I have essentially no hope that America will embrace a show that’s about Jason Isaacs playing the Surgeon General of the United States, but for however-many episodes it airs before it gets cancelled, it will probably be my favorite show on television. Well, except for the idea that his character is supposed to be too noble for the politics of the job:
The medical show centers on America’s doctor: the surgeon general of the United States, with Isaacs set to play Dr. John Sherman, a man of solid build and character. He’s got a rare mix of resolve, humanity and dry wit. When he’s injured during his service as am military medic, he becomes a national hero and is appointed to the office of Surgeon General upon his return to America. The character is a widower who is raising two teen girls on his own, with a bit of help from his mother-in-law and doesn’t take kindly to the political aspect of his position. All he wants to be concerned with is the nation’s health, but he can’t ignore the politics that come with the job.
There’s a great cable show in the career of, say, C. Everett Koop, the Surgeon General under President Ronald Reagan, who resisted political pressure to say that abortion harmed women, even though he was philosophically opposed to the procedure and waged a long-running battle to avoid releasing a report that would come to those conclusions, while also acting on both HIV and tobacco, even if his actions on the former garnered mixed reviews from AIDS activists and public health experts. Then there’s Luther Terry, who oversaw the production of Smoking and Health: Report of the Advisory Committee to the Surgeon General of the United States, which produced a seismic change in American use of tobacco. But what’s interesting about the best Surgeon Generals is the way they dived into politics, and often behaved in ways that were politically unpredictable. The best way to get at that tradition of independence isn’t to pretend they were aloof, but to highlight the way they fought for public health precisely because they were engaged and politically savvy.