MDA: articles

MDA - review

We may not be so hot on action, fantasy or adventure, but when it comes to matters of the heart we’re obsessed. Australian film and television is in a wordy whirl of angst and enthusiasm over stories about our personal lives, sexuality, emotions, families and friends. From SeaChange on, it’s been those intricate dramas of relationships that have busied our TV storytellers.

We’re entertained with the secret lives of the last men and women standing, the shows in which commitment, marriage, babies and divorce ooze through the storylines. There could not have been, then, a more novel diversion on this journey than that suggested by the Greg Haddrick-Des Monaghan series MDA: Medical Defence Australia. The ABC medical insurance drama promised to look at the work of those protecting our doctors from that infection of avaricious lawyers and litigant patients. Get this one going, we thought, and a show on chartered accounts is a shoe-in.

Episodes from the first series, restrained by ABC budgets, often appeared over-scripted, claustrophobic radio plays with pictures. But its stories and some startling performances held the audience and encouraged an MDA makeover - something it would not have received on commercial television.

Tonight, with the aptly titled episode Second Chance, we get that new-look MDA. There are three four-week stories in this third series, with guest-star actors (Sigrid Thornton tonight; Vince Colosimo, Lisa McCune and Paul Bishop in future episodes), and a lot more work on location. Jason Donovan, who played devious lawyer Richard Savage, has moved on.

The focus in the opener is on senior case manager Bill “Happy” Henderson (Shane Bourne), and his fascination with charismatic geneticist, Dr Robyn Masterson (Sigrid Thornton).

But Happy is not happy. He’s having a mid-life crisis, the immediate evidence being his new Harley-Davidson. Only Masterson’s spruiking for a human drug trial with enormous potential seems to interest him. With his marriage in tatters, her energy and friendship become important. To the alarm of his colleagues, her sales technique seems to be blinding him from potential disaster.

As Masterson attempts to defend an unnerved medical researcher, Dr Julia Delvecchio (Anita Hegh), and raise funds for her genetic breakthroughs, the fate of Happy and MDA seems to rest in the hands of legal manager Amanda McKay (Angie Milliken). It’s intriguing, although whether it will hold together for the full run must be under the microscope.

By Brian Courtis
June 30, 2005
The Age