Interns, also known as Hippocrate, is a French drama on Walter Presents about 3 medical students and a forensic doctor who are forced to take over the Internal Medicine department of a teaching hospital while their doctors are quarantined after being exposed to a patient with contagious meningitis. Before COVID, this may have seemed like an unlikely setup, but now it almost feels like a documentary. Warning: This show is NOT for the squeamish. But if you made it through ER, you should be OK. You know what you’re going to get when you hear “medical drama”, but Interns is a well-made, less-soapy one that will keep you hitting “next episode.”
The interns have a range of experience. Chloé (Louise Bourgoin) is fourth-year, preparing to apply for her residency. She is confident and competent, and a bit of a cold fish. She has experience in the ICU, and is hoping to return there for her residency. But currently she is interning in the slower paced Internal Medicine department, which is run by her boyfriend, the quarantined Dr. Simoni (Éric Caravaca). Hugo (Zacharie Chasseriaud) is the gregarious son of Dr. Muriel Wagner (Anne Consigny), the stern head of the ICU. Although this is Hugo’s first year as an intern, he has been around the hospital and has some useful knowledge. Alyson (Alice Belaïdi) is completely green. She is a first-year intern with absolutely no experience, and she is terrified. Together, they must cover the next 24 hours without any doctors on the ward. Internal Medicine is not the ER, or even the ICU, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t emergencies.
The Extra-medical Drama
By the end of episode one the quarantine has been extended indefinitely, so Hugo has recruited Dr. Arben Bascha (Karim Leklou) from the forensic department to help them. It’s been awhile since Arben has worked on live bodies, but he IS a doctor. We learn that Chloé and Dr. Wagner have a tense relationship because Chloé left the ICU for internal medicine. Dr. Wagner thinks it’s because Chloé wants to work with her boyfriend Dr. Simoni, but actually Chloé has a secret medical reason for why she transferred. Meanwhile, Dr. Wagner is trying to empty beds in the ICU by dumping stable patients into Internal Medicine, even though they are short staffed. This puts Hugo in a difficult position, as you would expect. Hugo is energetic enough, but tends to lie about his abilities, and can be cavalier about a patient’s condition. This bites him a few times. Alyson decides after one day to bail out of this internship because it’s too much for her, but that’s really going to screw over the other three.
Our Take on Interns
The patient story lines on Interns are familiar, but the show doesn’t feel rote. The intensity created by having only med students on the ward keeps it fresh, at least for this first season. And it’s not too soapy, yet. A unique element I liked was the commissary. Every day, all of the med students, and there are many, eat together in the cafeteria, where they are served a family style meal. It’s a raucous place, and if anyone is caught talking shop, they are subject to the degrading “wheel of punishment”. These scenes are a welcome break, for both the interns and the audience, from the teeth-clenching drama on the wards. The opening of each episode is a montage of still images of doctors and students working on patients, eating in the commissary, etc from 100 years earlier to the present. It’s a clever way of establishing a sense of place. If you like a well-made, perfectly paced, gritty medical drama (Perhaps the Spiral of med shows?), then Interns is for you.
You can find Walter Presents selections on the PBS Masterpiece streaming service, Roku or Xfinity1.
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