Thursday, July 11, 2013

What I'm Watching: Show Review | London Hospital

Let it be known to all interested and uninterested parties that I am a British television fan. In fact, I would pick a British show over an American show any day and I can pick out the different dialects like nobody's business. And I can speak them fluently. In my head. :)

From pleasant, happy series like Lark Rise to Candleford to sifi series like Doctor Who or Primeval, to the detective shows like Sherlock, Foyle's War or Inspector Lewis - I love them all. So, I'm always on the lookout for hints and clues to any {within moral reason} new BBC or other British movies or shows.

Quick history lesson

The London Hospital, originally named the London Infirmary, was first founded in 1740 and was the medicinal hub of the poverty stricken London East End. It was funded entirely by charity and was a leading force in hospital advancement. During the turn of the century 1900's, the London was taking huge steps towards advanced medicine (for it's time) and under the leadership of Eva Luckers, became the largest nurses training school anywhere in Britain. X-ray technology was just being introduced (with both successful and tragic results) and new forms of medicine (including chloroform and strychnine) were breaching the medicals scene. Of the 30,000 patients treated each year, the vast majority were those of the working class, where disease, gang activity, and gross neglect was the lifestyle of the day.

Cue London Hospital.

This is the setting for the BBC show London Hospital. Based entirely from the meticulous records kept by the staff of the London, it follows the doctors and nurses as they treat the many diverse cases that passed through their doors during the turn of the century. With actual historical figures like Eva Luckers and Sidney Holland, the London's financial advocate, as well as other historical figures, we are given a very accurate glimpse into the medical practices of the times, the ones that surprise us and the ones that also shock us. As this is a show based on a hospital, the nurses and doctors play the leading rolls and whereas there is a general storyline that over-arches the episodes, there are often characters and patients that we may only see for a few minutes on the examination table, just long enough to see some of the different cases that these dedicated hospital staff treated.
London Hospital is not a show where you pick your favorite character and root for their success; instead, this is a show about a team of workers coming together to meet the needs of the starving, hurting and dying. And the fact that it's all fully based on the historical records of the hospital (records that have been kept in detail since 1883), gives it a certain extra flair of history lesson wrapped up in entertainment. And as the credits roll for each episode, there are snippets of historical fact that give further insight and understanding into the situations and procedures that were just witnesses.

Be forewarned, though...this is a surgically graphic show. I don't do blood and there have been several episodes where I'm found myself squirming on the floor in agony of my own, eyes shut, hands over my ears, singing “lalala” trying to distract myself while someone leg is being amputated in full, bloody view of the camera...or even more surgically brutal operations. Other than that, however, as of yet I have not seen anything on this show that warranted needing to look due away to immorality or inappropriate behavior. And the really graphic parts don't take up the whole show, there's plenty of times where I can retire my pillow (aka. face shield).

Since it's a hospital setting, there is talk of some personal medical issues, discussion (although very brief) of private anatomy, and a small spattering of language, although it's only been a mild handful so far. Of course, there are some characters who's street-wise accents are so thick I honestly can't tell what they're saying (despite my head-fluency) as well as the unfamiliar-to-me slang words used during those times, so forgive me if I'm totally missing some unforgivable words.

All in all, I'm really enjoying this show. It's fascinating, educational, and enjoyable in a hide-behind-my-pillow kind of way. The bad news is that I've only been able to find it online using Amazon Prime, where you can watch it for free. If I'm correct, London Hospital was originally released in the UK under the titles of Casualty 1906 (and depending on the season, 1907 and 1909), and whereas you can buy them Region 2 courtesy of Amazon, I have yet to find any Region 1's for sale.

Anyways, if anybody has or decides to give this show a shot, let me know what you think! Also please note that since I haven't watched this show in it's entirely, I can't, of course, fully vouch for the rest of the show being ugly-free. :)

P.S. And yes, I just posted twice in one day. No hating.
P.S.S. Images found via google image search.


  1. Are you not a Downton Abbey person??

    1. Actually, Mads...I'm not. And proud of it. ;)

      One day I know I'll take the plunge, but I find a devilish delight it NOT watching the show that everybody's talking about. ;)

    2. I am not into that either..I was just wondering because of its British-ness...:)

    3. Haha, yes, one of the few "good" ones that I haven't actually given a try. ;)

  2. Started watching this this past winter. Only watched a few episodes before needing a break form its unique style. (It seems more "documentary" style than fictional but for the subject matter, that is appropriate.) Hopefully I'll pick it up again in the near future.

    Glad you are liking it, Kellie.

    (And nope, two posts in one day is awesome from you, girl!)

    1. I definitely see (and concur!) with the need to take a break. I watched the first two episodes last night and whereas I fully intent to finish out the series, it's one that I don't feel that I HAVE to marathon through, like I usually do. Whereas it has some lighter, fun storylines here and there, it definitely does take on a serious note.

      I personally liked the "documentary" approach, rather than fictionalizing it, like many shows would do, adding intrigue, drama and a few scandals (haha!). I thought it was pretty gutsy for BBC to create a tv show that's number one priority is to depict the true medical times, rather than create merely just an entertaining story. But like you said, it can get heavy (I still get woozy when I think of that first surgery, yeesh!).

      Hopefully you're "to watch" list will lag at some point in the future and you'll feel like tackling a few more episodes!

  3. Have you watched any Call the Midwife? It's based off of a trilogy of memoirs written by Jennifer Worth (I haven't read them yet, but I would like to eventually) and it's set in a poorer section of London in the 1950's.

    1. Actually, Francine, I have seen Call the Midwife (love it!) and this stories is VERY similar, the few differences being a mere few decades separation and it's a hospital, rather than a midwife house. If you liked 'Midwife,' then you may just like this one!

  4. I am all with you on British TV! I can't get enough, and I'm so happy that their shows are becoming more readily available here (because relocating for quality TV just doesn't seem logical, right?). I haven't seen this show yet, but I definitely need to add it to my "to watch" list. I love all of the reviews you do on your blog!

    1. Hi, Amber! Thanks for commenting! I'm glad you enjoy the reviews, I'm always a little afraid people are going to get bored of them!

      Definitely add London Hospital to your list! It's worth a watch!


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