New Canadian mini-series wants to be the cure for tired medical dramas

Ben Kaplan, Canwest News Service
January 8, 2010

A love triangle set in a busy hospital with fetching young doctors may not mark the most daring debut of original programming for HBO Canada, but the talent behind Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures insists they have something new to add to the canon.

"I've seen Grey's Anatomy. It's interesting, though a bit of a soap opera, and I've only caught a little bit of House," says Mayko Nguyen, who plays a career-oriented OB/GYN, hell-bent on having her own children, who's at the centre of a love sandwich between actors Shawn Ashmore and Byron Mann. "The medicine plays a part on our show, but what's more prominent is the three of us. On House, he gets a case each episode and has to solve it. With us, it's more about the through-line episode-to-episode of the relationships."

The eight-part miniseries, which premieres this Sunday and is an adaptation of the Scotiabank Giller Prize-winning book by Vincent Lam, is set in Toronto and features a racially diverse group of actors playing the leads.

"If this was set in the States, they'd want to turn everyone into white characters and make everyone look like Barbie dolls, Gossip Girl or Melrose Place," says Mann, a Vancouver-based actor who was nominated for a Genie for his work on CBC's Dragon Boys, a series about Asian crime syndicates, which was almost remade by an American network with an all-white cast. "Go to any hospital in Canada, and you'll see Asians, you'll see Indians. My doctor's Asian. . . . You'd never see that reflected on a show made in the States."

Of course, the show also couldn't exist with the support of author Vincent Lam, who acted as a series consultant and helped answer the actors' questions in this adaptation of his autobiographical first book.

"These characters are human beings trying to do a hard job and they're not perfect, but they're driven to do good," Lam says. "The world might not think they need another medical drama, but what they don't know is that they need this."

The project was able to speed its way through financing when it attracted Shawn Ashmore, an actor originally from Richmond, B.C., who found fame and fortune in projects such as Smallville and the billion-dollar X-Men franchise. Ashmore, who also serves as one of the show's executive producers, says that, almost on instinct, he tends to avoid anything that smacks of E.R., Doogie Howser, M.D. or St. Elsewhere. He argues that this new Canadian-produced miniseries was specific enough to be fresh.

"I'm sick of watching broad TV shows about broad people. I think that's why television has become so boring," Ashmore says. "Having a new cable outlet in Canada embracing Canadian-made productions is exciting. It lets people know there's other Canadian stuff out there that's not on the CBC."

Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures premieres Sunday at 8 ET/PT on HBO Canada.

This article originally appeared here

© Canwest News Service 2010