For TV critics, this can be an annoyance: Shows change.
Good ones go bad. Mork gets goofy, “Miami Vice” gets glitzy, Fonzie jumps the shark.
And occasionally, a bad (or ordinary) one becomes very good. The latest surprise is “The Resident” (shown here in its early days); after steady improvement, its fourth season starts beautifully, at 8 p.m. Tuesday (Jan. 12) on Fox.
At first, this hospital drama centered on three people – Devon (Manish Dayal), a new resident; Conrad (Matt Czuchry), his mentor; and Nicolette (Emily VanCamp), a nurse.
Young and idealistic, they were working amid evil. Dr. Bell (Bruce Greenwood, second from left) kept concealing his tremor; others had to fix or cover up his mistakes.
This was a one-note villain – hardly worth more than an episode. And then, remarkably,”Resident” reversed itself. It turned Bell into a good guy and brought in two new villains.
Dr. Cain (Morris Chestnut) is a star surgeon, so confident that he puts his patients at risk. Logan Kim (Rob Yang) is the hospital vice-president who arrived with him, solely to make big profits.
There were surprises. One doctor – Mina, played by Shaunette Renee Wilson (second from right) – kept growing in importance. Another – AJ, played by a bearded Malcolm Jamal Warner whom “Cosby Show” fans won’t recognize – arrived as her counterpoint.
And there was a non-surprise: Conrad and Nic – both really cute – fell in love and got engaged.
That’s where the season-opener starts and ends. We jump ahead to a post-pandemic wedding day.
But in between, it flashes back to the arrival of COVID, driving everyone in new ways. Kim adds some depth, Cain merely adds more arrogance. Doctors and nurses are pushed to extremes; they find tragedy, at home and at work. And one relationship transforms.
All of this would be fairly easy to do in a surface way. Two such hospital shows, both on NBC, are “Chicago Med” and “Nurses.”
But “The Resident” goes further. It has solid writing, deep characters and subtle performances. It also has occasional surprises, including the time that AJ and Mina were stranded in a spooky town.
The season’s second episode (Jan. 19) stays with the post-pandemic time … but has strong aftershocks from the COVID era. It has one false note – the race issue seems to be injected arbitrarily – and a lot of good ones. Once quite ordinary, “The Resident” has become well worth watching.