A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this medical docudrama uses real-life stories as the basis for re-enactments of medical maladies and their diagnoses. Patients are shown in varying levels of pain and distress, and diagnoses sometimes touch on tough subjects like child abuse and sexually transmitted diseases. The raw emotions of the ailing patients and worried family members often tug at your heartstrings, and language sometimes includes mild expletives (mostly "hell"). Tweens who tune in may need further explanation of the medical practices and terms they see and hear.
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What's the story?
DIAGNOSIS X gives viewers a glimpse at the emotional ups and downs that doctors go through in the face of elusive diagnoses of unusual medical maladies.
Each episode focuses on two real-life physicians, rehashing the stories of some of their most puzzling cases. The doctors recount their tales one-on-one to the camera and also star (along with a cast of actors) in re-enactments. The show's time is divided between these dramatic reconstructions and personal asides with the doctors, who share their emotional responses to the case and walk them through their thought processes as they searched for a diagnosis.
Is it any good?
In one episode, Dr. Charles Rocamboli struggles to pinpoint the cause for a young woman's dizziness and onslaught of violent head and eye pain. When an MRI shows lesions on her brain, he regretfully informs her that she's suffering from multiple sclerosis and starts drug therapy, only to discover from her negative reaction to the medication that his diagnosis was incorrect. Going back to square one, he hits upon syphilis as the cause -- stirring up plenty of ill will between the patient and her new husband -- before discovering that he was wrong that time, too. Along the way, Dr. Rocamboli talks openly about the frustration and guilt he felt in not being able to nail down some answers for his worried patient. He also discusses the inherent pressure to be perfect as a doctor, explains the competitiveness that exists in medical school and residencies, and sings the blues about being disliked by an overseeing physician.
Diagnosis X offers viewers intriguing medical dilemmas and allows them to puzzle their way through the clues to a diagnosis along with the doctors. The series may also open viewers' eyes to medical professionals' true humanness, since they're often incorrectly assumed to be infallible. On those two counts, the show has some merit. But on entertainment value, it comes up short, mainly because of its unique format. Falling somewhere between the pulse-quickening drama of ER and the tense realism of Surgery Saved My Life, this part-drama, part-documentary series often comes across as a little on the hokey side, which does the doctors a disservice. (The second-rate actors who back the docs up don't help matters much.)
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how medical series like this one reflect real life. How does the media typically portray doctors and their work? Does this show follow that trend? Do you think medical dramas (like ER) help or hinder the real-life professionals they use as examples? Is it difficult to believe that doctors might make mistakes?