Strong Medicine: Season 1
Take a look at the television schedule for any season from the nineteen fifties to the present day and it is certain that you will find at least one medical drama on the line up. Whether the show is set in private practice or within the walls of a hospital one element that is typically in common is the point of view usually is from the male perspective. Sure, there are always women around; either nurses of as token female doctor or two but the general perception is medicine is a man’s world dominated by its male majority. This format persisted for most of the sixty year history of the TV medical shows but not that long ago the genre took a paradigm shift. It should come as no surprise that this change came about because of a niche cable network, Lifetime, the network for women. Like many basic cable networks Lifetime started out running old movies and television shows that generally fit into their started mandate. Then they moved on to their famous Lifetime feminist movies with original weekly programming the natural next step. One of the first of many series to broadcast is under consideration here, ‘Strong Medicine’. In many ways it takes the traditional format and turns it upside down. I do admit that even though I am excluded from their primary demographic by possessing a ‘Y’ chromosome I did regularly watch this show as a guilty pleasure. They series may have had a feminine point of view but typical of a Lifetime offering the production values were impeccable. The conscious understanding that this is a female oriented medical series soon evaporates as you get inexorably pulled into the dramatic presentation and character development. ‘Strong Medicine’ is not so much a woman’s hospital show as it is one on the better representatives of the genre regardless of gender bias. The series lasted six season but so far only the first has made it to DVD or, as far as I can tell, streaming video. It’s has been six years since this season can to home entertainment so I don’t have a lot of optimism that the other five will follow but there is precedence for such a lengthy gap in street dates.
Dr. Luisa "Lu" Delgado (Rosa Blasi) was lucky. Through hard work and perseverance she got out of one of the rougher neighborhoods in South Philadelphia. She returned to her old stomping grounds with a medical degree and a determination to help others in the neighborhood. To this end she established a clinic in the prestigious Rittenhouse Hospital. The clinic provided women’s medical services to those that otherwise would have nowhere to go for help. Increasing the difficulty of this endeavor but also greatly enhancing Lu’s joy is her son, Marc (Chris Marquette). Being a single mother is an arduous task under any circumstances but considering the long hours Lu puts in to the clinic her success in both home and work is quite remarkable. Like any metropolitan hospital Rittenhouse is a business and Lu’s clinic adds more to the debit column than the credit so it is constantly in fear of being closed down. This sword of Damocles was somewhat abated in this first season by funding arranged by a pioneer in women’s medicine, Dr. Lydia Emerson (Whoopi Goldberg). The cameo Ms Goldberg has is only natural since the series is largely here project. Goldberg served as executive producer as well as writing teleplays and directing some episodes.
Part of the deal struck to keep the clinic afloat was to partner Lu with a
lucrative practice in the hospital run by doctor and research scientist Dana
The premise of the series provides an incredibly broad spectrum of patients between Dana’s rich and powerful clientele and Lu’s patients struggling to survive. One of many things this diversification affords to the writers is an opportunity that while disease can hit any socioeconomic group the poor frequently are denied access to treatment. In a fashion typical to most Lifetime projects ‘String Medicine’ can come down on the preachy side but with good reason; in many cases the difference between men and women in access to health care is staggering. There is a realistic message here but Lifetime always makes sure the bottom line is entertainment. Hopefully someday the full series will be available but until then at least we have how it started.