He’s known for critically acclaimed features films like Magic Mike; Traffic; Sex, Lies, and Videotape; and Erin Brockovich, but director and cinematographer Steven Soderbergh is now forging a reputation for himself through a new medium: TV. In 2013, Soderbergh’s made-for-TV movie Behind the Candelabra: My Life with Liberace appeared on HBO, proving a hit with critics and at-home watchers alike. Based on a true story, the movie featured star turns by Michael Douglas, who portrayed the flamboyant pianist, Liberace, and Matt Damon, who played the musician’s much younger lover, Scott Thorson.
On the heels of that success, Soderbergh, who has said he’s finished making movies for the big screen, returns to TV this fall with a new offering: a dramatic series called The Knick, with film actor Clive Owen in the leading role. The show, which airs on Cinemax, is set in New York in the early 1900s. The locus of the series is the Knickerbocker Hospital, a facility with ground-breaking surgeons and nurses who fight against the boundaries of science and medicine in a city with an incredibly high death rate. Owen stars as Dr. John Thackery (a character inspired by real-life physician William Stewart Halstead), the controversial new chief of the hospital’s operating staff. Thackery is quite a figure—a cocaine and opium user who’s no stranger to the city’s darker quarters, and who hopes to make a permanent name for himself in the field of medicine.
Soderbergh brings old New York to vivid life in the new series. There’s plenty of tense, operating-theater action, as Thackery and his staff labor to save the lives of the city’s underprivileged residents. The show captures the atmosphere of the era, including New York’s racial and political tensions and economic inequalities.
In spite of his flaws, women seem to love Dr. Thackery, who’s definitely an outsider—a brilliant surgeon with a volatile personality and bad habits he can’t seem to break. The Knick premiered on Cinemax on August 8, garnering mostly positive responses from the critics. Fans of the show will be glad to know that it has been picked up again by the network for a second 10-episode season. In addition to Clive Owen, the cast of The Knick includes Juliet Rylance, Andre Holland, Eve Hewson (daughter of U2’s Bono), and Jeremy Robb. The Knick airs at 10:00 p.m. EST on Cinemax.