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Carry on doctors.

FEELING a little poorly? Under-the-weather? Don't worry! Sit back for a dose of your favourite medical drama and you'll feel much better. Anyone would think the Brits were a nation of hypochondriacs looking at the TV schedules. There is daytime fare from Doctors, ITV's Always & Everyone and real-life drama with Children's Hospital. ER and Chicago Hope have even been imported from America to help cut the TV waiting lists. Now three of the UK's biggest medical dramas are back for the autumn. TV writer MARION McMULLEN makes an appointment with some of the top docs on the box

PEAK PRACTICE

BACKGROUND NOTES: ITV's long-running favourite is just the tonic for Tuesday nights. The 13-parter marks the 10th series of the medical drama set in The Beeches surgery in the Peak District. Since beginning back in 1993, the drama created by Soldier Soldier writer Lucy Gannon has been a consistent ratings winner.

NEW SYMPTOMS: The introduction of four doctors instead of the usual three and the arrival of new series producer Phil Collinson. He says: "We're keeping the elements which viewers love about Peak Practice, including the dramatic and dynamic personal and medical stories and the beautiful locations which give the series its unique feel."

FRESH BLOOD: Maggie O'Neill as ex-army doctor Alex Redman. "The first thing I filmed was a scene where I delivered a baby girl who was being strangled by her umbilical chord," says Maggie. "It was a great first scene to get stuck into and it was all so hectic I didn't have time to feel nervous or worry about the technical side of being a doctor."

ON THE CRITICAL LIST: He arrived at The Beeches in April 1995 and immediately set female viewers hearts a-flutter with his bedside manner. Five years on and still just as popular, Gary Mavers is finally saying goodbye to Dr Andrew Attwood.

"I've really loved my time on Peak Practice so it's been quite hard to make the decision that enough is enough," sighs Gary. "The cast and crew have become like family to me and I've got nothing but happy memories. I never imagined I would stay as long as I did and I think that's down to the fact that the writers kept developing the character and making it fresh."

DIAGNOSIS: Regular injections of new blood keeps the series in a healthy condition, but the departure of Gary Mavers could result in a serious haemorrhaging of viewers. Still Peak Practice pulled through when it lost its first three docs - Simon Shepherd, Amanda Burton and Kevin Whatley - and seems to be thriving.

HOLBY CITY

BACKGROUND NOTES: The spin-off from Casualty has now developed its own following and shortly returns to BBC 1 for the autumn.

NEW SYMPTOMS: Opening of new children's ward and the promise of lots of tear-jerking storylines. BBC boss Mal Young says: "We've chosen a children's ward because it throws up amazing possibilities for storytelling. "We can include all the people surrounding the patient, the parents, the brothers and sisters - it's family drama."

FRESH BLOOD: Red-head Siobhan Redmond is senior paediatric medical consultant Janice Taylor, Anna Mountford plays nurse Keri McGrath, Laura Sadler is junior nurse Sandy Harper and Jeremy Sheffield is the new surgical registrar Alex Adams.

ON THE CRITICAL LIST:

Series heart-throb Michael French said goodbye during the last series to his role as heart surgeon Nick Jordan. Holby City managed to weather the departure and is offering lots of new faces and characters to keep fans interested.

DIAGNOSIS:

The newcomer on the operating table quickly proved a favourite with TV lovers and has been sending temperatures soaring. Casualty's Clive Mantle is now part of the Holby City team and George Irving has made his mark as top heart surgeon Anton Meyer and become an unexpected sex symbol in the process. "I think some people find power a bit of an aphrodisiac," he smiles.

"I also find that since I've been playing him some people give a kind of shudder when they see me. "It's funny because I'm nothing like him in real life."

CASUALTY

BACKGROUND NOTES: The emergency staff at Holby City Hospital have been dealing with everything from plane crashes to car crash victims since 1986 and is now back on BBC 1 tonight with a full caseload.

NEW SYMPTOMS: A potential explosive romance between Casualty regulars Charlie Fairhead and Lisa "Duffy" Duffin, the public exposure of HIV positive nurse Adam Osman and more emphasis on the work of the paramedics. BBC boss and executive producer Mal Young promises: "We see a new Charlie when he returns.

He looks great in "scrubs" - our very own George Clooney.

FRESH BLOOD:

Grant Masters as new administrator Dan Robinson, Adjoa Andoh as Staff Nurse Colette Kierney and Ben Keaton as Health Service Assistant Spencer.

ON THE CRITICAL LIST: Brummie actor Pal Aron, who plays Adam Osman, bows out this series, but luckily Charlie Fairhead is in better health after ending the last series falling to the floor clutching his chest.

Derek Thompson, who plays the clinical nursing manager, says: "What happened to Charlie was a real bolt from the blue. It was his 'road to Damascus' moment.

"A shock like that tends to turn people into themselves and they are less easily persuaded to just let things ride.

"There will be times when there is a darker side to Charlie, an intolerance with things he disagrees with."

DIAGNOSIS:

Massive changes of staff seem to make little difference to the smooth running of Casualty. It continues to provide a steady heartbeat for BBC 1's Saturday night schedules.
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Title Annotation:Features
Author:McMullen, Marion
Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Sep 23, 2000
Words:930
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