Drama / television

New Series ‘Heartbeat,’ a Drama Worthy of Women’s History Month?


(Photo: NBC.com)

March is supposed to be the month to celebrate the stories of female trail blazers.

On the surface, NBC’s “Heartbeat” presents women with a modern-day inspirational story of girl power –a  fearless female surgeon pushing her way to the top of a male-dominated field while still having a life.

But its formulaic heroine who’s tough enough to hang with boy’s club yet is in tune with her love life plus its muse, the Hollywood doctor behind “Grey’s Anatomy,” makes one wonder if the show offers up enough substance behind its style.

The series debuting Wednesday follows fictional character Alex Panttiere. Panttiere,  as played by Melissa George of “The Slap,” is a world-renowned heart transplant surgeon who is breaking boundaries despite what her superiors and the boys’ club may think of her.

Oh, and she’s not some personality-void robot. This blonde doc is edgy and has a relationship with a hot doctor (much like Meredith Grey of “Grey’s Anatomy”).

“Heartbeat” ’s heroine is fake and slightly predictable, but its story is real.

According to NBC.com the show is “loosely inspired by the real life and achievements of Dr. Kathy Magliato,” a California heart and lung transplant surgeon.

On the surface, this show and its inspiration is praiseworthy.

“Heartbeat” will no-doubt show the viewing audience that women are multifaceted. They can be at once fiercely driven and soft, professional and yet feminine.

It also strives to show watchers the true nature of the surgical profession.

There are still opportunities for growth in the medical field. According to the Association of Women Surgeons there are 16 women heading surgical departments in the United States and Canada.

Magliato is one of them. She is the director of Women’s Cardiac Services at Santa Monica’s Saint John’s Medical Center. She is also the first female president of the Board of the Greater LA County American Heart Association.

Magliato has received many honors from groups such as the American Red Cross and the American College of Surgeons for her work. The wife and mother of two boys is also currently overseeing the clinical trial of the Jarvik artificial heart for the United States.

The upcoming NBC show draws from her 2011 memoir “Heart Matters.” Magliato is also the medical drama’s co-executive producer.

With such an impressive figure on your team, why not produce a bigger project?

Medical dramas are a dime a dozen nowadays. Since “ER”, there’s been several series including “House,” “Code Black,” “Private Practice,”  “The Night Shift,” “Chicago Hope” and “Chicago Med.”

Plenty of those shows including “Hawthorne,” “Strong Medicine” and “Mercy” have strong female protagonists who are shown balancing their work and home life.

Why couldn’t NBC use such an impressive talent to do something different such as use Magliato’s expertise to create a series giving viewers a real biographical look at what it is like be a female surgeon?

What’s better than another show influenced by the surgeon behind “Grey’s Anatomy”? An unscripted series revealing the real life of the “Grey’s Anatomy” doctor.

Or if you going to follow the mold and create a hospital series with a lead actress, why not tap a more low-profile woman who save lives everyday to be its inspiration?

Magliato, while a decorated professional, is a Hollywood doctor of sorts.

She is the doctor the stars go to when they preparing for a medical role. The LA surgeon has worked with “Grey’s Anatomy” actresses Brooke Smith, Mary McDonnell and Kim Raver all of whom play heart surgeons.

She’s also appeared in documentaries for National Geographic and Lifetime.

Media outlets like People, Cosmo, Reader’s Digest and SHAPE magazines plus all the major networks go to Magliato’s office when they need a medical feature.

In the process, she has rubbed shoulders with many prestigious types such as Oprah, Martha Stewart, Maria Shriver, President Bill Clinton, David Letterman and Charlie Rose to name a few.

Magliato is without a doubt doing good work informing women to look out for their heart health.

But she isn’t the only one saving lives while paving the way for other female medical professionals. Why not use Magliato’s connections to feature more obscure women like herself or even a woman of color?

The only medical show that comes to mind that is created after a female doctor of color is the comedic drama “The Mindy Project.”

Its title character, skilled Indian OBGYN Mindy Lahiri, is inspired by writer Mindy Kaling’s late mother Swati Chokalingam.

Why couldn’t “Heartbeat” be the show to bravely feature a minority female doctor as the lead in a straight-ahead medical drama? 

Sadly the whole thing just reeks of laziness.



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