In this age of so-called reality television, it is refreshing to see a gripping documentary air in primetime on ABC—especially one set in our own backyard.
Hopkins, a six-part series that begins June 26, chronicles the lives of patients, doctors, and residents at our famed Johns Hopkins Hospital. Unlike the 2000 documentary Hopkins 24/7, this time ABC News decided to focus more on the personal aspects of the medical workers, à la ER and Grey's Anatomy.
"The fact is that medical dramas continue to be successful and mass audiences remain interested in getting to know caregivers, what makes them tick, and how they really handle traumatic life and death on one hand and are regular people on the other," says Terry Wrong, executive producer of the film.
Wrong and his crew spent four months at Hopkins last spring, where they had six high-definition cameras filming in operating rooms and doctor's offices around the clock. Each episode introduces the viewer to several doctors and highlights a major case, almost always involving surgery. Some of the dramatic storylines include a 3-year-old receiving a heart transplant, a complicated three-way kidney swap, the removal of a unique brain tumor, and the daily trials and tribulations of the East Baltimore emergency room.
"Often times it feels like a war zone," Wrong says. "But there's this kind of wide-ranging ability that these superstars at Hopkins have that you just won't get at other hospitals."
Besides delving into the traumatic world of the patients, the documentary also focuses on the rigors of being a medical employee at the hospital: strained personal relationships, medical school debts, and the emotional toll suffered by doctors and residents alike. Unlike Hopkins 24/7, there is no narrator so the doctors and patients truly tell their own stories.
The premiere episode will air following Grey's Anatomy, a move that Wrong says was probably no coincidence. But it's safe to say that the real-life events that unfold in Hopkins will far outweigh any fictional drama. "There is almost no other hospital in the country that would be confident enough to allow this kind of access," Wrong says. "You couldn't have seen it made anywhere else."