Grand Rounds XXV: What to watch this week

As a child of television, I had to wonder what Grand Rounds would look like if it were TV, presented by a TV critic from a magazine known for its somewhat snarky TV reviews. Well, it might look something like this...



A day-to-day guide to notable programs by ORAC Wheat (with apologies to Entertainment Weekly)

This week, Orac has decided to focus on medical-themed shows, and there's some good ones this week, and in some unexpected places! So, let Orac dig out the gold from all that dirt.

(All times are Eastern Standard Time.)


9-10 PM
Hannity and Colmes (Fox News, TV-G). Sean Hannity interviews the CodeBlue doc (famed creator of CSI:Medblogs and winner of various medblogging awards) on as their guest. CodeBlue presents the controversial results of his personal investigation into the recent complications of former President Bill Clinton’s bypass surgery. Based on his findings, at first, he wonders what the heck is really wrong with Clinton that surgery is mandated to fix it, even going so far as to wonder whether he has AIDS or cancer, and then he speculates that it may actually have been a complication from internal mammary artery harvesting. He then takes Clinton’s doctors to task for not recognizing the complication sooner. Hannity eats it up and bullies Colmes; Colmes just lays down and takes it. Like always. Formerly skeptical guest Nick (invited to rebut CodeBlue) is almost won over by this line of thinking. James Carville denies everything.

10-11 PM
CSI:Miami (CBS, TV-14). Evidence of Things Unseen. Horatio Caine (David Caruso) is invited by his old buddy Dr. Emer to help investigate the mysterious deaths of schoolchildren in the Phillipines. Naturally, Horatio brings his flaming red hair and his crew of attractive young forensic scientists and pathologists to do all sorts of disgusting tests on the corpses and cool-looking chemical assays on the cassava fruits implicated in the deaths (all with lots of multi-colored Eppendorf tubes--most regular scientists like Orac use plain tubes--and rock music, of course). Unfortunately, there are no shootouts (good thing it’s not a sweeps month); it turns out that it was probably organophosphate poisoning of the fruit. Horatio is frustrated because there is no villain at whom he can narrow his eyes menacingly and fire off one of his patented sarcastic lines that he likes to use before busting the bad guy. Bummer.


8-9 PM
Nova (PBS, TV-G). Marvels of the Brain. In honor of Brain Awareness Week, Nate takes the viewer on a tour of the brain and investigates with Doctor-squared-to be MudFud how neuromarketing may represent the new frontier in advertising. Maria explains how treating mental diseases is different than treating physical disease.

9-9:30 PM
Scrubs (NBC, TV-PG). My Best Laid Plans. Madhouse Madman guest stars as a new intern. Hilarity ensues when Dr. Cox (John McGinley) and Madhouse Madman have to adjust to a hostile takeover by the new chief of medicine. (Congrats, Madman!) And, as if that isn’t enough, a beautiful new drug rep tempts intern Scott with her tricks.

9-10 PM
House, M.D. (Fox, TV-14). A Bird in the Hand. A patient who happens to be a newcomer to Grand Rounds (Grrlscientist) comes in with flu-like symptom, and, naturally, Dr. House (Hugh Laurie) can’t figure out what’s wrong with her, even though all of his young apprentices tell him it’s the avian flu. As usual, Dr. House makes several dangerous and incorrect (not to mention unethical) attempts at diagnosis and cure before, just as it looks as she is about to die (although it's not clear if from the flu or from Dr. House's interventions), he manages to pull out the real diagnosis and save the patient’s life, with only two minutes to go in the show. He is sorely disappointed, because he suddenly realizes that the avian flu may not have been all that deadly. In fact, he’s so disappointed that he allows Grrlscientist to pontificate on how vaccines are made, something he would normally never allow, because no one can ever be allowed to show that she knows more than him. In the meantime, as a subplot, an anaesthesiologist is told by a patient that if he’s wrong, she’ll sue him. Too bad no patients ever seem to say that to Dr. House. Of course, Dr. House is never wrong; so it’s a moot point anyway.

10-11 PM
Queer Eye for the Straight Guy (BRAVO, TV-PG). The Fab Five have a real challenge, when straight guy Orac, on the verge of a mid-life crisis and crazed because he’s just realized that he’ll never be able to afford that Italian sports car he dreams of, seeks Carson’s help to stop looking like such a total geek in preparation for presenting his data to a national audience.


Check local listings for times.
The Oprah Winfrey Show (Check local listings for station, TV-G). Oprah discusses obesity (as she has so many times before). First, Aaron sets the stage by describing evidence showing that obesity is not just a problem in the cities, but also in rural areas. Yoshi, who has undergone laparoscopic gastric bypass surgery, discusses his battle with obesity and ultimate decision to undergo surgery. Dr. Phil then makes a rare appearance (since he got his own show, at least), after which there is a roundtable discussion with obesity experts.

10-11 PM
CSI:New York (CBS, TV-14). Top, this, Horatio! Not to be outdone by Horatio Caine, Mac Taylor (Gary Sinise) and the CSI:NY crew become embroiled in a murder mystery thousands of years old when old buddy (ever notice how old buddies always get you in trouble?) Dr. Sethi asks him to look at King Tut. Unfortunately, much to Mac’s disappointment, the CT scan shows that Tut didn’t die a violent death. Much subdued emoting in shadowy lighting follows, as Mac realizes he won't be famous after all. Also, as is de rigeur for all CSI shows, many scenes of unusually attractive scientists in clothes that are tighter-fitting than what most scientists wear making even the most boring chemical assays seem exciting follow.


10-11 PM
E.R. (NBC, TV-PG). One Day There Will Be Something New. Dr. Charles, a new attending in the E.R., agonizes over a patient with a mysterious and painful problem, while a new anaesthesiologist must deal with a failure of anesthesia. In the meantime, Carrie Weaver (Laura Innes) wrestles over bed issues (you know, the ones that keep patients on ventilators in her E.R. for days, forcing the E.R. docs to have to wean patients who've become chronically ventilator-dependent because they've been in the E.R. so long) and goes to Tim for help, before going to Dr. Andy for help with the new electronic order entry system. (OK, it’s a slow day in the E.R., and the writers ran out of ideas—come on, the show’s almost 11 years old, fer cryin’ out loud!) In the meantime, called to the E.R. to see a smoker, the Cheerful Oncologist must make an unpleasant diagnosis, threatening his until now indestructible cheerfulness.

10-10:30 PM
Bullsh!t (SHOWTIME, TV-MA). Alternative Medicine and Antivaccination Quacks. Penn & Teller, in their usual hilarious and foul-mouthed style, trash chiropractic medicine (with the help of guest Paul Lee), find heavy metal contamination of Ayurvedic medicines (with the help of Skeptico, who also gleefully takes on alternative medicine in general), Organon (with the help of Quackblog). Finally, they take on an antivaccination nurse (and here)with the help of Peter Bowditch and Dr. Henochowicz, who utterly demolish the myths of the antivaccination movement. To put it all together, Anne tells the boys the signs you’re dealing with health fraud.


8-9 PM
Fear Factor (NBC, TV-PG). Fear Factor moves to a special night and time because….because, well, even Orac, as disgusting as he can be at times, was too squeamish to lead off Grand Rounds with this, which is what he would have had to do if he put Fear Factor in its usual time at 8 PM on Monday nights—so just deal with it, OK? In any case, in this episode, contestants must face ear wax and smegma, courtesy of guest-host PZ Myers. Not for the faint of heart.

10-11 PM
Comedy Central Presents (Comedy Central, TV-PG). Comedy Central Presents...Nick Genes. Nick brings his standup act to the medical sphere, with his playful take on medical acronyms.

10-11 PM
Battlestar Galactica (SCIFI, TV-14). Flesh and Bone. President Laura Roslin (Mary McDonald) undergoes TomoTherapy by Medgadget for her advanced cancer. Desperate for a reliable means of identifying Cylons disguised as humans, Starbuck approaches Dr. Tony about using nanobots, developed in 2030 to cure human diseases, to tell the difference. (Actually, it just occurred to me while I was writing this: Why use TomoTherapy on President Roslin if nanobots could cure her? Is there something that's--oh--ominous about them? Or have the writers screwed up this time?) Meanwhile, the Cylons plot a final strike against the fleet. (Aren’t they always doing that?)

10-11 PM
20/20 (ABC, TV-PG). 20/20 reports on issues in medical ethics, introduced by a discussion by Dr. Bernstein on just what is an ethical dilemma. Segments include: 1. Behave or Die. Editors of The American Journal of Bioethics examine how AIDS policy is more moralistic than effective. 2. Infanticide. Different River reports on how the stigma appears to be lessening for infanticide and discusses the Groningen protocol. 3. Is it possible to be too honest? The Anonymous Clerk reports on the ethics of transference in psychological treatment and discusses the boundaries. 4. Not in my pharmacy you don’t! The Bioethics Dude reports on a pharmacist who won’t fill prescriptions for birth control pills and asks: Is that ethical?


Nothing good on Saturday this week. Sorry. Saturday Night Live has Ashton Kutcher as host. Rent a movie. Or go see a movie. Except that this time of year is a wasteland for movies. I'm on call this weekend anyway. I can't go, because I hate it when my pager goes off while I'm in a movie. Damn. Maybe a DVD and hope that the pager doesn't go off too much...


7-8 PM
60 Minutes
(CBS, TV-G). Stories focused on the crisis in health care. This week, DB reports on long hours and the doctor shortage. Kevin, M.D. reports on the dim-looking future of primary care. Finally, the Thinking Nurse reports on a nurse who uses blogging as therapy. Finally, Morley Safer interviews Dr. Sydney Smith about the problems inherent in pay for performance. Interested Participant substitutes for Andy Rooney and asks why prescription drug information labels have to be so long and obtuse.

10-11 PM
Boston Legal (ABC, TV-PG). The Whistleblower. Denny Crane (William Shatner) and Alan Shore (James Spader) are recruited by Matthew Holt to defend a woman fired by a big HMO of whistleblowing because the company had apparently compromised patient confidentiality. In the meantime, Pearls and Dreams defends a doctor sued by a patient for forcing her to reschedule because she was 30 minutes late for an appointment. Gruntdoc defends doctors against the rapacious greed of Crane and Shore, explaining why lawyers’ claims that tort reform won’t reduce malpractice rates are flawed. All the while, everyone in the office either has sex. or spends a lot of time delivering quirky dialog. (This is a David E. Kelly production, after all.) And William Shatner overacts, muttering "Denny Crane" constantly. Which is one reason why I still love him, 36 years after Star Trek.


Well, that's it. It's been an honor and a blast to host Grand Rounds. I hope you enjoyed it and that you didn't consider my attempt at humorous take on Grand Rounds to be hack. (If it is hack, then perhaps I could get a few free lessons from The Cranky Badger. There has to be some benefit to having a relative who taught comedy writing...)

The next session of Grand Rounds will be hosted by the Well-Timed Period on March 22; so don't hesitate to send your submissions there for next week. I know I will. And, finally, thanks to Nick for organizing Grand Rounds.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. this is excellent work!! keep it up!!

  3. BRAVO!!! BRAVO!!!!!

    Standing ovation!!! Great job!

  4. Nicely Done! And, quite inventive!


  5. Wonderful! How do you have time to put all of this together? ..Maurice.

  6. He found the time by not shopping for an Italian Sports Car (grin)

  7. WOW, Orac, now I wish I had a TV!! But I am relieved to know that I survive, despite all the drama (you had me worried for a few minutes). Nice job!

    (also known as Hedwig the Owl in some parts of the blogosphere)

  8. Excellent Read! Thanks!

  9. Thanks, everyone.

    Dr. Bernstein: How I have time to put this together is very simple. I presently I don’t have much of a life outside of my work. It’s winter, and there’s not much else that I like to do outside of work in the winter other than reading and and arguing with people on Usenet--which has now been more or less replaced by blogging. (Notice that I first started this blog in December.) Certainly skiing is out of the question for me...

    So, blogging is my only hobby at the moment. Also, as a surgeon, I have a high tolerance for going without sleep, which is helpful for putting together something on a deadline, like Grand Rounds. Hopefully, when summer comes, golfing and other activities will decrease my blogging activity somewhat and bring a better balance to my life. By then, I may even have developed the will to restrain myself from blogging at all when I go away on vacation this summer. (If I don't develop it, let's just say there might be....consequences, as far as my wife is concerned. Perhaps I should just leave my laptop at home...)

    Hedwig: You needn’t have worried about not making it. If you ever watch House, M.D., you’ll notice that Dr. House always saves the patient by the end of the episode, no matter how many dead-ends he follows before getting it right. The show is very formulaic that way; which is part of the reason it's so easy to parody.

  10. Congrats, Dave - your hard work in putting this together is appreciated.

    Makes me almost want to buy a television set!

  11. Well done, Orac! Wonderfully creative.... :)

  12. Excellent format! *Applause*


  13. Don't you guys have a badge that we can add to our blog essays as a link back to the index?

  14. Ask Nick at Blogborygmi. He's the grand master of this whole Grand Round things.

    It's a good idea, though!

  15. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  16. The Badger approves.

    I particularly agree with Saturday's schedule.

    Oh, and there is no benefit to having a comedy writer as a relative. none. Been looking for one for years. There are very few opportunities to utilize someone without an ounce of shame.

  17. How did you know I like Horatio better than Grissom? Great work, Dave! Another unique presentation.

  18. jjb: Try

    Dr. Emer: I had no idea whether you would prefer Horatio Caine or if you even liked CSI:Miami, although it's my favorite of all the CSI shows. I happen to like Horatio because he's so over the top. When he grumbles some cheesy line at the bad guy, it's just so damned entertaining. Also, I forgot to mention the pathologist who likes to talk to the corpses and tell them she'll find out "who did this to you." It's a hoot!

    To the Cranky Badger: There is one advantage of having a comedy writer in the family. Sometimes there's some amusing jokes that come out of it. Also, isn't the complete absences of a sense of shame also a prerequisite for becoming a politician? Finally, you do realize, don't you, that you owe me big time for plugging your website in a post that (I knew) would be guaranteed to generate an order of magnitude more traffic to my blog than I normally get for anything I ever write...


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