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Tag Archive: Jefferson Institute


Review by C.J. Bunce

A&E’s Coma is coming soon to a TV near you.  The two-night mini-series updates both the original Robin Cook novel and the Michael Crichton adaptation to film from 1978 with the realities of modern medical technology and a new story.  Considering the movie Coma didn’t do all that well (it had to duke it out for moviegoers’ attention against the likes of Superman, Grease, Halloween, Animal House, Every Which Way but Loose, Foul Play and Invasion of the Body Snatchers), it’s a curiosity for a remake in 2012.  Not so much science fiction as medical procedural drama with a horror twist, it also is not a suspense/thriller so much as a steadily plotted mystery where the story is revealed throughout the two episodes instead of waiting for a big gotcha at the end.

Coma will also go down as one of the last productions of the late Tony Scott, who served as executive producer with brother Ridley Scott.

The mini-series follows a medical student who, on her first day interning at a hospital, uncovers information that could unravel the secret behind the coma patient care facility called the Jefferson Institute.  A&E pulled out all the stops on its Coma Conspiracy campaign.  See our coverage earlier this month here.  The marketing campaign also included mock footage of a clandestine group of individuals who learn the truth about Jefferson.  Unfortunately these marketing bits don’t make it into the actual series, and the producers missed an opportunity to take the folks trying to uncover the conspiracy through their own media and factoring it into the story.

If you have seen the original movie or read the novel, you may find yourself waiting for certain things to happen to certain characters that never quite transpire.  Erase all preconceptions and you will find this to be a fun TV adaptation, and whereas I don’t think it matches the blood pumping scares of the 1978 movie, you’ll find something here that makes the show well worth adding to your DVR list.  And you may be surprised at the level of consideration given to real-world subjects, medical care in particular.  Be prepared for the writers to touch on ethical and moral considerations of topics from the use of stem cells for researching new diseases, to problems with organ donation processes, to human research, to the challenges of overpopulation and an aging society that lives longer than its predecessors.  But it’s not all about that—it will get you into full-on horror mode by show’s end, including the inclusion of some special effects gore you won’t find in a typical A&E mini-series of years past.  Its special effects do offer some sci-fi influences, but the most impactful scenes include a montage where families of coma patients meet with their loved ones at the Jefferson facility.  Some of the series is sure to give you the willies, the wiggins, the creeps, or even the heebie-jeebies.

The best feature can be found in the young cast members, along with a few noteworthy performances by long-time character actors.  I found I liked James Woods’ performance above all the others from the older set.  What the writers did with his character, Dr. Howard Stark, was an interesting twist on Richard Widmark’s similar character in the original movie.  Richard Dreyfuss turns in a believable stock performance as a near-retirement medical school professor.  Ellen Bursytn turns in a very different take on Jefferson Institute administrator Mrs. Emerson, compared to the uber-creepy Elizabeth Ashley in the original movie role.  Yet Burstyn’s character is still as vile as she needs to be, just in a Great Expectations’ Miss Havisham kind of way.  A smaller role, a smart cop named Detective Jackson played by Michael Pniewski, really brought some gravitas to the last part of the series.  Geena Davis’s Dr. Lindquist doesn’t quite work, however.  She’s a researcher who has a strange predilection for medical interns and her storyline could have been handily cut from the series.

As for the younger acting crowd, Michael Weston (House, M.D.) continues to impress, here as a psychotic sociopath under the care of Dr. Lindquist.  Joseph Mazello, who played the young boy in Jurassic Park, is all grown up and shows he made it past the kid actor phase and could easily start taking on leading male roles.  But the really solid performance comes from Steven Pasquale (Rescue Me) as Dr. Mark Bellows, who one could see carrying an ongoing series based on this mini-series.  The star of Coma is Lauren Ambrose, who has been steadily building her career with good roles in Law and Order, Torchwood, and Six Feet Under.  Unfortunately she is stuck here in a typical “horror female” lead role, which sometimes means stepping into situations your average medical student would likely avoid in real life.  Still, she performs the role of medical student intern well and is as good as Bujold in the original.

At times I thought the series should be longer, maybe divided over more than two episodes like a typical mini-series–I’d think the creators could have edited together maybe three or four episodes here.  Then again that could result from simply watching the screening copy without commercial breaks.  Either way, I would have no problem sticking with these characters and situations were it to become a full-blown ongoing series.

Coma, A&E’s two-night television event, premieres Monday, September 3, 2012, at 9pm ET/PT and concludes Tuesday, September 4, at 9pm ET/PT.

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By C.J. Bunce

Once in a while I get gifts of food in the mail from nice people.  I’ve received frozen turkeys, frozen cupcakes, frozen brownies, cold-packed chocolates.  Food is good.  Food as gifts from friends is even better.

So today the Fed Ex man delivers an unexpected package to my doorstep:

PERISHABLE, TIME AND TEMPERATURE SENSITIVE, OPEN IMMEDIATELY.  I picked it up.  It was not cold like you’d think something cold-packed would be.  Someone sent me brownies!  But its warm… melted?  Lame.

So I brought it into the house.  And the first instance of creepiness sank in.  It wasn’t brownies.

Jefferson Institute.  Coma Patient Care You Can Trust?  Again… not brownies.  The container in the box had a disturbing shape.  I’d seen these on countless medical shows on TV.  For a second there I was hesitant to pull the container out of the box.  But I did.

At this point I was thinking.  No way.  Ohnotheydidn’t.  Not actually send me a… human organ… but set this whole marketing thing up?  This is bordering on brilliant.  Genius even.  At this point I knew this had to do with the new Coma TV mini-series I’d heard about at Comic-Con and received the strange brochure with a crazy scribbled remark across it:

But again, I was taken aback for a second.  So what the heck is in the container?  Fake heart prop? (Chocolate heart prop?)

The screener!  This has to be the most brilliant screener package ever.  Kudos for the marketing firm that talked someone into this campaign.  Bravo!

So a little background.  Once upon a time there was a movie called Coma.  It starred Genevieve Bujold in arguably her best career performance as a determined but naive doctor who stumbled upon an excessive number of comas resulting from patients having routine surgeries in OR 8 of the hospital she worked in.  Michael Douglas played a doctor she worked with, the great actor Richard Widmark played the evil chief of surgery, and Elizabeth Ashley played the equally vile administrator of a cold, chilling coma patient center called the Jefferson Institute.  And Tom Selleck played one of the poor bastards that ended up dead as a doornail by movie’s end.

The Jefferson Institute stuck with me.  It was the stuff of nightmares.  I will never have surgery in a room called OR 8.  Elizabeth Ashley’s “Mrs. Emerson” was right up there with Margaret Hamilton’s Wicked Witch of the West, only creepier because this was the real-world kind of creepy stuff.  Heck, I once didn’t apply for a job at a company because the offices looked like the Jefferson Institute.

Flash forward to working as managing editor for The Journal of Corporation Law.  We all were a little creeped out by agreed subject of the annual symposium issue.  It was about the business and future of human organs–redistribution of donor organs and the like:

I remember reading the line above: “Other proposed procurement schemes, however, such as market sales and conscription, either currently are proscribed by law or are likely to encounter significant constitutional impediments.”  Creepy subject.  Reminded me of Coma.  (Insert hair standing up on back of neck here).

Suffice it to say, with my memory of the original series, I am definitely the audience for this marketing campaign.

So yes, of course, coming soon at borg.com, look for a preview of the A&E Network mini-series, Coma, by Ridley and Tony Scott, based on Robin Cook’s novel and Michael Crichton’s screenplay for the original movie Coma, with big name actors like Richard Dreyfuss (Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind), Geena Davis (Beetlejuice, The Fly, Fletch), Ellen Burstyn (Poliitcal Animals, The Exorcist, Into Thin Air) as Mrs. Emerson, James Rebhorn (White Collar), and James Woods (John Carpenter’s Vampires), starring Lauren Ambrose (Law and Order, Torchwood), Steven Pasquale (Rescue Me), Joseph Mazzello (Jurassic Park, G.I. Joe: Retaliation) and Michael Weston (House, M.D.).

Meanwhile, check out comaconspiracy.com and jeffersoninstitute.com for some cool tie-ins.

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