"Chicago Hope": This least-talked-about of David E. Kelley's series underwent major reconstructive surgery over the summer. Excised from the erratic sixth-year series were longtime cast members, most prominent among them perpetual Emmy nominee Christine Lahti. Inserted like so many implants were a new corps of doctors, including Lauren Holly (Kelley's "Picket Fences") as a plastic surgeon with a soul (and yet another female Kelley character with a man's first name, Jeremy); Carla Gugino ("Spin City," briefly) as a risk-taking pediatric neurosurgeon who has the good taste to listen to songwriter Jonathan Brooke in her office; and, back to the series full time, Mandy Patinkin as super-arrogant heart surgeon Dr. Jeffrey Geiger, still operating, but also the new chairman of the hospital's board.
Now appearing on Thursdays (8 p.m., WBBM-Ch. 2) the series seems to have regained not just its jerk, but its equilibrium as well. Thursday night's third episode of the new season is the third solid one. It treads the familiar territory of using Tourette's syndrome, in the form of a visiting specialist, for dramatic effect, but makes it fresh by drawing a parallel between the man's tics and Geiger's more destructive antisocial behaviors.
Two side plots, one about Albert Einstein's brain being left at the hospital in a Marshall Field's bag and the other about a woman undergoing plastic surgery to make her look more like Barbie, are merely pleasant time passers in TV drama;s tradition of wack B stories. But there is real resonance in the Tourette's tale, as Geiger resists the possibility that the man, a friend of new surgeon Francesca Alberghetti (newcomer Barbara Hershey), could have as much control in the operating room as he appears to lack away from it.
A few more episodes like this and I'll be ready to say this is the best Thursday night series about a Chicago Hospital, but I've never been much of a fan of that, er, other one."