Thumbs Up for Medicine, SportsCentury


Whether you need an estrogen or testosterone boost, you can find intriguing programming debuting this summer.

Lifetime Television's Strong Medicine is targeted toward female viewership, while ESPN Classic's SportsCentury offers in-depth profiles of some of the most and least famous, but fascinating, characters in sport. Though demographically targeted, both are enjoyable no matter what your sex or stereotype.

Strong Medicine takes the formulaic hospital drama and populates it with female doctors serving a female clientele. But what gives this boilerplate some potential is the yin and yang between Dr. Dana Stowe (Janine Turner), a by-the-book physician and researcher; and Dr. Luisa Delgado (Rosa Blasi), a physician who's taken her degree back to the old neighborhood.

They are personifications of the business of medicine today: technology versus bedside manner, patients versus people, healing now versus curing later.

Stowe is dedicated to her Philadelphia hospital and clinical trials that she believes will cure cancer. Delgado has a different approach to healing the indigent in her neighborhood, where medical advice may include how to cure a recalcitrant husband's sexual disease with antibiotics hidden in his mashed potatoes.

Delgado needs funding, and Stowe's hospital needs the public-relations value of reaching out to the poor, so the two are forced together. If they keep the territorial catfights to a minimum, this drama is a keeper.

One hopes, too, that SportsCentury will stray far from the overexposed sports millionaires and produce more hours like one of its earliest episodes, on enigmatic utility player Moe Berg.

The player-a catcher for several teams, including the Brooklyn Dodgers-was an oddity in the sport: an accomplished linguist. Fluent in at lease five languages, he was recruited by the CIA precursor, the Office of Strategic Services, during World War II.

He came to the attention of the spy agency after a trip to Tokyo as a baseball player before the war. While there, he took it upon himself to sneak to the top of a building to shoot movies, which he later gave to the government. Those films helped aviators to plan their bombing targets in the Japanese capital.

A Jewish American, he joined the OSS during the war and went behind enemy lines on a mission to determine the progress of the Germans' nuclear research. Had the Nazis been close to the development of nuclear weapons, Berg was directed to assassinate their chief researcher during a speech in Zurich, Switzerland.

His work was not publicly rewarded: He refused a citation from the agency due to a dispute over expense accounts. He declined to work for the CIA and lived the balance of his life reliant on the support of friends.

Pick either hour, and your time will not be wasted.

Strong Medicine debuted this weekend, and it is scheduled Sundays at 9 p.m. on Lifetime. SportsCentury episodes are at 8 p.m. on ESPN Classic.