Up until very recently it was not uncommon to hear the phrase “racism is dead in America.” It was never true – even with a black man in the Oval Office – but that fallacy is looking more and more ridiculous in light of the numerous murders of unarmed young black men across the country in the last several months. Segregation and lynchings may be relics of a tragic and infuriating part of our still-recent history, but racial tensions clearly remain an issue in the United States. Ava DuVernay’s Selma, about the 1965 protest march from Selma to Montgomery, could not be coming out at a more appropriate time. Perhaps a look into the past can yield a more considerate future.
I can’t tell if Cinemax is staffed by idiots or geniuses. Their new prestige series, The Knick, is airing on Fridays. Fridays! The widely accepted graveyard for broadcast television. The only thing worse is (shudder) Saturday. Ever since the days of The Sopranos, Sunday has been the day for high concept cable drama. Perhaps HBO, the more popular parent company to Cinemax, doesn’t want to canibalize it’s own end-of-weekend cash cow. It does however leave one wondering if anyone is watching The Knick. Certainly not on Friday.
Welcome back to The Knick, ladies and gentlemen. When last we met, we were introduced to Dr. John Thackery (Clive Owen), a surgery pioneer in turn-of-the-century (the 20th century) New York City. Thack – as his closer acquaintances call him – finds himself the head of the surgery staff after his mentor, Dr. Christiansen (Matt Frewer), is driven to suicide by his gruesome – and often deadly – profession. Thack isn’t as clean as he would have his co-workers and patients believe; his brilliance is driven by a dependence on cocaine, and his fragile mental state is not improved by the introduction of a black surgeon (Andre Holland’s Dr. Algernon Edwards) to his staff. For all intents and purposes, that’s The Knick.
Steven Soderbergh famously retired from filmmaking after his 2013 film Side Effects. In the time since that announcement Soderbergh directed Behind the Candelabra, a highly-acclaimed HBO-released feature based on the life of Liberace. And now, in August, Cinemax will be airing The Knick, a 10-part series about turn-of-the-century medicine starring Clive Owen. Soderbergh directed each of the ten episodes in a process not unlike that of a 10 hour film. It seems Soderbergh just can’t stay away from the filmed medium – indeed, he has recently taken to referring to his “retirement” as more of a “sabbatical.” This is good news for fans of cinema, but there is always the chance that The Knick may be the last we get from the prolific director.