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What's Jeremy Northam doing in new Bruckheimer doc drama?

Winter TV Press Tour 2010

So far the most cringe-inducing Q&A session of Winter TV Press Tour 2010 is, hands down, a little CBS session we like to call Why The Face Jeremy Northam.

Northam ("Gosford Park," "Enigma," "The Winslow Boy," "Happy, Texas," "An Ideal Husband," we could go on and on) is an extremely talented British actor who, inexplicably, has agreed to star in Jerry Bruckheimer's latest CBS drama.

And not even one of the better Jerry Bruckheimer dramas. This is one of the Lesser Jerry Bruckheimer Dramas.

Northam plays the enigmatic Dr. Matt Proctor, who has a huge scar on his lovely chest and who suddenly shows up at this trauma hospital in Miami to take charge of the bunch of self absorbed hot young trauma surgeons who think they are rock stars and who grouse about the Enigmatic Adult Doctor with the accent who got the job as Chief of the Rock Stars.

Northam's replacing Andre Braugher, who plays the Chief of the Rock Stars in the first episode but who shrewdly grabs the first opportunity to stage a meltdown - at the sight of blood, no less - and strips naked in the hospital which leaves him free to go star in "Men of a Certain Age" on TNT. Clever, clever Andre.

That leaves Northam the only adult in the room, so he gets the job. In the first episode, he starts to strip too, but only goes so far as to take off his shirt, revealing said huge chest scar. And, what with this being a Bruckheimer drama, we know that where there's a scar, there's sure to be a gory story with grisly computer-generated graphics.

Anyway, the Q&A session for "Miami Medical" - which BTW was developed last spring, but the results were bad enough CBS held it for midseason so they could tinker with it, while hanging on to Northam - more's the pity.

Its's one of those two-tiered Q&A panels and all the writer/producers are seated in the front row - as is Jerry Bruckheimer himself, wearing his trademark weirdsmobile black skinny jeans.

The impossibly pretty cast, and Northam, are seated in in the back row. This is the first of many mistakes they'll make in this Q&A. Any idiot knows, big stars go in the front. Peter Krause, Craig T. Nelson and Lauren Graham were front and center during the Q&A for NBC's new series "Parenthood" for instance -- and NBC hardly ever gets anything right (see Jay Leno/Conan O'Brien announcement).

Then, writer/executive producer Jeffrey Lieber is asked what is the difference between "Miami Medical" and NBC's new, but already failed, doc drama "Trauma" and the best he can come up with is to sniff that NBC's show should've been called "EMTs" because it was about medical-professionals-as-rock-stars who were out in the field to bring into the trauma hospital people who have had serious medical calamities -- whereas his show is set inside the trauma hospital. Which is filled with "prop-age," as Northam calls it, by way of explaining why he had too many other things to deal with on the show to attempt an American accent. You know, like British actor Hugh Laurie does on "House" which one TV critic was nice enough to point out to Northam.

Anyway, back to Lieber explaining the difference between his show and NBC's.

"Miami Medical," he explains, is about people who have had serious medical calamities and how important it is to get them to treatment within 60 minutes of said calamity.

The TV critics were brought up well, and are too polite to note that NBC's "Trauma" was also about the urgency of getting people who have had serious medical calamities to the hospital and to treatment STAT. But you can see the question in their eyes as they play Competitive Tweeting during the Q&A session.

Then Lieber compounds the problem when he is asked how the heck they convinced Jeremy Northam to sign on for a Lesser Jerry Bruckheimer Drama.

Lieber - again, seated in front of his large ensemble cast - acknowledges that, knowing Northam's work "from the stage and from movies" he too was surprised they could get Northam to star in a Lesser Jerry Bruckheimer Drama, adding "and to be able to work with someone who has real chops is really fun!"

You can imagine how that makes the other cast members feel. Well, at least the ones who understand what has just been said.

"Why this show at this time for you?" one critic wonders, politely, of Northam.

"Well, I suppose the niceties between different sorts of network shows might be lost on somebody like me," Northam explains.

Which again, had the TV critics not been brought up well, they might have shot back that that is exactly what he pays his agent and/or manager to know.

Moving on, cast member Lana Parrilla mistakenly thinks the show is shot in Miami.

Leiber has to jump in to inform the critics - and Parrilla, apparently - it's shot in Los Angeles.

"Yeah, we do shoot there," Parrilla now remembers.

"We shoot HERE," Lieber corrects, since the Q&A is going on in Pasadena - bedroom community for those who work in downtown Los Angeles.

One critic notes Parrilla actually speaks Spanish in the show, as though he didn't think she was capable of such a feat.

"Do you bump across chances to talk in Spanish to people" in real life, the critic wonders.

She says not as often as she'd like. "If we were in Miami, I would probably -- " she begins.

"Though there's a lot of Spanish spoken here," Lieber interrupts, sensing danger.

"Yeah," Parrilla says vaguely.

The writer/producers promise there will be a lot of sex among the doctors in the show. We know thespian Elisabeth Harnois is the one destined to canoodle with Northam, because she's the only actress on the stage who's been given brand new Christian Louboutin shoes to wear for the Q&A - the traditional symbol of actress status at the Press Tour.

The porcelain-skinned, strawberry-blonde, lacy-camisoled, Christian Louboutin-ed Harnois begins to prattle on happily about how her character, who is called Serena - you knew it was either going to be that or "Tiffany" - is the "baby" of the show, who is a "perfectionist" and "passionate about being the best surgeon that she can be but, sadly, "socially underdeveloped," which did not cause the critics to erupt in peals of laughter - yet another sign of their impeccable upbringing.

One critic wonders in the direction of Northam: "I'm wondering, has Hugh Laurie given you any advice? I assume you guys know each other over there."

Northam draws himself up to his full seated-in-the-back-row height and says dangerously:

"I don't know Hugh. I know he's English. But I don't know him and I don't know what advice he might give me."

Oooh snap!

"Miami Medical" premieres Friday, April 2 at 10 p.m.

By Lisa de Moraes  |  January 12, 2010; 11:53 AM ET
Categories:  Winter TV Press Tour 2010  
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