Medical Boondoggles; Life Post-‘Office’; Holmes’s NYC: TV

'Money & Medicine'
A breast cancer patient at Intermountain Medical Center in "Money & Medicine." The documentary airs Tuesday on PBS at 8 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. Source: Public Policy Productions, Inc. via Bloomberg

Unnecessary cancer screenings, risky procedures and an estimated $800 billion in annual “overtreatment” costs take a thrashing in filmmaker Roger Weisberg’s provoking new PBS documentary “Money & Medicine.”

“If you add up medical errors, drug interactions and hospital-acquired infections, medicine itself is the third leading cause of death in this country,” author Shannon Brownlee (“Overtreated: Why Too Much Medicine is Making Us Sicker and Poorer”) tells Weisberg.

He clearly agrees, as his film builds a case favoring the “watchful waiting” style of one hospital over the more aggressive approach of another.

At the UCLA Medical Center in California, C-section deliveries account for 45 percent of births, while the number at Utah’s Intermountain Medical Center is about 20 percent.

The country could save $3.5 billion annually, “Money” says, by adopting Intermountain’s safe and more conservative approach.

Citing an avalanche of statistics, Weisberg argues that many screenings and treatments for breast cancer, prostate cancer and brain injuries are too costly and of little value.

No Threat

His numbers are compelling. “Money” claims that for every 15 prostate glands removed, only one would have posed a mortal threat, while all 15 patients face a significant risk for impotence and incontinence.

And all 15 men will likely remain convinced they’ve dodged a bullet, “Money” concedes. The film addresses (with an occasionally off-putting hint of condescension) the emotion that inevitably drives so many patient decisions.

At UCLA, an elderly woman in a vegetative state is kept alive for 10 months at the insistence of an ever-hopeful son, who remains unconvinced by odds and medical advice.

“Miracles happen if you believe in miracles,” he says.

“Money & Medicine” airs Tuesday on PBS at 8 p.m. New York time. Rating: ***1/2

‘Mindy Project’

Mindy Kaling has a project, all right.

“The Mindy Project,” the Fox comedy created by and starring the former co-star and co-writer of “The Office,” is an uneven mix of formula sitcom set-ups and Kaling’s thorny persona.

She plays Dr. Mindy Lahiri, a 31-year-old OB/Gyn obsessed with romantic comedies and fixated on her own lack of a boyfriend.

“I’m Sandra Bullock!” she yells during a drunken, late-night bike ride that lands her in jail.

Dr. Mindy isn’t far removed from Kaling’s boy crazy “Office” character Kelly Kapoor, juggling adolescent selfishness with girlish optimism.

But much of the pilot’s humor seems off (even with guest appearances by Ed Helms and Bill Hader). When Dr. Mindy tells hospital staffers she prefers insured white patients, Kaling’s appeal falters.

Chris Messina (“Damages”) plays Lahiri’s colleague Dr. Danny Castellano, a cranky, hypercritical former beau possibly destined for another romantic go-round. For now, Dr. Mindy looks right through him, occasionally settling on (and for) hospital lothario Dr. Jeremy Reed (Ed Weeks).

Handsomely shot with a single camera (by the great Vilmos Zsigmond) and without a laugh track, “The Mindy Project” certainly doesn’t telegraph its punch lines.

“You know what would really look great?” snaps an angry Danny, as banter with Mindy takes an oddly cruel turn. “If you lost 15 pounds.”

It’s a jarring moment, possibly hinting at darker notes to come. Or maybe just failing to land a joke.

“The Mindy Project” could go either way.

“The Mindy Project” airs Tuesday on Fox at 9:30 p.m. New York time. Rating: **1/2

‘Elementary’ Procedural

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s great mystery solver jumps the pond (and some centuries) to modern Manhattan in “Elementary,” CBS’s amiable new crime drama.

British actor Jonny Lee Miller, tamping down the broader comic strokes of his failed “Eli Stone” series, plays Sherlock Holmes, a brilliant police consultant fresh out of rehab and living off the largesse of his wealthy father.

Dad’s only condition: Sherlock must accept the constant presence of a “sober companion,” the beautiful former surgeon Joan Watson (Lucy Liu).

With the set-up established quickly and painlessly, “Elementary” gives the duo a Manhattan murder mystery that calls for Holmes’s unmatched skills of deduction.

The mystery writing could be sharper -- the pilot episode hinges on an identity twist common to soap operas -- but Miller and Liu exude an easy charm.

“You can solve people just by looking at them,” says she to he. “I notice you don’t have any mirrors around.”

“Elementary” airs Thursday on CBS at 10 p.m. New York time. Rating: ***1/2

What the Stars Mean:

*****  Fantastic
****   Excellent
***    Good
**     So-So
*      Poor
(No stars) Avoid

(Greg Evans is a critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)

Muse highlights include Elin McCoy on wine and Daniel Billy on architecture.

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