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One of the most fascinating elements of “Charité,” the new six-part German miniseries now available on Netflix, is the operation theater. As a medical drama set in the late 19th century, this combination lecture hall and surgical venue is as compelling a concept as it is unsanitary. To see a procedure like a tracheotomy or an appendectomy, both in their nascent development stages, presented in such a matter-of-fact way is jarring by design. To see progress and hubris in tandem is one of the main reasons why medical dramas (especially ones set in a distant time) continue to be a regular TV staple.
Whenever “Charité” returns to the exhibition-style setting of that instructional surgery hall, it’s hard not to think of the similar scenes in “The Knick,” a show that by virtue of its styling and being set a decade later took a more modern approach to this subgenre. With its troubled doctors, slippery romantic entanglements, and bureaucratic concerns, “Charité” isn’t quite a replacement for fans still grieving the end of Steven Soderbergh’s Cinemax show. A handful of tumultuous outbursts and 360° views of various rooms within the title hospital clinic aren’t trying to capture the same frantic energy that “The Knick” did. But given the histories of the individuals that make up a significant portion of this limited series, it shows that “Charité” never gets quite as revolutionary as its main characters were.
Charité - Story - Beats - Turn-of-the-century - Fare
“Charité” may have some of the similar story beats as other turn-of-the-century fare, but as the series progresses this actually leans closer to a “Downton Abbey”-style story. With discussions of social position, forbidden love, and roles within an established hierarchy, what starts out as a more scientific approach slides into something less rigorous. Still, the divide between the scholarly physicians and the hard-working nursing staff becomes a kind...
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