Surgical Spirit (1989–1995)
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The heroine, Dr. Sheila Sabatini (Nicola McAuliffe), is a consultant surgeon. In addition to dealing with the everyday crises of the wards, she has also to deal with a slightly wayward son, an Italian husband whom she is divorcing, an anaesthetist boyfriend who is slightly in awe of her and a scatterbrained administrator.
Most of the humour arises from the relations between Sabatini and her fellow-doctors, who are pretentious, idle or callow. Her suitor, Dr. Haslam, earnestly rushes in where angels fear to tread and provides a natural foil to Sabatini's irascibility.
As one might expect from a character in McAuliffe's high-powered role, the dialog is very sharp and naturally delivered. Think of Sir Lancelot Sprat in drag. Awkward, mumbling explanations to her about embarrassing medical conditions are cut short with almost an Australian relish for bluntness.
Very few lines are delivered with obvious intentional humour, a process made easier by most scenes being shot with all the characters wearing surgical masks. Extracting humour from the mundane is a difficult feat, and this series probably succeeded better than most.
I forgot about after it finished, and now ITV 3 are running re-runs and its like I am falling in love all over again. And although 15 years or so have gone since it first started the sublime jokes still remain side-splitting and the characters stay identifiable.
The only bad thing I can say about it is the sets, looking at them you can really tell its been 15 years!
Actually I lied I thought of another bad thing, it finished!!!
Overall this show is a show that will remain a T.V Classic Gem for decades to come.
I was hooked from the very first episode when the show first aired in 1989 and I find the humour as fresh today as ever.
The characters are rich and the casting places very talented artists in roles where they can make the most of a carefully constructed script, that delivers some of the most memorable lines I've ever heard.
It has the guts to tackle such fundamental questions like the nature of the dying process, with intelligence, sensitivity and great humour, without trivialising or dodging the realities.
Surgical Spirit clearly won't be to everyone's taste, but it has a huge amount to offer anyone who likes their wit sharp, their delivery punchy and their comedy not at all watered down.
The characters are well drawn, the dialogue is pithy and well written - no dreadful downton dialogue here - and the stories/episodes are believable and entertaining. There is consistency and humour in each episode, really I can't praise it too highly. The characters are believable and it's a really top class funny comedy series. You can't say that about many. This ten line rule is ridiculous and just opens the site to too much wordy and meaningless babble.
The show's protagonist is surgeon Sheila Sabantini ( portrayed by Nichola McAulfie ), an intimidating woman whose tongue is so sharp one could use it to shave with and whose way with insults would make Anne Robinson blush. Underneath her fiery exterior however does lay a well-meaning and caring woman. Duncan Preston plays Doctor Jonathan Haslam, a fellow surgeon who finds himself somehow attracted to Sabantini. Over the show's run, a relationship eventually blossoms between the pair which then results in the two getting married.
Peter Learmouth wrote the scripts and whilst the show certainly was not hilarious, it at least brought a smile to the face per half hour and compared to his next sitcom - the dire 'Let Them Eat Cake' ( which starred Jennifer Saunders and Dawn French ) - looks like a masterpiece.
Nicola McAulfie as Sheila at first does appear to be brusque and unlikeable but given the chance does start to grow on you after a while. Duncan Preston, who television credits include 'Victoria Wood - As Seen On T.V' and 'Harry Enfield & Chums' in my opinion is the show's main saving grace who as Jonathan was the only one with the guts to bring Sheila back down to earth. Also in the cast were Andrew Groves as Sheila's son Daniel and Marji Campi as theatre administrator Joyce Watson. A then unknown Catherine Tate appeared briefly in one episode.
'Surgical Spirit' was enough of a hit to run on ITV for seven seasons before ending in 1995. It was repeated throughout the '90's on Granada Plus and more recently has been repeated on ITV-3.