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Steven Soderbergh
Cast: Clive Owen, Andre Holland, Eve Hewson, Jeremy Bobb, Juliet Rylance, Everett Johnson, Cara Seymour, Michael Angarano
Writing Credits:

Rated NR

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1/16X9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Brazilian Portuguese Dolby Digital 2.0
Brazilian Portuguese
Supplements Subtitles:
Brazilian Portuguese

Runtime: 600 min.
Price: $29.98
Release Date: 8/11/15

• Audio Commentaries for Three Episodes
• “Post-Op” Featurettes


Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


The Knick: The Complete First Season (2014)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (August 21, 2015)

Directed by Steven Soderbergh, The Knick gives us a new Cinemax series that looks at life in a New York hospital circa 1900. This “Complete First Season” set includes all 10 episodes. The plot synopses come straight from the DVD’s packaging.

Methods and Madness: “Dr. Jack Thackery (Clive Owen) ascends to the role of chief surgeon at the Knickerbocker Hospital but is forced by hospital benefactors to hire a black assistant chief, Algernon Edwards (Andre Holland).” With its opening episode, The Knick declares that it won’t offer a traditional “period piece” series. From its handheld camerawork to its pulsing synthesizer score to its stylized palette, “Madness” delivers something out of the ordinary.

Does it succeed in its ambitions? For the most part, it does. Of course, I won’t judge a series based on its initial episode, but “Madness” manages to launch The Knick in a fairly satisfying manner, even with a few cliché elements.

Mr. Paris Shoes: “Thackery tasks Barrow (Jeremy Bobb) over a dearth of cadavers; Edwards opens a covert basement clinic.” Two episodes in and it already seems clear that The Knick will view matters from something of a “social agenda” take. “Shoes” opens with scenes that contrast the lavish lifestyle of the hospital benefactors with the worn-out digs in which Edwards must reside due to his race. We also get a hint that Cornelia’s (Juliet Rylance) gender will be an issue that impacts her ability to enact her administrative agenda, as even with all her money, being a woman will hold her back.

I’m fine with those themes – as long as the series doesn’t get too heavy-handed. We’ll see how that goes, but the show seems to be better when it concentrates on character basics or the methods the surgeons use to advance their craft. “Shoes” moves elements well enough but it’s too soon to gauge how the show will go.

The Busy Flea: “Thackery is asked to perform reconstructive surgery on an old flame (Jennifer Ferrin); Algernon has a frustrating day at work.” Though Dr. Thackery seems to be the series’ nominal lead, so far he doesn’t create the most interesting storylines. Our time with Edwards proves more interesting, and the ever put-upon Barrow gives us intriguing moments. Those become the best parts of “Flea”.

Where’s the Dignity?: “Algernon forces Thackery’s hand in surgery, angering Gallinger (Eric Johnson); Cleary (Chris Sullivan) and Sister Harriet (Cara Seymour) strike a deal.” “Dignity” offers a pretty good mix of character development and elements related to medicine/progress in the era. Barrow and Edwards remain the most compelling roles, but other move along in a satisfying manner as well.

They Capture the Heat: “The Knick considers purchasing a new invention; Barrow enlists Thackery to operate on a Collier thug.” Part of what makes The Knick interesting stems from the “working class” nature of the hospital itself. While it looks at doctors who push toward the era’s cutting edge, they do so without many benefits and have to scramble to get by. That adds a charge to the show, one that comes out well in “Heat”, as it offers a nice look at the obstacles the characters confront.

Start Calling Me Dad: “Thackery vows to reverse a series of failed operations; Edwards finds his clinic – and career – in jeopardy.” While not the most impactful episode yet, “Dad” manages some good development. We see the culmination some work introduced in the pilot and other character/story movements. These make “Dad” a pretty good show.

Get the Rope: “The stabbing of a dirty cop by a black man stirs up racial tension on the street and at the Knick.” As I hinted earlier, racial issues have been a subject here ever since the first episode. These come to a head and lead to one of the more dynamic programs this year.

Working Late a Lot: “Thackery is compromised by a citywide run on cocaine; Gallinger hopes to quell his wife’s grief.” Arguably the weakest theme in Knick comes from Thackery’s drug addiction. That feels like a cliché and I don’t see that it adds to the series. Since this topic dominates “Late”, the program sags.

The Golden Lotus: “Lucy (Eve Hewson) goes to extremes to get drugs for Thackery; Cornelia and Edwards face a dilemma.” As S1 of The Knick winds to an end, it starts to feel more like a soap opera than I’d prefer. Drug addiction, mental illness, unwanted pregnancies – it’s classier than the average afternoon drama, but the content still seems a little sudsy. This doesn’t make “Lotus” a bad episode but it causes the show to limp toward the finish.

Crutchfield: “Thackery pushes himself to the limit and beyond; Cornelia and Edwards arrives at a crossroads.” I like The Knick best when it looks more at the medical side of things than the “soap opera” bent. “Crutchfield” manages to blend those two elements pretty well and becomes a satisfying conclusion to the season.

The DVD Grades: Picture B/ Audio B-/ Bonus C-

The Knick appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1 on these single-sided, double-layered DVDs; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 sets. This was a mostly positive presentation.

The shows offered generally solid clarity. Definition was usually positive, but some softness popped up at times. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering appeared, and I saw no edge haloes. Print flaws failed to mar the presentation.

The series opted for a stylized palette that favored hues such as yellow or teal. Within those parameters, the colors seemed fine. Blacks were pretty deep and tight, while shadows appeared positive, with only a little opacity on occasion. Overall, the shows provided appealing visuals.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack suited the shows but won't win any awards. The soundstage appeared nicely broad at the appropriate times and could be moderately engulfing on occasion. It's a talky little series, so the focus was mainly up front, but the audio expanded when necessary. This occurred mostly via gentle environmental ambience, so the surrounds didn’t have a lot to do. Occasional street scenes added the most pep and that was about it. That said, the imaging made sense for the series.

Sound quality seemed fine. Dialogue always appeared crisp and natural, and I had no trouble understanding it. The low-key music that acted as the score was warm and distinctive. Effects also seemed realistic and adequate for the tasks at hand. Knick won't be anyone's demo track, but the mix worked well for the series.

We get audio commentaries for three episodes: “Methods and Madness”, “Get the Rope” and “Crutchfield”. All three include the same roster of participants: creators/executive producers/writers Jack Amiel and Michael Begler and actors Jeremy Bobb, Eve Hewson, Michael Angarano, Chris Sullivan, Cara Seymour and Eric Johnson.

In these commentaries, we learn about story/character areas, cast and performances, sets and locations, costumes, props and period details, historical elements/accuracy, Steven Soderbergh’s impact on the shoot and connected elements. Though the tracks occasionally emphasize too much joking around, they usually provide good information about the series. We get nice notes about the history behind the events and learn more than enough filmmaking specifics to make these commentaries worthwhile.

Post-Op featurettes come with nine episodes: “Mr. Paris Shoes” (1:13), “The Busy Flea” (1:38), “Where’s the Dignity?” (2:00), “They Capture the Heat” (1:57), “Start Calling Me Dad” (2:33), “Get the Rope” (2:07), “Working Late a Lot” (1:54), “The Golden Lotus” (2:08) and “Crutchfield” (2:24). In these, we hear from Bobb, Begler, Amiel, Johnson, Sullivan, Hewson, Angarano, medical, historical and technical advisor Dr. Stanley Burns, and actors Andre Holland, Clive Owen, and Juliet Rylance. These give us some episode details. A few decent insights occur, but mostly these feel like generic summaries.

Though I don’t think it ever threatens to become a great series, The Knick has more ups than downs. It manages a fairly interesting mix of characters and usually stays intriguing despite some “soap opera’ elements. The DVD comes with generally good picture and audio but lacks many supplements. Season One works well enough to make me curious to see Season Two.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3 Stars Number of Votes: 1
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