Photo courtesy of CBS

A tech-genius billionaire indulges his philanthropic side to build a hospital, Bunkerhill, to utilize revolutionary technology.

James Bell (Augustus Prew, “Charlie St. Cloud”), the man behind Bunkerhill, creates an environment that melds technology and medicine. This hospital is far beyond the treatments and techniques applied at other leading hospitals, such as Johns Hopkins. Bell recruits only the best and tries to maintain a meritocracy of ideas among his staff. The doctors hired include Odette Annable (“The Astronaut Wives Club”) as Dr. Brockett and Reshma Shetty (“Odd Mom Out”) as Dr. Channarayapatra. Both actresses were in medical dramas previously: “House” and “Royal Pains” respectively. As an interesting parallel, Bell tries to bring Dr. Wallace (Dermot Mulroney, “The Wedding Date”) into the fold. While Bell continuously attempts to convince Dr. Wallace to join, the creators simultaneously attempt to sway the audience to keep watching and be inspired by the “possibilities of the future” through the show.

The pilot episode shows Bell making grand promises to the patients he brings, hoping to do the impossible. Much of the technological innovation that occurs is unrealistic for the current day and age. The monitor detects a heart attack while in the pocket of a paramedic, without any skin contact, which is currently impossible.

Other technology, such as a wearable ankle monitor to sense physiological functions, is based on current research but outperforms current scientific possibilities. While it is understandable that the show pushes the boundaries of reality to entertain, “Pure Genius” would be better if most of the innovation was more grounded to existing research.

Another technique in the episode is to 3D print a highly complex cardiac tumor. This has been seen on the small screen before in season 11 of “Grey’s Anatomy” in 2015. Despite this repetition, tumor printing is one of the more realistic depicted medical advances.

When Bell makes outrageous promises and blindly believes he will save patients’ lives, it is not in the their best interest, as Dr. Brockett points out. Since Bell has no medical degree, this behavior has no place in the patient-doctor interaction is dangerous and should not be
portrayed.

The show relies on the shock value of technology so much that the rest of the show falls to the wayside. Bell’s choice of patients that seem interesting and at the end of their ropes is overused. The knight in shining armor trope is cringe-worthy and occasionally slightly annoying.

The innovations are used as props, but they instead inspire laughter or concern in the technologically educated viewer. In a comically unrealistic manner, they created the first remote controlled nano-bot in less than a day.

Additionally, it is worrying that there is no third-party vetting of the medical devices that are used. There is no mention of the FDA or clinical trials before they jump in and use dangerous
technology on patients.

In fact, Bell says they innovate faster and change lives because there is no ‘“red tape.” Red tape, while annoying, is life-saving. By creating a system of accountability and testing, red tape protects patients. Medical ethics being bypassed with a blasé attitude is troubling.

For a pilot, far too many plot lines were thrown around. Bounding between four patients, a seemingly budding one-sided romance between Bell and Dr. Brockett, and the genetic disease Bell inherited is overwhelming. Gerstmann–Sträussler–Scheinker (GSS), the rare neurodegenerative disease Bell inherited, motivated him to build Bunkerhill, unbeknownst to the public.

Overall, the show took a wonderful idea but pushed the boundaries too far. The technology
angle is too unbelievable, and the omission of important steps to protect patients from well-intended but dangerous technology is concerning. The script leaves much to be desired, as do the plot points themselves. In order to see a renewal in its future, “Pure Genius” would need to shock itself back to life.

  • Barak

    I personally like the show. Sure, some of the things are unrealistic, but within the realm of future possibilities. Tech has made great strides. Sure they bypass FDA approvals, but the FDA also needs to become more nimble and not take so long to bring technologies to bear. Remember, lots of people thought current technologies weren’t possible at some point. The last episode with the robot surgery augmented by real doctors, the technology exists but in a lesser tech fashion (ie all laproscopic surgery). ACL, MCL, maniscus, and a microfracture on my knee was repaired with 3 1/2″ incisions 10 years ago
    The story line might be enhanced with a techie FDA advisor added. Someone who can act nimbly and push the bounds while still working within some bounds of regulation. I feel regulation on medications has a longer trial period. There are differences between surgical innovation and pharmaceutical innovation. The hospital isn’t charging for their services (that we’ve seen), if a patient is in stage 4 cancer, why shouldn’t they have the right to experimental procedures. If informed consent and the procedure has performed well in 3 test trials (this is where a techie FDA Advisor would add depth to the show, there to watch the trials and be able to approve it’s test use and be the one to provide informed consent in conjuction with the CoM), and if it’s going to potentially save someone whos life expectancy is 6 months then why not?? Again with fully informed consent. If it works, your risk is going to save other lives, that’s pretty self gratifying. If it doesn’t well then you hope to hell they learned something and can make it work the next time or the time after. I’m donating my body to science when I die. That’s really f’ing selfish of me to be buried or cremated, nothing can be learned or tried.
    Well that’s my 2 cents. I hope CBS doesn’t pull it. I think it’s entertaining and whats wrong with forward thinking and a show that makes you feel a glimmer of hope for the future of humanity