ITV’s new medical drama, set in a bustling Indian hospital, won’t change the world, but THE GOOD KARMA HOSPITAL is a welcome kaleidoscope of character and colour to brighten grey winter days.
There are many things about The Good Karma Hospital I expected to dislike. The ridiculous title for one, sounding a bit like a hybrid of the excellent Marigold film series and some guide for the elderly. Plus, hospital dramas aren’t really my thing; after E.R. met its end I felt they were all a bit samey. If I’m honest, I’m not a huge fan of Death in Paradise, written by Karma creator Dan Sefton. So, I sat down to watch ITV’s new Sunday night project with a hint of trepidation. I loved it.
It occurs to me that my reviews of late have focussed on women; but this is unsurprising when they put in such astounding performances as Amanda Redman does in the first episode as Doctor Lydia Fonseca. When she appears five minutes into the show she is sharp, sassy and oddly considering the fact she’s snapping some guy’s shoulder back into place, able to carry off that easy sensuality Redman has always had. We should hate her really, she’s the girl at school who looked cool without even trying.
It’s clear Redman’s story arc will involve some kind of surrogate mother role as she nurtures newest recruit to join the ramshackle clan, junior Doctor Ruby Walker (Games of Thrones star Amrita Acharia). “She’s fragile and easily crushed, you know, like a hamster,” Redman tells series hottie Doctor Gabriel Varma (James Floyd) and I’d guess there’s little point in betting a tenner on Dr G and Dr R hooking up at some point – when she’s cracked his icy exterior of course (shouldn’t take long in all that Indian sunshine).
Karma isn’t going to fry your brain cells. It’s not hotly original or darkly mysterious but for a Sunday night, maybe that’s a good thing. Many modern-day dramas have plots as complicated as flat pack furniture manuals; you enjoy looking at the scenery but have no idea what is going on (Taboo?). Well Karma couldn’t be more straightforward, but maybe that’s where its originality lies.
I didn’t have to work hard, I just sat back and enjoyed, a bit like when you nip to the cinema to catch the summer blockbuster – sometimes, being lazily entertained is what’s needed and this is done well. It looks good, you’ve got a great cast, (British stalwarts Neil Morrissey, Phyllis Logan and Philip Jackson are hanging about in the background to pick up the slack for the five minutes when the mains aren’t on screen).
This is a woman’s show and I feel Redman is in her element and loving it. She is as fast, bright and vivacious as the setting itself. You can’t take your eyes off her. Who can blame the actresses for having a good time? It’s not often there’s decent scripts for the more mature actresses out there, that allow them to do more than moan about the menopause and clean up after their kids. What does bother me is that Karma is the kind of drama that will attract viewers raving about its originality, its warmth and its exploration of human emotions – in the same way the wonderful Brief Encounters did last year and yet was so callously cancelled after only one series. Twitter searches seem to suggest viewers loved episode one, but does that really count for anything anymore?
My concern is this: if Karma is going to go the same way as other female-led dramas then is there even a point in getting emotionally attached? Whilst it’s here though, brightening up the last dregs of winter, then let’s celebrate it. I will watch every episode and, no doubt enjoy them all.
- Aired on ITV One, February 5 2017 at 21:00.