Netflix’s newest documentary, LENOX HILL (2020), directed by Adi Barash and Ruthie Shatz, is one of the best docuseries out there. It follows neurosurgeons David Langer and John Boockvar, emergency physician Mirtha Macri, and OB-GYN resident Amanda Little-Richardson in New York City’s Lenox Hospital as they go about their daily routines. The first eight episodes of the series were finished well before COVID-19 broke out and show the normal day-to-day operations of the hospital. When the virus broke out, however, Shatz and Barash decided to return to Lenox Hill to film a shorter, 30-minute follow up showing the struggles of working on the front lines.
While Shatz and Barash give credit where credit is due, they don’t make the show into some grand celebration of all the hospital’s accomplishments. They focus on the details of each case the doctors work, and get personal with every person they follow, lingering on all the intimate moments of a patient’s treatment. They show the overjoyed celebrations that come with news of a treatment’s success, followed by the heartbreak of discovering a patient’s condition has worsened.
The intimacy of the series reveals the humanity in everyone. It doesn’t matter who walks through the front door of the hospital, every single person is worthy of receiving care, and the doctors are hard-working professionals devoted to saving lives. At several points in the series, emergency physician Mirtha Macri actually talks about how the doctors at Lenox Hill can’t judge what their patients have gone through; oftentimes, the hospital is the only place people can go for help and it’s up to the doctors to provide them with the care and attention they need. It’s an incredibly touching look at humanity, and how everyone deserves adequate medical care.
The ninth and final episode of the show is the perfect epilogue; the episode was filmed when COVID-19 broke out, months after the completion of the rest of the series. Despite clocking in at only 32 minutes, it does a great job depicting how the hospital had to quickly pivot to handle a pandemic. It’s a brief yet powerful look at the front lines of the pandemic and the impact it has on the doctors and nurses working them. My only complaint about the show is that this particular episode is too short, and I’d like to see more about the virus’ handling, but with such a quick turnaround from the outbreak to the series’ premiere, it’s completely understandable that the episode is so short and I’m thrilled with what they did. The series as a whole is a fantastic look at the medical field and the people who work in it.
LENOX HILL has to be one of the best shows I’ve seen in a while; it’s immensely personal and intimate, and really shows what it’s like to work on the front lines of a hospital. The show gives humanity to an issue the entire world is facing and is something we all need right now. Above all, it’s a masterclass in humanity and understanding and it has to be one of the best shows of the year.