Emergency: NYC Review: The Netflix Hospital Series is a Lenox Hill sequel

Another eight episodes spent at Lenox Hill and other New York area hospitals underscore the value of this inside perspective, this time with a broader focus.

On June 24, 2020, Netflix released a special episode of “Lenox Hill.” With a pandemic still in its infancy, a doctor-focused documentary series presented a 32-minute time capsule of Covid’s arrival in New York City. It’s far from the only show to document those scary weeks in its own way, but almost three years later, “Lenox Hill” still feels like a definitive portrait of that moment.

“Lenox Hill” was both a perfect and an odd source for something so specific. On the one hand, the show offered an intimate look at life at Lenox Hill Hospital. Through a viewing lens, director/creators Ruthie Shatz and Adi Barash were able to present the high-stakes environment as the day-to-day work of operating theaters and emergency rooms. But one of the fascinating things about this original season is that it felt detached from time. The series wasn’t fixated on cutting-edge gadgets or audience placement in any particular month or year. The feeling was that hospital life is and always was, the constant, never-ending effort to keep people as healthy as possible.

Fast forward to 2023, and Shatz and Barash are back with Emergency: NYC, another eight-episode Netflix season that’s similar in form to its predecessor but even more expansive in scope. The camera crews are back in Lenox Hill, following some of the same surgeons and nurses who became the main characters in that first show. But “Emergency: NYC” also lives up to its title, casting a wider net and visiting other hospitals across the five boroughs as they respond to the city’s calls.

This means that the focus is not just on the person after they come for treatment. Much of this new series also introduces the people responsible for getting these patients where they need to go. “Emergency: NYC” rides in both ambulances and helicopters as crews work out the logistics necessary to keep people alive and ensure they get to their intended destinations as quickly as possible. The show doesn’t treat them as nameless, faceless workers. They have families and fears and concerns and jokes and all the other things that fill the downtime between shifts.

Emergency: New York. Mackenzie Labonte in Emergency: NYC. Kr. Netflix © 2023

“Emergency: New York”


While there’s a good portion of Emergency: NYC that focuses on showing people as top-notch professionals, it’s less interested in mythologization. It is always harrowing to see someone handle a life saving procedure with the same energy and nonchalance as they would a data entry task. That’s not to say that these jobs and the show don’t have room to adapt to the unexpected or sensational, but there’s a strong thread of the ordinary that runs through much of the show. Bedside manners are still a strong part of the series, and most of the people who take the spotlight here treat those interpersonal interactions with the specific kind of calm that can calm an anxious loved one.

Even with that confidence and professionalism, there’s an inherent drama in “Emergency: NYC” that Shatz and Barash rarely have to artificially add. There’s an odd swelling during the climax of a cesarean, but this is a show that actively resists emotional manipulation, even when it’s at its most alluring. It’s enough to chase down a first responder running through the hallways of a children’s hospital. It is enough to know the consequences if valuable brain tissue is damaged or a tumor is not completely removed. “Emergency: NYC” presents all the realities of these jobs in a matter-of-fact way that serves both the show and the respect of the people they profile.

As inclusive as “Emergency: NYC” can sometimes feel by presenting a cross-section of patients with a variety of different needs and severities, a TV show doesn’t magically rise from footage, no matter how compelling. There’s an intent here that takes “Emergency: NYC” beyond just stitching together surveillance footage. Shatz and Barash find minute symmetries in different operations or circumstances, showing that success in this area is a moving target. Well-prepared medical professionals are still at the mercy of fickle organs that behave differently depending on the patient.

And then there’s the specter of Covid, which isn’t a constant theme on “Emergency: NYC,” but its effects are still being felt. Some patients feel excluded from society, and some delayed interventions have a tangible impact on the people who need them. A return to normal is not exactly possible in an environment built in part to care for people caught up in unforeseen accidents.

Emergency: New York. (L) Jose Prince MD attends to patient Josh in Emergency: NYC. Kr. Netflix © 2023

“Emergency: New York”


In this way, “Emergency: NYC” shows how important these hospitals are to New York. Whatever the city faces comes at the doorsteps of these facilities. Sometimes teenagers come down as victims of gunshot wounds. Fatal car accidents are also commonplace throughout the season. “Emergency: NYC” makes sure to let the doctors and nurses articulate how common these occurrences are. When there is a public health epidemic caused by anything other than an airborne disease, the people who give it a voice are the ones who face the effects day in and day out.

The show doesn’t dwell on it often, but “Emergency: NYC” doesn’t ignore the physical and mental demands that come with working in the medical field. This isn’t simply a tribute to eight-episode success. complications arise. Employees must expect their own hospital stays. families mourn. (A heartbreaking moment from the second half of the season: After a young patient dies on the way to the hospital, a first responder’s somber reaction to someone trying to call him a superhero.)

Nobody says it specifically in “Emergency: NYC,” but there’s also an overwhelming sense that this is a profession that’s constantly trying to catch up. There is always another person to examine or treat. There’s always a feeling that there’s a better chance of surviving getting hold of someone a few seconds earlier. And as certain policy decisions exacerbate the cause of some of these accidents, the people in front of the camera in this series are the ones who need to understand the damage. They’re not unfit for it, as they’re in a place that reminds them every day that despite some overwhelmingly negative odds, there’s still success. Those triumphs and realities coexist in those places, and to the credit of the show, they do too in Emergency: NYC.

Grade: A-

Emergency: NYC is now available to stream on Netflix.

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https://www.indiewire.com/2023/03/emergency-nyc-review-netflix-hospital-show-lenox-hill-1234824176/ Emergency: NYC Review: The Netflix Hospital Series is a Lenox Hill sequel

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