Doctors and Nurses was a 2004 sitcom starring Adrian Edmondson, Mina Anwar and David Mitchell. Its failure to be released on DVD, or ever be repeated resulted in it almost becoming lost completely. Here’s why it’s worth remembering:
Written by real life doctor and comedian, Phil Hammond and also Nigel Smith. It was set in a fictional hospital on the Isle of Wight and starred Adrian Edmondson as an overworked NHS Doctor, pushed to his limits. Alongside him is David Mitchell, as Doctor Toby Stephens, who is quite useless as a Doctor, but is very likeable and well-meaning, although not at all interested in following in the footsteps of his privileged family of surgeons. He’s also a bit of an unlikely ladies’ man. All in all, this is a character that plays to David’s strengths and there are some great moments from him in this series, such as the slapstick of him attempting to give a a patient an injection, his rousing rendition of Nirvana’s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ and a speech where he finally stood up to his overbearing father. And that’s what I liked about the series as a whole, all the cast had a really nice character arc, which felt completed by the final episode.
The main plot of the show though is the battle between NHS vs Private health care. Adrian Edmondson’s Dr Glover is the kindly NHS doctor who is constantly attempting to squeeze in more NHS operations, much to the exasperation of rival private surgeon, Dr Banatwala (Madhav Sharma). This adds a bit of politics and it’s interesting. Their rivalry eventually turns into a friendship of sorts by the end of the series.
Another key character of the series is Mina Anwar’s, Sister Zita Khan and the possible romance between her and Adrian Edmondson’s character. I thought this was handled very well – most sitcoms would have allowed this plot point to take over the whole show, but brilliantly it didn’t at all. Their relationship was one of the highlights of the series. It felt strangely believable.
Mina Anwar’s character draws obvious similarities to her character Maggie Habib in the fantastic 90’s Ben Elton sitcom, The Thin Blue Line. I think this series was probably written with the idea of making a Thin Blue Line style show within a Hospital environment, even to the point of a direct nod to the show with a gag about keeping light under your chin while Dr Banatwala was filming surgery.
All in all there was absolutely no way this sitcom should have been forgotten, almost to the point of near extinction. The main cast put in great performances and the characters are strong. It certainly deserved a second shot, but, as it was, told its story very well across one series.
This show has a bit of personal significance for me, last year after attending a fabulous recording of the Upstart Crow episode in which Adrian Edmondson cameoed, I was inspired to take up the search for Doctors and Nurses. With a bit of help from the fan site, a fellow David Mitchell fan (Twitter: @Chasquipenguin) sent me a VHS tape of the show! Although it may not have technically been the last copy in existence, Chortle credited us with the discovery of a lost sitcom! When asked about the show last year by The Metro, David Mitchell said:
‘In any creative thing you need to have all the things you can do working as well as possible — and then you need a huge amount of luck. You need a good cast, a good script, a good idea — and you need it to come off. It’s like a cup of tea. Some cups of tea really come off and some just don’t. Nobody knows why. So a TV show is like a cup of tea that costs millions of pounds, so the level of disappointment when it doesn’t come off is huge.‘
They then asked: ‘When Was the last time this happened to you?’ He said:
‘I did a sitcom in 2004 called Doctors And Nurses. It was great fun, great writers, but it didn’t have that extra element of luck so we only got one series. Everyone was disappointed but there was no particular reason — ultimately it lacked whatever it is that makes a cup of tea great.‘
I couldn’t have put it better myself David! Watch the full series here:
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