Junior Doctors, BBC3, Tuesday Confessions of a Nurse, More4, Tuesday We'll Take Manhattan, BBC4, Thursday

A new series shows young medics have a lot to learn; but nurses just have a lot to put up with

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The Independent Culture

I had a minor operation a few months ago.

Which is of interest to precisely no one, except that it gave me a recent NHS experience to compare with those shown on TV. My op took four months to go from initial consultation to scalpel, but once under the knife, it was great. Well, perhaps not the cutting bit: that turned me white as a sheet. But rather the supreme competence and kindness of the doctor and nurse who treated me.

I'm not sure whether I would have felt quite as confident had the doctor asked, "I'm gonna have a go at fitting a cannula, if that's OK?" – and not just because I didn't need a cannula. Have a go? After puncturing his patient four times in a futile search for a vein, Dr Andy gave up.

Andy is one of eight newly qualified physicians whose first days at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital are being followed in the six-part "doc" doc Junior Doctors. Fear not: Andy had another couple of goes an hour later. He didn't complete the task, but at least he didn't give up.

Amieth was rather more successful – perhaps because he's a second year, beginning afresh only in the sense that he's joined a new hospital. Starting out in A&E, he was preternaturally calm in trying to revive a patient in cardiac arrest. There was a lot of play about how Amieth is laid-back (see how he does yoga!), but to barely need to mop the brow while attempting to save a life signals a man with a good temperament for the job.

There is natural drama built in to this series: that someone's life is often in the balance creates extraordinary tension. But it will be fascinating, too, to see how the eight work out. My money's on take-charge perfectionist Lucy being the most proficient; shaky-handed, ball-going Milla ending up dating Hugo on Made in Chelsea; and rugby-playing stereotype Ben being the one we care about least.

All eight are sharing digs, and we see them there microwaving curry, just to emphasise how many hours a young doc must get through – but that's nothing. You should see the hours the nurses put in. Which we do, because straight after Junior Doctors, a quick channel-hop takes us to Confessions of a Nurse, a four-parter filmed at Birmingham City Hospital.

As a healthcare assistant, Latoya picks up £14,000 a year for a job that sees her mopping up spillages of the bodily fluid kind. The drudgery is relentless, yet she never complains.

Staff nurse Debbie, meanwhile, is pinched, punched, called a slag, flashed by a sex offender, and on the receiving end of a patient who has chosen to redecorate the ward with his faeces. And A&E sister Sarah is seen with an old woman who is tired of breathing and just wants to die; a clever voiceover device allows us to hear Sarah reveal she has many more patients to attend to, but can't face leaving her alone. It is moving and well constructed – and confirmation that nurses like these are angels in our midst. If such medical "dramas" are taking over our TV, at least these two deserve to be watched, if only to remind us of the trials faced daily at the NHS coalface.

The main trial for anyone watching We'll Take Manhattan was staying awake. For a drama with a compelling story to tell – of how David Bailey met Jean Shrimpton and challenged not only the fashion world but society itself – it was oddly pedestrian. It was all very well actor Aneurin Barnard sticking two fingers up to the establishment as Bailey, but for this pouting, blow-dried metrosexual to play a bit of rough was about as convincing as his "blow the bloody doors off" accent. As for the sexual tension between Barnard and Karen Gillan as Shrimpton, it was more soap opera than era-defining. Helen McCrory was excellent as Vogue harridan Lady Clare Rendelsham – but that wasn't nearly enough.

They'd have been better off writing an original drama focusing on an everyman and how Bailey's down-and-dirty vision affected him, rather than retread a well-known story and say nothing new. "The photos they shot in New York broke the fashion mould and still inspire today," ran the pre-credit spiel. Shame they couldn't inspire the programme-makers, too.

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