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Review: In ‘Good Karma Hospital,’ Some Familiar TV Templates


Amrita Acharia plays a doctor in “The Good Karma Hospital,” beginning Monday on AcornTV.

Chris Burgess/Acorn TV

No fancy tests are needed to map the pop-cultural DNA of “The Good Karma Hospital,” a British dramedy whose six-episode first season arrives Monday on AcornTV.

It’s about 50 percent postcolonial escape fantasy, in which an uptight Briton moves to a tropical outpost of the former empire and learns to balance Western rationalism with Eastern superstition, emotion and ease. The markers include crazy drivers, brightly dressed crowds and nervousness about hygiene. Comparables are “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” (note the similarity in the titles) and the Caribbean detective series “Death in Paradise.”

It’s also about 50 percent medical melodrama, with a young doctor arriving at a new hospital and having to prove herself. Here the tropes include the grouchy chief, the conceited and sexist male surgeon, the sudden and difficult childbirth. And the precedents are “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Northern Exposure.” (Like the protagonist in “Northern Exposure,” the physician here is misinformed about where she’ll be working.)

“Good Karma” plays a small variation on these formulas by making its hero, Dr. Ruby Walker (Amrita Acharia), Anglo-Indian rather than white. After a bad breakup, she flees Britain for a struggling hospital in southern India — she’s both going somewhere exotic and coming home. She speaks the language (with an accent) but can still be surprised by the local dilemmas, such as the question of whether to let a female baby with a heart defect die.

There is no clash of cultures that can’t be mitigated through pure sentimentality. If “Good Karma Hospital” is your kind of drug, you’ll want to mainline it. The coastal locations (filmed in Sri Lanka) are picturesque, the Bollywoodish music is catchy and the performers, including Amanda Redman of “New Tricks” as the hospital’s overseer, are ingratiating.

As a bonus, two much-loved actors show up as the parents at a destination wedding and stick around for the season. The father is Philip Jackson, Inspector Japp in “Agatha Christie’s Poirot,” and the mother is Phyllis Logan, in her first role since Mrs. Hughes in “Downton Abbey.” The hospital may be in India, but if you look past the palm trees you could just as well be in the English countryside.

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