What is it that makes an anti-hero so much more watchable than a goody-two-shoes counterpart?
The anti-hero, a deeply-flawed protagonist in the world of literature TV and film, is all the rage these days. But why? What’s wrong with an all-round good egg?
The answer, of course, is that they are not very believable, easy to identify with or interesting.
A good anti-hero, on the other hand, is inherently good, but has inner battles, little foibles and deficiencies just like most of the population.
Can you guess where I’m heading with this? Yes, it’s James Nesbitt’s new medical drama Monroe.
We are now two weeks into the six-part series on ITV1 (Thursdays, 9pm).
Nesbitt’s title character is a neurosurgeon and a bit of an oddball and writer Peter Bowker’s inspiration was drawn from his own personal experiences.
When his daughter, who is healthy and very well now, was diagnosed with a brain tumour when she was young, he became fascinated by the power of the neurosurgeon.
In describing Monroe, Nesbitt explains: ‘Peter has created a character that I believe is slightly dysfunctional, clearly flawed and someone who we wouldn’t necessarily expect to be a neurosurgeon. He’s someone that’s very good at opening up other people’s heads and looking at their brains but he’s not very good at looking at his own.’
The series opener last week, looked immediately akin to recent success Sherlock, with its fast pace, witty dialogue and eccentric characters.
But Monroe was so nonchalant and arrogant that, if I or one of my family had a surgeon like him, I don’t think I’d feel in safe hands.
To one patient’s struggling relative, he said: ‘You need to be strong now, not some self-righteous whinge bag.’
I can’t imagine any of the doctors in QA speaking to a relative that way.
The show may be watchable but it’s not entirely believable.
After Monroe’s wife left him because of years of negligence (and a never-spoken-of affair), he gave a bag of fruit to the same struggling relative he’d been so rude to earlier, to help this man repair his relationship with his recovering girlfriend.
It’s hard to believe the surgeon would be so concerned or capable when it comes to the relationships of complete strangers, if he doesn’t address his own problems at home.
At the end of episode one viewers were thrown a bone of motivation to tune in again. Monroe revealed that his own daughter had died on the operating table from a brain tumour.
In the second episode, this week Monroe threw himself into his work to cope with his wife’s departure and his teenage son started demanding answers.
But it still doesn’t feel like we’ve got inside the surgeons’ heads. Hopefully by next Thursday’s half-way point in the series, we’ll see some of the characters’ motives.