There are two key things to know about Dr. Adam Kay (the fictional version).
First, he says “I’m sorry” a lot. Second, he has good reason to.
And there are many things to know about former-doctor Adam Kay (the real one), starting with this: He’s a brilliant writer, one who can toss off funny asides, while building a deeply moving moment.
Now the two combine for “This Is Going to Hurt,” a terrific series streaming on AMC+. We meet a character – sharply written by Kay, perfectly played by Ben Whishaw (shown here) – a lot like the real Kay.
Like the character, Kay is a doctor’s son and he’s gay and fhe ocuses on obstetrics/gynecology. the difference: The real Kay was an intensive-care doctor. After a tragic error – a woman was sent home, without her malady (placenta praevia) being spotted; the baby was stillborn. In the years that followed, Kay became an ob/gyn trainee, before dropping out to become a writer.
“Hurt” uses a variation on that story: This character is an ob/gyn who makes a similar mistake. That comes late in the first hour, then haunts him in the episodes that follow.
The first hour seems content to tell us that Adam is overworked and groggy. It’s a long, demanding hospital shift … and then it gets much worse.
But the next couple episodes are terrific, adding fresh depth. There are nuanced looks at Adam, his boyfriend, his boss, his resident (a young Pakistani woman) and some of the patients and nurses. And scattered into unsuspecting spots is the dry humor.
Kay, who started doing comedy in med school, has gone on to do stand-up and to write for British comedy shows. His big breakthrough came in 2017, when he turned his journal into a book (also titled “This is Going to Hurt”) that was reportedly No. 1 in England for more than a year.
Now that’s been adapted into a seven-part series, which is sort of “Call the Midwife” in reverse.
“Midwife” is set in the early years of the National Health Service. Idealistic midwives bond with the community, have mixed success, but retain their optimism. “Hurt” is set in modern time; doctors have more equipment and less optimism. Sometimes they win; sometimes they’re simply overwhelmed.