In my dim awareness of The Knick prior to our summer TV preview, I imagined Steven Soderbergh’s 10-episode Cinemax project as either (a) an action-packed period piece with Clive Owen playing a badass/boxer/hit man called the Knick, or (b) a horror-tinted series reminiscent of Showtime’s Penny Dreadful. And while the bloody, old-timey aesthetics of the latter might pop up here, The Knick really isn’t going to be either of those things! The title’s actually a reference to Knickerbocker Hospital, a boundary-pushing early-20th-century New York City institution. At its head was Dr. John W. Thackeray (Owen), who Cinemax’s release refers to as “a famously iconoclastic physician with a secret cocaine habit.” Also: Soderbergh directed every episode. He’s been on a medical kick lately — Contagion, Side Effects, this.
The Knick’s first trailer shows Thackeray as a beleaguered O.G. health nut pioneering all sorts of rogue, potentially life-extending treatments in 1900. “We, mankind, have progressed so far. We live in a time of endless possibility,” Thackeray says between frames of grisly low-tech amputations and splattery matter plopping into pristine white bowls. “More has been learned about the treatment of the human body in the last five years than was learned in the previous 500.” Which is a good thing, because people must’ve been getting pretty sick of that sky-high mortality rate and antibiotic-less life. Getting from there to here looks like it was gross, though. We’ll find out later this summer — The Knick premieres Friday, August 8.