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Series / Surgical Spirit

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Surgical Spirit was a British comedic television series that aired on ITV from 1989 to 1995. It had seven seasons, and starred Nicola McAuliffe, Margi Campi, and Duncan Preston among others.

Sheila Sabatini is a brilliant surgeon who works at the Gillies Hospital, and has done so for many years, despite having complicated relations with her coworkers. Her home life is fraught, as she's divorcing her husband, Remo, while trying to hold together her home for their son, Daniel. Unfortunately, there's one thing that happens to be complicating all of this: to be blunt, Sheila has the personality of a permanently pissed-off bull, and she's got a tongue to match. Most of her colleagues, like fellow surgeons George Hope-Wynne and Neil Copeland, are both afraid of her and angered by the extremely creative insults she spouts, excepting Sheila's best friend Joyce, the administrator of Sheila's section of the hospital; the anaesthetist, Jonathan Haslem; and accomplished nurse Cheryl Patching. But altogether, they make a good team, even when various attempts at friendships or relationships make things even more complex…

Unusually for a medical show, Surgical Spirit had little to no focus on matters of surgery or medicine: the show focused on the staff, and the hospital served as a backdrop. However, this doesn't make it any less watchable, because the writers put a lot of effort into the show, the characters, and the extremely creative insults Sheila throws out.

Tropes found in this show include:

  • Beware the Nice Ones: Jonathan, readily the most amiable man around can get really scary when provoked, as he does not stop to be calm and composed when admonishing someone.
  • "Blackmail" Is Such an Ugly Word: Inverted by Sheila in 'Cold Cuts':
    Doug Isherwood: You can't come in here giving me orders.
    Sheila Sabatini: I wouldn't dream of it. I'm threatening you.
  • Brick Joke: In one episode, Neil tells George that he needs to be stern and decisive when dealing with a wife (when the latter leaves, Neil says that he would never do something like that himself as it is a suicidal move). The episode ends with George standing in the rain on a porch of his house, begging to be let in.
  • Brilliant, but Lazy: Sheila's son Daniel, who despite having her as a mother managed to become quite a decent guy, if extremely apathetic to just about everything.
  • Determinator: Sheila will not let anyone put her down.
    • It's also where quite a bit of her bitchiness comes from- as the only female surgeon on a team where the other women are all nurses and the receptionist, Sheila basically decided that she would not let anyone give her shit, boss her around or try to dominate her because of her gender. Suffice to say, she took things a bit far.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: What Jonathan tries to do over the series, getting more than a fair share of frostbites.
  • Good is Not Nice: Sheila may be an absolute bitch, but she is a very good surgeon and can be a very nice person. Just not all the time.
  • Gossip Evolution: One episode has Cheryl and Joyce challenging each other to a gossip war. The hospital goes nuts.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: After Sheila and Jonathan break up and he starts dating a nurse, Sheila does some very unkind things to the new girlfriend. And gets called out quite quickly.
  • Hospital Hottie: Averted. Nobody in the cast is outstandingly attractive in the way that most modern doctors are portrayed, excepting side character Michael.
  • Mood Whiplash: In 'Sammy Eldridge', after talking to friend who remains cheerful and carefree even though terminally ill, Sheila decides to warm up a bit. Then she barges into the Sammy's room, laughing and carrying a plush hippo only to learn from the nurse that Sammy died last night. Bonus points for it being the last scene of uniformly comical (first) season.
  • Not Helping Your Case: On the one hand, yes, the hospital is a giant boys' club full of misogynists. On the other hand, insulting everyone is hardly the way to rectify it, and Sheila is neither changing their attitudes or doing anything to further the cause of women's rights.
  • Only Sane Man: Usually the hat of Jonathan or Joyce, two most level-headed characters of the main cast.
  • So Beautiful, It's a Curse: One early episode featured a new locum, a very attractive man who just wanted to get the job done while rumours and innuendo started flying. In the end, he turned out to be happily married and thus was very surprised by all the 'X likes/got off with/went out with the new locum' rumours.
  • Troll: Sheila, dear God.
    • One episode has Joyce and Cheryl competing to see who can troll more people.
  • What Did I Do Last Night?: After Sheila and Jonathan's engagement party, everyone invited gets massively hammered. Jonathan ends up sleeping on George's couch, while Sheila ends up sleeping with a guy she'd recently met. They break up after that.
  • Working with the Ex: Sheila and Jonathan, after they first break up. They agree to work together as best they can, and mostly do so.