Executive producer Terry Wrong and his crew spent a full year behind the scenes at Columbia and Weill Cornell Medical Centers collecting thousands of hours of footage documenting the work of the attending surgeons at the New York City hospital. The result is the eight-part series NY Med, which premieres Tuesday, July 10 at 10 p.m. on ABC.
In the debut episode, viewers will see a mother of two undergo brain surgery while awake and watch Dr. Mehmet Oz, the talk show host who practices at the hospital, perform open heart surgery on a man in need of help.
Wrong is the executive producer of past ABC News medical documentaries Boston Med and Hopkins, and recently answered questions about his latest series at a press screening for NY Med. Some highlights below:
On choosing which characters to follow:
“Some specialties don’t translate as well for TV because there’s not as much going on. One of the things about surgery is there’s a beginning, a middle and an end. The series can’t anatomize all of what goes on in every hospital; we just have to selectively pick those things that will work for this medium.”
On getting patients to agree to appear on-camera:
“I think people do it because something bad has happened to them, and they’re just going to sit there and be more or less passive as treatments and tests and things are done to them, whereas this feels kind of like a proactive thing they can do. It’s amazing how many people actually see a silver lining throughout this.”
On doing another ABC News documentary:
“This isn’t really a tenured job. The media is changing and evolving, the audience’s tastes are changing, the needs of the network are changing, the priorities of the news division change. Yeah, we always live in fear that a good thing is going to go away, but I could not have heard more encouragement or stronger words of support than I’ve had from [ABC News president] Ben [Sherwood]. I’m pretty optimistic right now.
James [Goldston, ABC News senior VP of content and development] and I are starting to talk about what could be next, I’m not sure if it will be medicine or something completely removed from that. We’ve certainly taken a good crack at medicine, so it might be time to look at other venues.”
On the promotional advantage of following Dr. Oz:
“It’s certainly an asset because he’s a known name. He was a fan of the series. It was just win-win for him on all times. I didn’t want to do the easy thing and follow Oz. I kind of fell into it, ironically. It wasn’t cooked up in any way. Most viewers don’t know he still practices, most people at any level don’t know how great a surgeon he is. So it really was, do you disqualify him because he’s famous and happens to have a daytime talk show? That wouldn’t make sense.”