Seven, Wednesday, 7.30pm
Nine, Wednesday, 8.45pm
Australia hasn’t been very good at selling itself of late. Paul Hogan and his shrimp on the barbie shtick was a high point, but that was in 1984. Lara Bingle and the “where the bloody hell are you?” campaign had all the finesse of our vaccine rollout (is it any surprise the same man, Scott Morrison, was in charge of both). Meanwhile our 2019 effort, featuring Kylie Minogue and Adam Hills, begged the Brits to come Down Under for fresh air when half the country was on fire. No thanks.
So, here’s an idea: why not just put the nurses and paramedics in charge? They’ll call everyone “love” and “darling”, give you a reassuring hand hold and a squirt of ketamine up your nose and then whisk you off to hospital where the treatment is free.
If that’s not an ad for Australia, I don’t know what is. And that’s essentially what these two shows – Nurses on Seven and Paramedics on Nine – are: an ad for our health system and all the exceptional people who make it tick.
The work they do is extraordinary – anyone who has had a swab shoved up their nose this past year can attest to that. But to see them in action close up, in high-pressure situations, such as the organ retrieval in Nurses is another thing entirely. (And, by the way, is there a more Australian sight than a pair of lungs sitting in an Esky on ice?)
Both shows follow the same basic fly-on-the-wall formula: they shadow three or four “characters” each episode, include a mix of cases (heart attacks in the emergency room, broken legs, motorbike accidents, babies being born) and squeeze in a peek at the personal life of those involved (hopefully at the beach or in a pool).
To see Ambulance Victoria paramedic Steven gently talk to a confused, 83-year-old nun or to watch paramedic Eamon do magic tricks in the back of an ambulance to calm a distressed child is wonderful. That they do it all while managing a camera crew, who are doing their best to get the action up close, is admirable.
None of this is new, though. It’s the same formula followed by every British medical reality show plugging the gaps in the free-to-air schedule, except there is one significant difference: blue skies.
Where 24 Hours in Emergency, Ambulance or One Born Every Minute give an eye-opening look at Britain’s NHS, they are all about as grim as, well, a pair of diseased lungs pulled from a patient. The streets are wet, the buildings pebble-dashed and the problems immense. And that’s in pre-pandemic times.
Nurses and Paramedics feel like a trip to the beach in comparison. Nurses has its many compulsory shots of Sydney Harbour, while the flat expanse of Melbourne and its spacious, tree-lined streets give Paramedics a homely suburban feel. Even better, no one so far has been stabbed. So far.
Which, again, is why we should be handing our tourism campaigns over to our healthcare workers and the very canny producers who put these shows together. After watching them, I want to toss it all in and enrol in a midwifery course or stick a broken leg in a splint.
Much like Bondi Rescue, these fly-on-wall shows are built for an international audience. There may be trauma, death and screaming children involved, but this is aspirational television. Forget Luxe Listings Sydney, with its multimillion-dollar real estate and agents with teeth to match, because if you want to sell Australia to the world, this is where it’s at.
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