While maverick director Steven Soderbergh may currently be in self-imposed exile from the big-screen, he’s hard at work on his small-screen follow-up to last year’s award magnet HBO telefilm Behind the Candelabra. This time out, Soderbergh has created a full-fledged TV series for HBO sister network Cinemax called The Knick, one that looks to be miles away from the bittersweet romantic drama that Candelabra brought us. (Then again, Soderbergh’s career path has always been anything but predictable.) The first non-teaser trailer for The Knick was just released earlier today, and can be watched above.
The Knick stars Clive Owen (Sin City) as Dr. John W. Thackery, cocaine-addled surgeon at New York City’s Knickerbocker Hospital circa 1900. The series follows both the personal and professional lives of Thackery and the rest of the medical staff at The Knick, as they struggle with the many limitations of then-modern medicine. Antibiotics weren’t even invented until 1928, meaning that infections were both rampant and deadly. The risk of patient death when doing what would now be considered a routine medical procedure was also much, much higher, and the methods for treating many now commonplace diseases were primitive at best.
The above trailer presents a world that seems wildly off-kilter, but still uniquely Soderberghian. Owen’s monologue about medical progress is haunting, not only in his delivery, but in the fact that almost every word he says could easily apply to today’s world. Medicine continues to advance at an incredibly rapid rate, with new treatments, cures, medications and techniques constantly being innovated. Only today we have better anesthetics and the means with which to combat nasty bacterial infections.
Another thing the trailer makes clear is just how moody and dark The Knick will be. Blood and guts seem to be the name of the game at this hospital, with one patient even somehow catching on fire during a procedure. The way many shots are framed and the often crazy look in Owen’s eyes almost lends a Frankenstein-esque quality to the proceedings, with Dr. Thackery’s boundary-pushing methods almost seeming to make him the mad medical scientist of his era.
The Knick will be Cinemax’s first original drama series not to focus on crime or action, and represents a marked departure from previous network efforts like Strike Back and Banshee. One wonders whether the Cinemax audience, long placated by gun fights, murders, and softcore sex scenes will be receptive to this thoughtful, if exceptionally gloomy medical drama. If not, Owen could always just morph into his Shoot ‘Em Up character and take everybody out in the season finale.
The Knick premieres Friday, August 8, 2014 at 10/9c on Cinemax.