Tube Talk: Life, death and animated birthdays

By Paula Hendrickson
Contributing Writer

Just glance at the TV listings, and you’ll quickly realize there really is a show for every taste. Teen comedies, home improvement shows, mysteries, cartoons, cooking shows, travelogues and real-life medical documentary series to name a few.

The season finale of ABC’s critically praised Boston Med airs this Thursday, Aug. 12. The show follows actual doctors, nurses and patients at three of Boston’s busiest hospitals and has covered standard medical stories like accidental injuries, chronic illness, birth defects and transplant surgeries. It’s even shown the private lives of a few doctors and nurses. But they’ve saved one of the most dramatic real-life stories for the finale: a partial facial transplant.

Ghastly as it sounds, this was an unprecedented opportunity to document such a rare procedure. In fact, this was only the second time a partial facial transplant had been attempted in the United States. And while the idea of a donor face being surgically attached to a living person might make some people squirm, in truth it was an act of generosity by the donor and his family that could literally give a severely-disfigured man a whole new life. That is, if the procedure works. You need to tune in to Boston Med to find out.

Equally gruesome, yet oddly riveting, is Dr. G: Medical Examiner. The show follows Dr. Jan Garavaglia—a real-life chief medical examiner in Florida—as she uncovers how and why the people who wind up in her morgue really died. Sometimes what she learns helps police investigations, other times she’s able to help put the decedents’ families at ease. Not only does Dr. G respect the dead, she acts as their advocate, piecing together the puzzle of how their lives ended and offering real closure to everyone involved.

You can watch back-to-back episodes of Dr. G on TLC this weekend, first an episode of the long-running Discovery Health Dr. G: Medical Examiner, then an episode of the new TLC series, Dr. G: America’s Most Shocking Cases. You can also catch frequent repeats of Dr. G: Medical Examiner on Discovery Health. Don’t worry, while the cases are real, the autopsy scenes shown on TV are recreations.

Now, just to demonstrate the sheer breadth of TV viewing options, we’ll veer off to an opposite and decidedly less morbid extreme…kid shows!

Did you realize Nickelodeon’s incredibly popular Dora The Explorer is 10 years old? Our favorite bilingual adventuress is turning the big 1-0 and has an hour-long primetime special, Dora’s Big Birthday Adventure, airing this Sunday, Aug. 15, so fans young and old join the fiesta.

If you want to throw your own party, check out Nickelodeon’s NickJr. website, which has plenty of ideas about making Dora-inspired decorations, cards and recipes:

Yes, I know this is an odd grouping of programs for one column, but it proves my point—there really is a show for just about every taste, no matter how extreme.

Programming notes

Boston Med season finale airs at 9 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 12, on ABC.

Dr. G: Medical Examiner airs at 8 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 14, on TLC and is immediately followed by Dr. G: America’s Most Shocking Cases at 9 p.m.

Dora’s Big Birthday Adventure airs at 7 p.m., Sunday, Aug. 15, on Nickelodeon.

Paula Hendrickson is a regular contributor to Emmy magazine and Variety, and has been published in numerous national publications, including American Bungalow, Television Week and TVGuide. Send in your suggestions to

From the Aug. 11-18, 2010 issue

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