The Internet Theater Magazine of Reviews, Features, Annotated Listings
A CurtainUp Streaming Feature
The Good Karma Hospital
By Elyse Sommer
When AcornTV posted the first two seasons, Curtainup's Talk About Large and Small Screen Shows section was still a somewhat irregularly updated part of our coverage. Our focus was on shows providing a chance to see the filmed work of actors and other creative folks whose work we saw regularly on and off Broadway and other places with vibrant theateer companies. Film work has, however, been not just a necessity to financially support their passion for the electricity of live theater, but provided a chance to broaden their story telling skills and reach a far larger and more diverse audience--- and for a longer time.
That was before the Coronavirus nightmare made screened entertainment the only kind possible — not to mention a much needed escape from the stress and tension of this stay-home-to-stay-alive existence. Still, even without the "new normal" putting the spotlight on shows intended to be seen on a screen, I found myself departing from strict adherence to only covering shows that tied in with our identity as a publication about live theater; in short, shows that featured actors and playwrights with notable stage resumes.
I found some of the series produced in Australia. too compelling to ignore., just because they didn't fit our criteria. Case in point, . A Place to Call Home at AcornTV ( (review here) . That entire series is still available there; also being presented an episode at a time on Friday nights at PBS. And for a bit of much needed good news,again at AcornTV, not only is The Good Karma Hospital still available but they've added a third season just when we need something new and diverting.
Both the southern Indian state of Karala where the Good Karma Hospital's plots and subplots unfold and Siri Lanka, the physically similar island state where it was filmed, have long been tourist attractions. But, while anyone wanting to book a trip to either place could do so when the first two seasons first ran, both are now on lock-down like pretty mu h the rest of the world. Thus the show now is not just a feel good entertainment but a digital journey to a paradise lost.
Though the ten episode seasons can be consumed in a few big gulps it's best watched more gradually to fully absorb the visual eye candy, and recognize that script writer Dan Sefton has managed to squeeze some potent social themes into the various romances and heart-stopping medical emergencies (Sefton began his career as a doctor). And, while watching a story in this medium enables you to fast forward your way through some scenes, I found myself doing very little of this — even though I paused after season 3's first episode to watch the first two seasons again. Somehow this second time around made the soapopera-ish events become more interesting and exciting.
. At the heart of the series we have a group of dedicated doctors constantly on call to save lives even as they work out their personal problems and relationships. The two leading doctors are the terrific Amanda Redman as expat Doctor Lydia Fonseca, the imperious yet heart of gold chief of this Cottage hospital and Amrita Acharia as Dr. Ruby Walker, a young Anglo-Indian who became disillusioned with her English life after an unhappy love affair. Dr. Ruby's relationship with the brilliant , handsome Doctor Gabriel Varma (James Floyd) builds slowly but with a sexual undercurrent that's bound to come to a boil.
Actually Dr. Ruby lands in Dr. Fonesca's ramshackle hospital by mistake (she thought she signed up for a modern facility) , but of course she stays and thrives under Dr. Fonesca's mentorship.
Other characters making regular appearance are Dr. Forensca's lover Greg McConnell (Neil Morrissey), another expat who runs a beach front bar where numerous scenes take place. The hospital's most visible native staff includes Doctor Ram Nair (Darshan Jariwala), his medical son R.J. (Sagar Radia) and Nurse Mari Rodriguez (Nimmi Harasgama) . To further diversify the stories, we have a pair of tourists — Paul Smart (Phillip Jackson) and his India smitthen wife Maggie (Phyllis Logan, yes i it's Mrs. Hughes of Downtown Abbey). They end up staying longer than planned for tragic reasons.
When the second seasonn ended Dr. Ruby took a leave of absence to spend time at her family's plantation but Season 3 not only sees her bck but finaally has her and Dr. Varda in each other's arms. The other characters are also back with more medical and personal dramas to deal with.
To expand the subplots several new players are on board. They include Greg's daughter Tommy (Scarlett Alice Johnson), Teddy (Kenneth Cranham), an endearing old geezer who's come to India looking for his first love. This being s medical show, his health gets in the way of a happy ending for that situation. Two friendship plot threads involve nurse Mari Rodriguez and Jyoti (Sayani Gupta), e woman burned by an angry lover's acid attack.
And to throw a wrench in the Ruby-Gabriel romance something known as The Miracle Train comes into town with Dr. Aisha Barr (Priyanka Bose), a plastic surgeon on board to spend a few days fixing some problems (lke Jyoti's acid damaged face). Turns out that she not only trained Gabriel that they were lovers for several years. Unsurprisingly, she wants him back. The effect on this on Ruby snd Gabriel's relationship is not helped by Dr. Forensca's persuading her to stay.
As each of the previous seasons ended with the sort of cliffhanger practically insuring another season, the ending now also indicates that when we see Gabriel riding off on his motorbike it won't be forever. The trouble this time is that the show's setting has lost its good Karma so that it will be impossible to restore its vibrsncy even digitally.
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