improves.