Manipulation over the operating table
Grey's Anatomy, TV2 Monday, is adept at manipulating viewers, mainly through the heartstrings - but it takes a while to realise the extent to which, as was evidenced this week, the series is founded on pure cynicism.
For all the mushy McDreamy stuff, cute children and life-saving teary moments, the characters are forever second-guessing one another in work and relationships - overanalysing, exploiting, wondering if a better romantic partner or operation might come along, leaving them stuck with something inferior. Their personality quirks are rendered endearing by winsome dialogue and storylining, but in real life, these people would be toxic.
Attractive and loveable as they seem, it's highly likely a Beyond the Darklands work-up by Nigel Latta would find them all to be either narcissistic, borderline or megalomaniacal - in some characters' cases, revolving in phases of all three.
The massive tag-team operation to separate a pair of conjoined infants in this week's episode was the perfect illustration of this. There was at least as much playing of power-games and head-messing as there was state-of-the-art surgery.
As a major story thread, Alex, one of the hunky junior surgeons, was consistently manipulated out of key roles in the multi-stage procedure because he was less go-getterish - though arguably more concerned with the patients' welfare at the hands of rampaging egos - than the others.
The scene where the young surgeons sit in the viewing room, watching the latest stage of the separation while discussing ethics in blunt and casual terms with their mouths full of food was quite brutal.
Having barely recovered from that, the viewer had to endure the teenaged parents making out in the waiting room like ... teenagers, while their babies' lives hung in the balance.
To cap it all, the over-arching narration by the ever-solipsistic Meredith Grey characterised the whole procedure as ''theatre'' and a performance, with much of the operation filmed as though on a stage, set to ballet music - operating theatre lights instead of footlights.
It's the evenly spaced patchwork of old-fashioned Disney sentiment and almost post-modern brand of cynicism that has made this such a hit. Sugar cut with acid, but leaving a taste of overall wholesomeness. Bizarrely, the patient always seems to win in the end. Even when one dies, everything that could have been done seems to have been done, including careful choice of soulful contemporary music to suggest depth of purpose.
And it's hard not to admire the sangfroid of the writers when, despite a major selling-point being the almost absurd attractiveness of the cast, they choreograph large tracts of action with everyone wearing surgical masks.
The Dominion Post