TV blog: The Good Karma Hospital

Benjie Goodhart / 02 February 2017

A new Sunday-night drama, a boys-own adventure with the SAS and the rest of this week’s TV highlights.

The Good Karma Hospital, Sunday 6th February, 9pm, ITV

You’ve probably seen the trails for this. It looks big, brash, colourful, noisy, not particularly nuanced, but quite good fun all the same. Which is a pretty accurate reflection, as it happens.

Dr Ruby Walker (Amrita Acharia) is not a happy bunny. She doesn’t like her job, and her fella has just moved out. So when she stumbles across an advert asking for British doctors to go and work in India (which seems only fair, as we’ve nabbed all of theirs to work in the NHS) she immediately sees a way out. Or, at the very least, an opportunity for some amusing/heart-rending/culturally enlightening TV-friendly scenarios to be played out in an hour-long time frame every week.

On arrival in India, though, she is appalled to discover she’s working at a run-down, chaotic, rather backward cottage hospital. In Dramaland, where all first impressions are completely false, this means she will clearly grow to love the place. She is introduced to the hospital’s matriarch, Dr Lydia Fonseca (Amanda Redman) who is rude and abrasive, which obviously means she’s going to be kind-hearted and lovely. And there’s Dr Varma (James Floyd) who is grumpy and objectionable, and takes an instant dislike to Ruby, which clearly means they will fall in love.

On an improbably eventful first day, Ruby ends up helping a pregnant lady. Dr Varma announces “Your wife is in perfect health. Everything is pointing to a normal, uncomplicated delivery,” which, as we now know, means that at any moment both mother and child could burst into flames or develop Ebola or turn into spitting demons.

Eventually the baby is born, and there’s a shock in store for the parents (although they, and seemingly everyone else, seems entirely unconcerned that their newborn baby is clearly three months old.)

It’s all rather harsh on Ruby, who packs enough into her first day to last several lifetimes. So, entirely fed up with the whole exercise, she hops on a plane back to England, where she tragically succumbs to a tropical disease while eating Hobnobs and watching Corrie. OF COURSE SHE DOESN’T!! If, by the end of the series, Ruby isn’t a fabulous doctor, who everyone in the region loves, and who has learned many fascinating truths about life, medicine, and how even the very poorest can be noble and happy, I’ll be astonished. And she’ll also, I have very little doubt, be very close indeed to Dr Varma. 

SAS: Rogue Warriors, Monday 6th February, 9pm, BBC Two

A lot of small boys grow up wanting to be in the SAS. I know I did. All that jumping out of planes, or descending the outside of buildings, chucking grenades around with abandon, and blowing away the bad guys. Brilliant.

But I’m an adult now – at least, what passes for one – and I honestly can’t think of anything worse. I get vertigo at the top of a flight of stairs, so launching myself from a plane is out. I don’t like explosions, I have a quite rational aversion to being shot at, and I’d be far too squeamish to take a life. In short, I’d probably be the least promising SAS soldier since… well, since the regiment’s founder, David Stirling.

In 1941, Stirling had a reputation as a terrible soldier. Tall and unusually lazy, he was nicknamed The Giant Sloth by his fellow soldiers in North Africa. He was prone to insubordination, and according to contemporaries, ‘could barely march straight’. But what Stirling did have was an idea. His idea was to take small raiding parties behind enemy lines, to create havoc, damage infrastructure, destroy enemy planes and airfields and generally smash things up. 

The idea of giving a hopeless soldier the resources and manpower to create his own unit was, of course, utterly ridiculous. Stirling knew that if he submitted the proposal through the usual military channels, it wouldn’t get close to being seen by top brass. So he came up with a solution that was to characterise the daring and chutzpah of the SAS in years to come. He broke into a military compound in Egypt, and wandered about opening doors until he encountered a senior general, who he then buttonholed. Who dares wins indeed!

With the approval of high command, Stirling was free to recruit a team of 66. He opted for brave, unconventional types, and set up camp in the desert. Well, he would have set up camp, if they’d been given the materials to do so. Instead, what he instructed his men to do was steal a camp. Which they duly did.

Stirling and his able No. 2 Jack Lewes  began training the troops for their first mission, to destroy airfields and aircraft around Tobruk. To call the operation an unmitigated disaster would be a considerable understatement (with some of the troops destined to a fate of unrivalled gruesomeness). The next mission had to be something of a success or the SAS would be disbanded before it had even begun…

This is a riveting look at the history of perhaps the world’s most famous regiment. With access to the SAS War Diary, interview footage with Stirling and other SAS originals recorded in 1987, remarkable, unseen archive footage, and a coherent and informative narrative from historian Ben McIntyre, this is gripping, boys-own stuff.

The best… and the rest

Saturday 4th February

Six Nations Rugby Union, from 1:15pm, BBC One, 4:10pm, ITV: If your thing is large men holding oddly shaped balls and smashing into each other, this weekend is like Christmas for you. Today, Scotland v Ireland on BBC One, then England v France on ITV. Tomorrow, Wales go to Italy, and the alpha-male fun continues into the night with the Superbowl.

Davis Cup Tennis: Canada v GB, 6pm, BBC Two: GB faces a Canada team led by World No 3 Milos Raonic. Today, it’s the doubles, so expect Jamie Murray to partner his little-known younger brother…

Sunday 5th February

The Jump, 7:30pm, Channel 4: A bunch of celebrities don garish and ill-becoming lycra and hurtle down sheet ice with very little control. Daft, but in a good way.

Lion Country: Night and Day, ITV, 8pm: Cameras follow two prides of lions in Zambia (and find out what happens when you get a little too close…)

Superbowl 51, 11:20pm, BBC One: Get the hot dogs on and the Bud in the chiller. And for heaven’s sakes, put on some coffee (this goes until 4am). Tonight’s NFL climax sees the Atlanta Falcons go in search of their first-ever title. In their way stand four-time winners the New England Patriots.

Monday 6th February

The Fake News Show, 8pm, Channel 4: It’s Fake News Week on Channel 4 (really just three tenuously-linked programmes under a conveniently timely banner). Tonight, Stephen Mangan presents this comedy panel show. Good, we really need another of those!

Confessions of the Paparazzi, 9pm, Channel 4: The cameras follow renowned snapper George Barmby as he skulks about trampling all over people’s privacy. I’m sorry, I mean taking photographs that are of keen public interest.

Tuesday 7th February

How to Get Fit Fast, 8pm, Channel 4: Apparently it’s all about running, bulking and shredding, whatever on earth they are. Best watched with a large slice of cake and a sugary tea.

The Moorside, 9pm, BBC One: Two-part drama following the extraordinary disappearance of Shannon Matthews on the Moorside Estate in Dewsbury. Gemma Whelan plays her mother, Karen, while Sheridan Smith and Sian Brooke also star.

The Secret Life of Dogs, 9pm, ITV: How much of a secret life can they have? Do they play bingo after we’ve gone to bed? Are they behind the US election hack? Or do they simply spend their lives wagging their tails and thinking about food and walkies? This three-part series will reveal all.

Secrets of the National Trust with Alan Titchmarsh, 9pm, Channel 5: How many secrets can they have? Do they secretly dye the flowers at Nymans gardens? Or, um, is this just a six-part series about the lesser-known National Trust gems? Ah.

Britain’s Greatest Hoaxer, 10pm, Channel 4: Meet Simon Brodkin, the man who showered Sepp Blatter in banknotes, and threw golf balls with swastikas on them towards Donald Trump.

Thursday 9th February

After Brexit: The Battle for Europe, 9pm, BBC Two: BBC’s Europe editor Katya Adler looks at the rise and rise of the Eurosceptic movement across Europe.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

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