July 15, 2014

THE SKED Season Finale Review: “The Night Shift”


For scripted network shows, a summer season is like a dog year, far more weighty than the regular kind.  The mortality rate is so high that just getting a renewal is a considerable feat, and a show like Rookie Blue, extended to a 5th season, might as well be Meet the Press.  So THE NIGHT SHIFT, which has survived its freshman hazing and will return in 2015, is worthy of some grudging respect.  (One might note that having America’s Got Talent as its lead-in didn’t hurt, but having Big Brother as a lead-in did less than nothing for CBS’s Reckless this summer, so that alone doesn’t define Night Shift‘s achievement.)  The series isn’t much more than a low-fi copy of Grey’s Anatomy, but it got the job done, at least for summer eyes.

In the grand tradition of medical season finales, tonight’s conclusion, written by staff writer Gabe Fonseca (the series creators/showrunners are Gabe Sachs and Jeff Judah), and directed by Vincent Misiano, threw a whole lot of human suffering against the wall.  The 2-part finale featured a hostage situation in an MRI examination room, the murder of one recurring cast member and shooting of series regular Topher (Ken Leong), a giant chemical plant explosion that filled the ER beyond capacity, serious medical news for hospital administrator Michael Ragosa (Freddy Rodriguez), and the long-coming PTSD meltdown of recklessly brilliant series hero T.C. Callahan (Eoin Macken) as he confessed his unintentional complicity in the death of his brother (a fellow soldier in Afghanistan), which naturally caused his ex (and recent ER boss) Jordan Alexander (Jill Flint) to offer him comfort just as her current boyfriend (and new ER  boss) Scott Clemmens (Scott Wolf) showed up to watch it happen.  Oh, and in case all that wasn’t enough, there’s every likelihood that Jordan will be arrested for murder next season because her idiot boyfriend suggested in front of a cop that she’d been negligent or worse in letting the drug trafficker who shot Topher die on her operating table.

Shonda Rhimes can get away with having a dozen melodramas all happen at once on her shows; Sachs and Judah aren’t in her class, and that potential murder investigation, for one, was downright laughable.  Still, The Night Shift was never boring, and even though Macken is about the hundredth darkly handsome series lead around unable to fully express his traumas, he’s got the charisma to pull it off (even if his Irish accent does poke through from time to time), and he makes a good TV couple with Flint.  The supporting ranks had some strength, too, with Rodriguez, initially introduced as a cliched beancounter, developing into a more nuanced character, with a nice not-quite-romance that formed with hospital shrink (and TC’s other ex) Landry de la Cruz (Daniella Alonso).  The show also did a decent job with the storyline of Drew Alister (Brendan Fehr), TC’s wartime buddy and fellow surgeon, who gradually came out of his military reserve closet.  Interns Cummings (Robert Bailey, Jr) and Krista (Jeananne Goossen) were less successfully drawn, he as a doofus and she as an undifferentiated bad-ass, but they were well played nonetheless.

The Night Shift is undemanding TV drama for viewers who can’t make their way to the cable part of the channel guide, and its low-end budget shows, but it’s a professional piece of work and, like Rookie Blue, a reliable machine for procedural storylines mixed with character-based soap.  It was originally planned as a midseason series, where it probably would have been on the critical list very quickly, but summer is the right season for it.  As with some of its luckier patients, its condition is stable.


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."