June 4, 2014

THE SKED Pilot + 1 Review: “The Night Shift”



A lot can happen between the creation of a TV pilot and the production of regular episodes: writer/producers may be hired or fired, audience focus groups weigh in, networks and studios (which may have had their own turnover) give plenty of notes, helpful and otherwise, and critics start to rear their ugly heads. Tone, pace, casting, and even story can change. Here at THE SKED, we’re going to look past the pilots and present reviews of the first regular season episodes as well.

Previously… on THE NIGHT SHIFT:  On the 7PM-7AM shift at San Antonio Medical Center, Dr. TC Callahan (Eoin Macken) is the rebellious yet brilliant ex-Army medic who’s willing to break all the rules, damn it, because all he cares about are his patients.  His ex, Jordan Alexander (Jill Flint), is the new head of the night shift, and the resident psychiatrist, Landry de La Cruz (Daniella Alonso) is his current romantic interest.  One of TC’s ex-Army buddies, Topher (Ken Leong), is also on the hospital night shift, and another vet, Drew (Brendan Fehr), is a macho guy who’s hiding the fact that he’s gay.  There are also a couple of fresh interns around–one fearless, one neurotic–and the hospital bureaucracy is represented by Michael Ragosa (Freddie Rodriguez), who fumes every time TC ignores procedure, and who is secretly losing his sight.

Episode 2:  Nothing in The Night Shift‘s second hour suggested any interest in being more than a Grey’s Anatomy knock-off, without any of that show’s style or plotting skill.  The centerpiece medical case of the episode, written by series creators Gabe Sachs and Jeff Judah, and directed by Bill Johnson, was a “this time it’s personal” crisis, in which the local cop brought in with a chest wound wasn’t just one of TC’s comrades from Afghanistan, but the one who received the transplanted heart of TC’s brother after the brother died in combat.  Naturally, TC was desperate to keep the man alive, but it wasn’t to be, once Topher’s patient, a suicidal drug addict who’d jumped out a hospital window, pulled through, denying TC’s friend a second miracle transplant. The B story had Landry dealing with a young boy who, in one facet of his multiple personality disorder, was beating his mother.  The minor storylines included squeamish intern Cummings (Robert Bailey, Jr) hazed by being forced to examine a succession of senior citizens with STDs, and Kenny (J.R. Lemon) treating a groom whose beard turned out to be hiding a variety of Aryan and Nazi tattoos.  Meanwhile, Ragosa, who’s not having much fun so far, disclosed to Landry that his wife had left him and taken their children.

The Night Shift is a medical soap built entirely on cliches.  Even though TC and Jordan are no longer a couple and TC has a new girlfriend, it’s only a matter of time until they’re making a mess of the situation.  (When TC visited his brother’s grave at the end of the episode, it was Jordan who knew to find him there.)  TC’s reckless flouting of all rules is already getting tiresome. and although the actors are generally fine, the characters give them little to work with.  The medical stories are either ludicrously contrived (the patient with his doctor’s dead brother’s heart) or obvious to anyone who’s seen a medical show before.  It’s sad to report that even as cruddy summer medical soaps go, The Night Shift is worse than ABC’s Black Box, which at least has Kelly Reilly and some half-interesting neurological cases going for it.

NBC has given The Night Shift its prime summer timeslot, airing after the summer hit America’s Got Talent, and although Night Shift lost almost half its lead-in last week, that was still enough for an easy win in its hour.  Since that lead-in should remain solid, Night Shift may qualify as a “success” if it can hold up, but if that’s the case, it certainly won’t be because the show itself is providing much in the way of quality.

ORIGINAL VERDICT:  Change the Channel

PILOT + 1:  In Critical Condition


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."