First Look: ‘The Knick’ Takes an Authentic Approach Toward Turn-of-the-Century Life

Posted on: August 4th, 2014 at 10:00 am by

This image has been archived or removed.

On set of The Knick, November 2013

Cinemax granted us access to a pre-screening of The Knick which premieres Friday, August 8 at 10pm. The press kit containing the screener came complete with our very own collector’s medicine box.

Welcome to the circus, it says.

First, a quick description from The Knick’s website:

Set in downtown New York in 1900, ‘The Knick’ is a new Cinemax drama series from Academy Award and Emmy-winning director Steven Soderbergh. It is centered on the Knickerbocker Hospital and the groundbreaking surgeons, nurses and staff who work there, pushing the bounds of medicine in a time of astonishingly high mortality rates and zero antibiotics. Soderbergh directs all 10 episodes of the series’ first season.

Academy Award and Emmy nominee Clive Owen stars as Doctor John Thackery, a brilliant surgeon pioneering new methods in the field, despite his secret addiction to cocaine.

Without revealing too much of the plotline, here are some choice snippets that drew us right into the drama.

The first shot is Johnny (Clive Owen) in an Asian brothel/opium den with his white shoes crossed. A nude Asian prostitute wakes him at “seven and a half.” His addiction to shooting up cocaine is revealed almost immediately. Walking out of Chinatown, Johnny tells his carriage driver take him to the Knick. He gives him directions and just hearing “Mott, the Bowery, Houston,” gave us goosebumps. Oh, this is gonna be good.

As he walks into the Knickerbocker Hospital the screen turns stark black and with white lettering simply stating ‘THE KNICK.’

The wardrobe, the scenery, and the dialect – all around well done and extremely well-researched. One need only remember the weeks of filming at Orchard and Broome last fall to understand the authenticity apparent in this show. Trolley tracks, horses (dead and alive), carriages, tenement life, dirt streets. Even the inside of the tenements are immaculately portrayed. Tubercular windows, transoms, bland, but bright wallpaper crowded with children and adults and tuberculosis. The buildings they film around are (thank goodness) still standing.

We see them in 1900 without that coveted time machine. What will apparently be a symbol throughout the show is the presence of white – white shoes, white sheets, white gowns – perhaps the the pure intent before the nightmarish stains of excessive blood.

This image has been archived or removed.

What you may not know is the Knickerbocker was actually a real hospital.

The M. Moran Weston seniors’ residence on Convent Avenue at 131st Street occupies the old Knickerbocker Hospital building, which began in 1862 as the Manhattan Dispensary, a temporary Civil War tent facility for returning Union Army invalids. In 1885 the New York Times praised its rebirth as the fully equipped Manhattan Hospital, “the only general hospital north of Ninety-ninth street.” In 1895 it became the J. Hood Wright Memorial Hospital, then Knickerbocker Hospital in 1913. The hospital assumed the city’s largest ambulance district for many decades and was a forerunner in treatments for polio, gynecology and alcoholism. (United Hospital Fund.)

This image has been archived or removed.

The electronic infused music throughout the episode is just eerie enough to remind you that this is a modern attempt at a historical drama.

It works.

The show also succeeds at dropping you off smack in the harrowing world that is the dawn of surgical medicine in America. It is gory, gruesome, and effective. And, it has already been renewed for a second season!

This image has been archived or removed.

Courtesy of Cooper Medical College

One thing is for sure after watching The Knick – you will be grateful that surgery, in particular, is not what it used to be.

This gallery has been removed.

Recent Stories

Spectrum Debuts New Essex Crossing Store on Grand Street

Essex Crossing wouldn’t be complete without yet another big-box retailer, living up to the shopping mall persona many in the neighborhood always anticipated. The latest to plant a flag is Spectrum, which is sandwiched between Target and Trader Joe’s at The Rollins mixed-use development. Carrying the address of 396 Grand Street, this is the ninth overall […]

The Children’s Place on Delancey Street Might Not Survive 2020

The Lower East Side outpost of The Children’s Place is operating on borrowed time. The tombstone leasing banner beside its store signage at 126 Delancey says it all. Diving deeper into the real estate listing – repped by Sinvin [PDF] – it appears the 7,600 square-foot space is available starting November 2020. And Essex Crossing […]

Judge Rules in Favor of Community Lawsuit to Halt Two Bridges Towers

A state Supreme Court judge yesterday ruled in favor of a year-old community lawsuit to halt the planned development of three luxury towers in Two Bridges. State Supreme Court Judge Arthur Engoron, who presided over the case brought by the Lower East Side Organized Neighbors coalition, found that the slate of skyscrapers is in direct […]

That Chen Wong Imposter was Removed from Seamless

It took several days, but the Chen Wong imposter taking orders on Seamless is canceled. As previously reported, the shuttered Chinese restaurant surfaced on the app two months after its departure from Madison Street. And appeared alongside its old address. One reader spotted the strangeness, and ordered to see if it would go through. When […]

The 6-Story Future of 301 Broome Street

Another single-story relic on the Lower East Side will soon yield to luxury. This time, it’s on Broome Street. The squat warehouse at 301 Broome, formerly the Simon Preston Gallery, is on the shortlist for redevelopment. Building owner Winnie Lee will soon demolish the property to make way for a six-story mixed-use structure. Permits were […]