‘Pure Genius’ flatlines on the operating table

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

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.