Hospital Playlist (2020) Stage One

As expected, this drama was worth the wait. Ever since it was announced that the director of the much lauded Prison Playbook was helming this, some of us having been eagerly awaiting this. Plus they managed to score two of my Kdramaland favourites in the casting which was the cherry on top.

As the title suggests it is a medical drama of sorts and yes, there's music. In fact there's a band. But the beauty of this drama is that the medical-music side of things is primarily a backdrop for a 20-year long friendship amongst 5 busy physicians who are really good at what they do. So far this is where the show really excels in its storytelling. I'm not a recapper by inclination so this post like all the others is a smattering of thoughts about the show.

Like many other medical dramas before it, this one does make use of the hospital backdrop to represent a microcosm of society. There are certain universal truths that seem to apply all across the board which make the hustle and bustle of medicos in their space relatable. Chief among them are the people who walk the corridors where life and death decisions are made routinely. The weight of what they do are felt by them acutely. But hospital wards are made up of a myriad individuals that play their role in a pre-existing pecking order. Every player in that world has his/her quirks and strengths. They might not be the top dog in their field... by definition there can only be one (or a handful) but they have their contribution to make. By their very presence they can influence decisions and outcomes. Not everyone goes into medicine for altruistic reasons. Many don't. Even so, they have a part to play. Some clinicians would do well to improve their EQ and yet, as the show demonstrates they have skills that can fill in other gaps within the system. It's not about trying to change people or even change their minds... if that's remotely possible. With various agendas, egos and personalities at play it is up to a wise team leader to make it all come together for the benefit of patients.

Yulje Hospital is not one's usual Kdramaland hospital. There's no ongoing power play for the top job. In fact, the humorous part of this is that this family business is not run by any member of the family. In fact, there's no sibling rivalry aiming to wrestle power from factions. In fact, most of the siblings are deeply religious Catholic adherents who have chosen a life of celibacy. The youngest sibling is a pediatrician in the hospital waiting for his shot at the priesthood. This turns a number of K drama tropes on its head to good purpose. This also tells us that the show is a different beast, traversing a different trajectory. Rather than setting it up as a place of business like any other, it is a place where people do good or at least do the best they can under all kinds of conditions including the most trying ones. Hospitals still have to make money so that's where the VIP suites come in. Those who can pay top dollar do and apparently it's a win-win situation for them and the hospital. The CEO as far as we can tell is a kindly old friend of the family who apparently defies the Kdrama stereotype as well.

The Five Friends conveniently occupy various departments in the hospital so the camera gets around as do a couple of third year medical students. From top to bottom everyone's juggling their own personal issues as well as professional ones. For instance, Jung-wan, the cardiothoracic professor amongst them has a reputation for having a prickly personality and being a bit of a penny pincher. Yet there's another side to him. The man holding a scalpel may be brusque but he's skilled and he does have a soft spot for the people he cares for. Song-hwa, the only female amongst the besties, is a neurosurgeon who does it all at the hospital and still manages to get away on weekends to camp. She's hugely popular and immensely likeable. Already there are speculations about who she ends up with. :D Ik-jun who is a professor in General Surgery has been under the spotlight of late because of his family issues. Yet he has time to think about a former patient and consider that family's feelings. What enables these doctors to do what they do... Compassion? Sympathy? Empathy? They see patient care as something that goes beyond the condition or ailment that needs to be resolved. The investment they make in going the extra mile whether it's dealing with guardians or mentoring their subordinates belies a belief that what's best for the patient begins even before the patient enters the consult room.

Band practice or group karaoke is a guaranteed barrel of laughs. With this talented crew, bad singing is an art and a craft. Here music is firstly about memories, holding on to them and making new ones. It is also about friendship. That's what the band is about. Friends that play together stay together.