They live in different worlds, but Jamie Bamber's character as brain surgeon Tyler Wilson on TNT's new medical drama, Monday Mornings, has a lot in common with Lee Adama, the take-no-prisoners fighter pilot he played on Battlestar Galactica.
Heroic to a fault, both pull off miraculous saves when the odds are stacked against them. They're mavericks with little regard for procedural tradition. And they're both cocky.
"Oh, and they both use lasers, though Tyler Wilson's is a surgical laser," Bamber, 39, jokes in a phone interview.
Cocreated by prime-time wunderkind David E. Kelley and neurosurgeon Sanjay Gupta, Monday Mornings is based on Gupta's semiautobiographical 2012 novel of the same name.
The drama, with a cast of TV and film heavyweights including Alfred Molina, Ving Rhames, Jennifer Finnigan, and Jonathan Silverman, premieres Monday at 10 p.m.
Show producers promise Monday Mornings will have a fresh take on one of prime time's perennial - and some say overdone - staples, the medical drama.
"This is a viewing experience unlike a lot of what you see on other network dramas," says executive producer Bill Delia. "Usually in a medical drama, the doctor is a genius at work, but his home life is flawed. That pretty much defines every medical drama."
Delia says Monday Mornings, which has gotten mixed reviews from TV critics, is a more realistic take on the profession and focuses on the things that make doctors fallible, mortal, human.
The show's conceit, and the centerpiece in the Gupta novel, is the mortality and morbidity conference, a mandatory meeting held each Monday by the neurosurgery unit.
Chaired by the department head, Molina's imperious Dr. Harding Hooten, the meeting holds the surgeons to account for every decision, every action they took on behalf of a patient.
"It's designed as a very candid and focused discussion on the medicine," as opposed to administrative or legal aspects of the doctors' work, says Gupta, 43, who is assistant professor of neurosurgery at Emory University School of Medicine. "I think that people will be really surprised at the intensity of the discussions."
Hooten calls surgeons to the hot seat and grills them not only on the quality of medicine they practice, but also on the ethical consequences of their actions.
"He certainly suffers no fools," says Gupta, best known for his work as a CNN medical correspondent. "He doesn't let any details slide."
In the pilot, Tyler discovers that an otherwise healthy 7-year-old boy named Quinn (Mason Cook) has a brain tumor. Not wanting to waste a second, he operates. Despite his efforts, Quinn dies.
Tyler is called to account at the next conference for not considering the patient's full medical history.
"No one has really taken viewers into this hallowed territory where doctors discuss their mistakes," says Gupta. "I think it's very humanizing."
Hooten doesn't go after only doctors who have lost a patient. He also savages doctors who have performed feats of surgical magic but broken an ethical rule or have bad bedside manner.
Gupta, who is one of the show's screenwriters, says Monday Mornings also offers a rare look into surgeons' unique and sometimes fragile psyches.
Tyler seems broken after losing Quinn. Frozen, paralyzed.
"My character goes through a roller coaster of emotions," says Bamber. "This is someone whose unshakable conviction is shaken and a great deal of fragility comes with that."
Adds Bamber, "Sanjay told me he has seen surgeons who never did anything wrong and saved countless lives, but have one loss and completely fall apart."
Tyler isn't one of them.
Even as he is mourning Quinn, he's called to treat a young man whose spine has become almost completely detached from his skull. He saves the patient.