The Knick

TV review by
Melissa Camacho, Common Sense Media
The Knick TV Poster Image
Historical medical drama is violent, graphic, and complex.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

Social norms of the time surrounding medicine, corruption, race, and gender are highlighted. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Thackery is arrogant, but wants to do the best for his patients. Every character has flaws. 

Violence

Death is a major theme. Surgical procedures, violent murders, suicides, race riots. Bloody incisions, organs, and other graphic images. Guns, knives, hatchets, and needles. 

Sex

Strong sexual innuendo; crude references, prostitution, nudity (bare bottoms, breasts). STDs like syphilis discussed.  

Language

"Damn," "c-ck," "f--k."

Consumerism

References to companies like Bayer. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Hard liquor, cigarette, cigar smoking visible. Opiates like cocaine and heroine are prominently featured. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Knick is an adult-oriented show featuring lots of graphic, bloody scenes of surgeries, murders, and other violent acts. There's some cursing ("f--k") and racial slurs, plus drinking, smoking, and drug use. Expect crude sexual innuendo and nudity (breasts, bottoms). Mature teens might like the show, but it's not meant for kids.  

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What's the story?

THE KNICK is a medical drama featuring the staff at a fictional Knickerbocker Hospital (a.k.a. "The Knick") in the early 1900s. It stars Clive Owen as Dr. John W. Thackery, the downtown New York City hospital's committed -- and arrogant -- chief of surgery who's dedicated to reducing the mortality rate among his patients. Joining him is deputy chief of surgery Dr. Algernon Edwards (André Holland), a Harvard-trained doctor who must continue to prove himself because of his race, and junior surgeons Dr. Everett Gallinger (Eric Johnsonand Dr. Bertram Chickering Jr. (Michael Angarano). While Thackery operates on patients and works on medical breakthroughs at the non-profit, cash-strapped hospital, he must also appease folks like Cornelia Robertson (Juliet Rylance), the wealthy daughter of a major hospital donor, and hospital administrator Herman Barrow (Jeremy Bobb). But he has personal demons, too, which he shares with Nurse Lucy Elkins (Eve Hewson). 

Is it any good?

The Knick, which is loosely inspired by the original Harlem Knickerbocker hospital of the 1800s, offers an intense portrayal of New York's medical establishment in the early 20th century, which was taxed by waves of poor immigrants, unrestrained disease due to squalid living conditions, rampant corruption, and the religious and social values of the time. It also highlights how some of the challenges faced by hospitals back then, including rising healthcare costs, and the behind-the-scenes administrative politics, are no different from the challenges the medical establishment faces today. 

The show's graphic content makes it difficult to watch, but its narratives, which weave medical procedure and practice with the personal stories of the hospital staff, are well-crafted. The multifaceted characters, ranging from Dr. Thackery to folks like Sister Harriet (Cara Seymour), and ambulance driver Tom Cleary (Chris Sullivan), also adds to the show's complexity. It's not for everyone, but if you like well-produced historic fiction (and have a strong stomach), it is worth the watch. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what it was like to practice medicine in the early 1900s. How did doctors take care of patients without things like x-ray machines and electricity?Are there procedures developed back then that are still used today? 

  • Do you think this series offers a realistic look at what New York was like back then? What about hospitals and medicine? Does a TV show have to feature graphic medical procedures and other violent content to recreate history?

  • What are the messages in this show? Is it trying to teach something?

TV details

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