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‘Good Karma Hospital’ is Predictable but Charming
August 21, 2017  | By David Hinckley

Acorn TV’s latest import Good Karma Hospital is reliably predictable and totally enjoyable.

The six-part British series, which becomes available Monday on the streaming service, follows a young British doctor who, on a whim, moves to India.

Dr. Ruby Walker (Amrita Acharia, top) had a really bad day in London, you see. Her boyfriend left her. Her boss yelled at her. It was raining.

Well, of course it was raining. It’s London.

So she did what any of us would do, really. She answered a medical magazine ad inviting doctors to relocate to beautiful India.

Our story begins, naturally, with a rude awakening. Dr. Walker does not find herself at a gleaming modern medical facility, but an underfunded and underequipped community hospital in a small seaside village.

It’s a little bit of ER, a little bit of M*A*S*H and a jolt of shock therapy for Dr. Walker, who discovers her new job description does not utilize her extensive specialty training, but is more like “do whatever needs to be done for whoever needs it and keep going until everyone’s gone.”

The joint is run, for all practical purposes, by Dr. Lydia Fonseca (Amanda Redman, left), who loosely coordinates the duct tape and paper clips that hold the operation together.

She’s gruff because she always wants a little more for patients than Good Karma can systematically provide.

Dr. Gabriel Varma (James Floyd, below), Dr. Walker’s direct supervisor, matches Dr. Fonseca for gruffness and adds his own layer of dismissiveness. When something bad happens with one of Dr. Walker’s first emergency patients, he snaps at her, “Don’t get in the way of the real doctors.”

Not much of a pep talk for the new kid. There is, however, a sort-of explanation for his attitude.

Dr. Walker was redirected to Good Karma because the country’s medical establishment decided all incoming doctors should have a year’s experience down in the trenches before they move into gleaming buildings.

So Dr. Varma sees her, and presumably others, as reluctant dilettantes just putting in the time instead of genuinely caring about treating these patients.  

It doesn’t take a psychic to realize that in Dr. Walker’s case he will be proven wrong.

Nor does it take a psychic to predict what will happen with almost every patient who comes into the hospital. Decades of medical shows have left writers with few new options.

But that’s all right because we’ve learned over those same decades to care more about the characters than the story arcs.

In this case, we care quickly about doctors Walker and Fonseca, and there’s cause for optimism about Dr. Varma. And if down the line he and Dr. Walker reconcile and even maybe share, oh, a cup of tea, that wouldn’t be a terrible thing. Any psychics in the house?

Good Karma Hospital also marks the television return of Phyllis Logan, who was Mrs. Hughes on Downton Abbey and here plays Maggie Smart, a well-to-do matriarch who could use some healing.

Being a medical show about a poor community that still lives under the specter of diseases like cholera, Good Karma Hospital isn’t all about healthy miracle babies and brilliantly improvised cures.

The part about India being beautiful, though, isn’t just hype, and the look of the place creates an upbeat aura that makes Good Karma Hospital a most pleasant television oasis.

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