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October 30, 2014

'Miami Medical' Showrunner Jeffrey Lieber Talks Traumas, Bruckheimer and 'Lost'

by Kelly Woo, posted Mar 31st 2010 3:00PM
Jeff Lieber, Miami Medical"It's 'M*A*S*H' in paradise," exclaims a character in the new CBS drama 'Miami Medical.' And that's precisely the show's core premise, according to executive producer Jeffrey Lieber.

'Miami Medical' (premiering Fri., April 2 at 10PM ET) stars Jeremy Northam as mysterious, war-tested Dr. Matthew Procter, who joins a high-adrenaline trauma team that treats life-threatening injuries.

Lieber spoke to AOL TV about his inspiration for 'Miami Medical,' fitting into the hospital drama landscape and how he feels about the end of the show he co-created, 'Lost.'

What's the elevator pitch for 'Miami Medical'?
It's in the script ... it's 'M*A*S*H' in paradise. There are three trauma-only facilities in the country, which are three standalone facilities where everyone who walks through the door comes in dying. What I found fascinating about that was, OK, so after you've seen your twentieth car crash or your fifth gunshot victim or your second stabbing, how do you go out and live a normal life? How do you go get behind the wheel of a car after you've seen what's happened to 20 other people who've had their skulls bashed in?

Miami MedicalHow do you go get money out of an ATM after dinner after you've seen three mugging victims? How would after everybody you see comes in dying -- and a good portion of them end up not living -- do you just go out and live a life? How do you get married? How do you have relationships with people when you realize how fragile life is?

That's kind of where we started. We poked around and found the three trauma-only facilities that there were. It was about looking at the cultures of these three places and picking the one that was most interesting, which is Ryder Medical on the campus of Jackson Memorial in Florida.

You were inspired by an experience your wife had before you met, right?
Yes. Before we met -- we knew each other in high school then lost track, then met each other out here -- but about six months before we met each other, she got real sick with what she thought was the flu ... Her mother said, "Hey, let's go to the emergency room." They brought her in and said, "Yup, you've got the flu. Go home," and they gave her some medicine. She went home and plopped in front of the TV and her mother went to do some stuff and about two hours later, came back into the living room to find my wife in a coma on the couch. She scooped her up and threw her in the car and drove back to the hospital and had her admitted through the trauma discipline at Cedar-Sinai. In the next hour, they took the actions that essentially saved her life.

When I sat down with [Jerry] Bruckheimer to develop the show, I told him that story. I said, "I'm really fascinated by the set of doctors who see nothing other on a daily basis than people who come in dying and whose responsibility to turn that around. I'm just fascinated with how they live their lives." We sort of jumped off from there. In some ways, we never really intended to do a medical show. In fact, we're trying not to do a medical show; we're trying to do a show with medicine that is about this sort of edge of life -- precipice between life and death sort of moment.



How do you plan to balance between scenes in and out of the hospital?
Right now, it's hospital-bound and subsequent seasons will get out more. That's mostly due to the fact that everything is happening so quickly; it's hard to be like, "All right, we're going to go get lunch." That said, in the first season, we're trying to achieve kind of a 50-50 balance between guest cast stories and the lives of our people. With the guest stars, we're trying to break it down to another 50-50, 50 percent which is medical and 50 percent which is personal. The show's about a quarter in terms of medicine and 75 percent stories that are about people, which is sort of what interested me.

The medical drama is a staple of television. Taking in mind all those shows, past and present, were there any stereotypes you wanted to try to avoid?
We certainly wanted to avoid the procedural stereotype of the people who know everything. We wanted to really step away from that. It's a much more character-based show than a lot of the medical shows that have been out there. I'm kind of a medical idiot, I know nothing. I tend to look at medical scenes as people are getting better or getting worse, that's really all I care about. We as a staff have a guy named Zach Lutsky, who's our med adviser. In the pilot, I pitched him this scene and said, "OK, this woman's in an elevator and suddenly she starts bleeding our of her nose and her ears -- is that possible!?" He said, "Slow down, slow down," and we backed up. We're trying to see the world that sort of has something to do with actual medicine so we don't go into complete hokum.

Miami MedicalThe long-running 'ER' went off the air about a year ago and since then, new medical shows have come out, trying to sort of fill the void. Do you feel like the field is too crowded?
I don't. Here's what I think: I think that shows quickly escape their genre and become about their characters if they're good. I think the ones that don't succeed are the ones that don't have characters who will catch on and who aren't interesting people want to know about. I was huge 'NYPD Blue' fan, but to me that show was about Sipowicz and stopped being a cop show ... I think we're different from the two very successful medical shows that are out there right now and hope to escape our genres in the same way they have. I think 'Grey's Anatomy' is a great soap and you come for the characters. I think 'House' is an incredibly mystery show and you come for him. The fact that there's medicine in those shows is sort of irrelevant to their success and we hope to do the same.

This is a "Jerry Bruckheimer show." What's it like working with him? How much input does he have?
Jerry's fantastic and his people -- the people that make up JB TV -- are incredibly adept at making television. They care about television, they are passionate about television. It's nice to work with people who like television as much as these guys do. Jerry himself, he's one of those guys who doesn't weigh in often, but when he does he's pretty much right on the spot. It's nice to have somebody who is that powerful who also knows how to wield it well ... When we hear from him, they're very specific, targeted notes and they tend to be pretty easy to accomplish.

Jeremy NorthamWhat can you tell us about the rest of the season?
The arc of the first season is really about who is Proctor and where did he come from? If there's an arc, it's really about that. That's the driving sort of emotional through line -- who is this guy and where did he come from? We find that out through the course of the first eight. There's a fantastic attack on a golf course which I will not go into detail at all, just to say that everybody who sees it has a pretty wonderfully shocking good time with it.

Any big guest stars?
I'm told not to! I'm told to allow that to stay within the bosom of the CBS promotional thing and they will tease it as it goes.

The show seems ripe for guest stars.
Yes. It's ripe for it and it's easy for it. The one thing we love about working with Bruckheimer is this ability to steal between both TV and film, so you really have access to a level and name actors you don't normally get with other productions.

So, you co-created 'Lost.' Any thoughts now that it's ending?
I'm as fascinated as everybody else to see where this thing goes. It's been a fascinating ride to sort of watch it from my distanced vantage point. I think I am sort of thrilled that they have to figure it out and not me [laughs] -- because God knows a portion of their audience will be absolutely thrilled by the ending and another portion will feel as if they had their dog kicked, and that's a lot of responsibility for people. I don't doubt that they've lost some sleep at night trying to figure out how to get to the end of this thing.

Are you on Twitter?
I do. I'm really active. [@jefflieber]

Do you feel like Twitter is something you have to do now these days to help promote your work?
No, I love it. Coming out of the theater -- there's a direct interaction in the theater when you get on stage and you say something. There's an immediate reaction, people laugh. I've been blogging in one form or another for about four years now, so Twitter is just an extension of that. I really appreciate and like the interaction and urge people when they see the show to sound off and I will respond. I think some showrunners feel like, "Here's the product, just take it and be quiet." My response is much more from my playwright and acting days. I want to hear and feel the heat, the love, the distress -- all those sorts of things because you can really get a sense of what's going on out there.


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