DOCUSERIES "Lenox Hill"
WHEN|WHERE Starts streaming Wednesday on Netflix
WHAT IT'S ABOUT Israeli filmmakers Ruthie Shatz and Adi Barash spent over a year — up until November, 2019 — following surgeons at the neurology unit at Northwell Health's Lenox Hill Hospital on Manhattan's Upper East Side for this eight-part series. They include department chair David Langer — also charged with putting this new unit on the map — and vice chair John Boockvar, who conducts a glioblastoma clinical trial during filming. (Dr. Mitchell Levine, director of spine surgery — also assistant professor of neurosurgery at the Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine — gets an extended close-up, too.) Some of the younger members of the Lenox Hill staff profiled include resident OB/GYN Amanda Little-Richardson and ER doctor Mirtha Macri, both of whom were pregnant during filming.
MY SAY Like anything, there are a couple ways to approach "Lenox Hill." One of those also happens to be the worst. Lenox Hill's neurology unit doesn't even crack U.S. News and World's most recent Top 25 list, so maybe Northwell saw this as an opportunity to push up the needle?
Maybe. Maybe not. So what? Not my concern. Shouldn't be yours either. Underdogs are more interesting anyway. Regardless, those profiled here are certainly brilliant, engaging underdogs.
The right approach, easily the most the obvious one, is to think of these caregivers as stand-ins for all the other caregivers at all the other world-class facilities across New York and Long Island. Think of what they've all faced these past few months, what they're facing right now. Think of the many thousands who have died in places like Lenox Hill, without family members by their side, shifting the emotional burden to their caregivers — people just like these doctors and nurses.
Approach "Lenox Hill" that way and maybe you, too, will blubber your way through whole chunks of this as I did. That's OK. It was a good blubber, maybe a necessary blubber, but a blubber's still a blubber. "Lenox Hill" is first-rate blubber TV.
Mostly it's just first-rate. Shatz and Bashar spent enough time with their subjects so that the camera largely disappears, leaving the thinnest of gossamers separating the observed from the observer — you. Without that artificial barrier, your humanity begins to merge with their humanity You get to know them, get into their rhythms, then into their heads. Such intimacy has a way of binding them to you — all of them, and not just the doctors, but the patients who are struggling with devastating diseases or simply with devastating circumstances.
You start to worry about Amanda's unborn baby — Amanda and I are now on a first-name basis, by the way — and try to purge your low-grade fear by reasoning that if this were an episode of "Grey's Anatomy," mother and baby would be just fine after the last commercial break.
But no commercials here. No Meredith Grey to the rescue. Just real life, real crises, real emotions, real heroics.
Your heart easily goes out to all of these people, but better still, you understand them. That's the more resonant gift of "Lenox Hill," and a powerful one indeed.
BOTTOM LINE While a deeply moving tribute to those we have lately come to call "heroes," this proves they've been heroes all along. (It was filmed before the pandemic.) A can't-miss beauty.