Neal Baer ("Law & Order: SVU") "going back to his medical roots" in new NBC hospital drama

October 18th, 2006

NBC gives 'Life' to hospital tale
Baer prescribes medical drama

“Law & Order: SVU” showrunner Neal Baer is going back to his medical roots, developing an hourlong hospital drama for NBC.

Baer, a longtime “ER” exec producer who scripted some of the skein's more memorable early episodes, is teaming with “SVU” scribe Dawn DeNoon to pen the Peacock project.

Tentatively dubbed “Life or Death,” script is being developed under Baer's recently inked overall deal with NBC U Television Studios

Potential skein will be a sort of “Upstairs, Downstairs”-type drama about two adjacent Los Angeles hospitals — one a private facility for the wealthy, the other a county facility for the uninsured.

“We call them 'beauty' and 'the beast,'” Baer said of the two hospitals.

At the center of the action will be a doctor who spends most of his time working at the county hospital but performs plastic surgery at the upscale hospital to make coin.

“It's a single-lead show with a supporting cast of doctors who are essential to the show and all have their own stories,” Baer told Daily Variety. “It's not as evenly divided as (the storylines on) 'ER,' but not as focused on one character as 'House.' ”

Baer concedes that, nearly 60 years after the medium's birth, “coming up with a new TV hospital drama is a challenge. But I don't think it's impossible.

“It's been seven years since I left 'ER,' and medicine has changed in so many ways,” he added. “I wanted to do something different and look at the different ways in which care is given to the very rich and the very poor.”

“Life or Death” will also have “a real undercurrent of humor,” Baer said, noting DeNoon has penned some of “SVU's” more darkly comic segs. That was one reason he went to DeNoon when NBC asked him to create a medical drama.

Baer said he intends to remain with the Dick Wolf-produced “SVU” even if “Life or Death” goes to series.

A Harvard Medical School grad, Baer worked on the first seven years of “ER.” Among the episodes he penned: the Emmy-nommed “Hell or High Water,” the George Clooney-centric seg that had Dr. Ross rescuing a child from a flood while wearing a tux.

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