Strong Medicine is a medical drama with a focus on feminist politics, health issues and class conflict, that aired on the Lifetime network from 2000 to 2006. The series was created and produced in part by comedian and activist Whoopi Goldberg, who made a couple of cameos in the series, and Tammy Ader. The series initially starred Janine Turner and Rosa Blasi, however Turner decided to later leave the show and her position was later filled with Patricia Richardson and later Rick Schroeder. Strong Medicine was highest-rated original drama on basic cable in 2001.
Strong Medicine brings together the worlds of two completely different doctors, Dr. Luisa “Lu” Delgado (Rosa Blasi), and Dr. Dana Stowe (Janine Turner). Lu is a single mother running a free clinic in the inner-city. Dana is a Harvard graduate and top female health specialist. The two come together when Dr. Lydia Emerson wants to combine Rittenhouse Hospital’s practice with Lu’s financially failing clinic to provide the best care for the patients of both doctors.
The staff and its visitors tend to be racially, politically, and economically diverse. A core class/political duality in the episodes' storylines tend to be driven by comparisons and contrasts (and often cooperation) between liberal Delgado, and her fellow women's health practitioner across the lobby, who sees paying patients and generally has more conservative values. When Dr. Dana Stowe leaves, Lu’s partners include Dr. Andy Campbell and Dr. Dylan West. The show often places the characters in ironic, soul-searching situations in which they are forced to question the solidity of their personal beliefs or else cause them to fight for what they believe in
The show has examples of the following tropes.
- Abuse Mistake: Dana notices bruises on Dr. Jackson's wife. The woman's vague explanation makes her suspicious. When she's rushed to the hospital a few days later, having "fallen down the stairs", Dana is now certain that Dr. Jackson has been abusing her. . . only for it to turn out that his wife really had fallen. She's an Ill Girl and is developing multiple sclerosis.
- Beta Couple: Kayla and Peter.
- Butt Monkey - The Complainer Is Always Wrong: As he dares to be a man and in an administrative position, Dr. Bob Jackson was always given the short end.
- Despite being female, the second trope often applied to Dana and Andy as well, should they dare to disagree with Lu. Dylan actually held his own pretty well, for a while.
- Christmas Cake: Dana. Though it's not so much her single status that bothers her as does her ticking biological clock.
- City Mouse/Country Mouse: Lu, who grew up in one of Philadelphia's poorer neighborhoods and has clearly been struggling all her life, now tending to the the people in that very neighborhood vs Dana, who clearly grew up wealthy. When the two are forced to merge their practices so that Lu doesn't lose funding for her inner-city clinic, Dana is initially very uncomfortable dealing with the influx of low-income patients and their related health issues. And then there's Lu's and her pathological hate of people who are richer than she is.
- Cunning Linguist: Andy. Being an Army brat has left her fluent in 6 languages. It pays off when there's a patient that speaks Tagalog (a Filipino language) and she's able to converse with her, and when another patient claims to be French, but her inability to understand Andy reveals that she isn't, just an actress pretending to be.
- Dawson Casting: A slight inversion. Lu reveals her age as 30 in one of the first episodes, but Rosa Blasi was 27 when the show started.
- Derailing Love Interests: Poor, POOR Leslie. He was a kind House Husband to Andy for several seasons, and then he starts resenting it and abusing her for no reason at all, just so Andy can kick him out and search for "a new boyfriend who validates and appreciates her". And said boyfriend is killed off.) That's what you get for being a Nice Guy in Lifetime and NOT being called Peter, Les.
- As Leslie was originally so likeable and his derailment was so asspullish, even hardcore fans of Lifetime's trademark "man-bad-woman-good" fare called shenanigans—even Lu, the resident Straw Feminist, couldn't believe that he had turned into a wife-beater.
- This inadvertently happened to many of Lu's boyfriends as well to the point of Cartwright Curse. One's a perfectly nice guy who freaks out and heads for the hills as soon as he learns she has a kid, another is a spineless Nice Guy who lets his Rich Bitch ex-wife bully him into dumping her by threatening to take away his kid. Another helps her heal from her rape and they're seriously discussing marriage. So of course, he gets shot protecting her. And still another just fizzles out even though he seemed perfect for her.
- Dana's boyfriend Nick as well. Despite her initial qualms over their age difference (she's ten years his senior), their relationship progresses fairly normally when he's suddenly balking at the idea of getting married and having children and she gives him the boot. It's understandable that she wouldn't want to waste time with someone who doesn't have the same goals as she (especially since she's running out of time to have children), but he's made to look a jerk for something that's entirely reasonable on his part (he's only in his late twenties and it's understandable that this isn't his top priority).
- Flanderization: Lu starts out merely having a chip on her shoulder about rich people and being a slight Straw Feminist. Understandable, as she grew up in a poor neighborhood and frequently saw the end results of that poverty—violence, drug abuse, teen pregnancies (of which her son is a result), domestic abuse, etc. But by the series end, both traits are completely out of control, to the point where EVERY episode was guaranteed a scene of her screaming her head off about the social injustice of the week and the evils of the rich people and/or men perpetuating it.
- Gender Flip: The shows was noted by at least one person as having a lot of gender-flipped dynamics common on medical shows, especially regarding Peter, since he was the good-looking, motorcycle riding male Hello, Nurse! surrounded by smart, distinguished female doctors, instead of the more typical reversal.
- Heroic BSOD: Lu has this not only after being raped, but it kicks into high gear after of course the grand jury declines to indict her attacker. She has another after he boyfriend is shot and killed trying to protect her from a vengeful patient.
- Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Several patients, of course. Lana is implied to have been this as well.
- Hospital Hottie: Practically everyone
- Law of Inverse Fertility: Averted with Dana. Having decided to have a child on her own, she struggles to conceive, then miscarries soon after she finally does. She resigns herself to never being able to have a child naturally and to that end, ultimately decides to adopt two girls. . .and never does conceive on her own.
- Lifetime Movie of the Week: Now in TV series format! With all the clichés (man hate, perpetual victimization of women, big leaps in logic, etc.) too!
- Making Use of the Twin: This is the first show in which one of the Mowry twins was featured, but not both. Of course, this means Kayla (Tamera) has a twin sister, Keisha (Tia), as seen in "My Sister, My Doctor, Myself". Keisha turns out to be The Ophelia as well.
- Medical Drama
- Mr. Fanservice: Peter. Nurse, rides a motorcycle, vegetarian, Buddhist, former Peace Corps volunteer, was in a band before going into medicine. Dylan West also. None of Peter's abovementioned qualities, but still a very good looking man.
- Older than They Look: Former Teen Genius Kayla Thornton. A Running Gag is to have people amazed that someone as young-looking is a full-blown doctor.
- Playing Gertrude: Rosa Blasi (Lu) is only eleven years older that the actor who played her son. Slightly justified since she was a teen mom, even though she states that she had him at 16.
- Poorly Disguised Pilot: The episode "First Response" was intended to be the first episode of a spin-off series of the same name, featuring, like its parent show, two polar opposite medical professionals—one a doctor, another a paramedic—who also happen to be a Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling pair. While ratings were not bad, it failed to generate enough interest to result in a new show.
- The Lost Lenore: Dylan's backstory includes a fiancee killed in a car accident—caused by him when he fell asleep at the wheel.
- Rape as Drama: Lu is raped by one of the surgeons.
- In one of the episodes, a teenage girl needs a transplant. When no match could be found, the girl's mother tells the staff there is one possible remaining donor candidate- the girl's father, who had fathered the girl by raping her mother.
- Also, Part of Lana's backstory is that she is a rape survivor as well, and in an episode she's again raped by a thug that broke into the hospital's hall at random.
- The trope is used with such ridiculous ease that it brings up terrible messages: "women should pretty much inevitably expect to be raped", "90% of men are rapists", "women don't experience true abuse and trauma unless their genitalia is involved", etc.
- The final episode of Lu' s rape storyline involves a gathering of women—including the prosecutor in her case—who had been assaulted and whose attackers had gone unpunished for a variety of reasons. It might seem like typical Lifetime tripe, but it's actually a very depressing Truth in Television.
- Really Gets Around: When one of Lu's old high school boyfriends shows up, Lana asks her if he was "the first one". Lu sheepishly admits that rather, "he was the only one I didn't do it with."
- Ripped from the Headlines: A few plots were. The most blatant was the plot of the sixth-season premiere "New Blood": A flood of patients comes in from a train wreck from someone leaving a car on the tracks. Later, a bipolar girl in manic state comes in to tell Lu how she got over a suicidal impulse. Her method: Drive a car onto the tracks and wait for a train. She got over it...but she left the car on the tracks. This is pretty much how the 2005 Glendale train wreck happened (though the perp in real life was a man.)
- Sassy Black Woman: Lana
- Sassy Secretary: Lana, again.
- Team Mom: Lana, again, also the Only Sane Man, to the point of Magical Negro, given the sage advice and counsel she frequently doles out.
- Unresolved Sexual Tension: Dana and Dr. Jackson, though it's mostly one-sided on his part. When he asks her "if I wasn't married. . .?", she immediately shuts him down by reminding that he is. Later, it's implied that the reason he's so harshly punishing Nick for a mistake is jealousy over his and Dana' s relationship, and upon hearing that she's looking for a sperm donor, offers his, er, services.
- Writer on Board