Medical Fraternity, IRIB at Loggerheads Over Comedy Series

Medical Fraternity, IRIB at Loggerheads Over Comedy SeriesMedical Fraternity, IRIB at Loggerheads Over Comedy Series

A  comedy series that provoked controversy even before going on air on primetime TV, has now elicited fierce criticism from the medical community over what they charge is unacceptable mockery of the noble profession. ‘Trivia’ is the name of the latest TV sitcom by the celebrity comedian Mehran Modiri that features a group of unscrupulous businessmen who run a hospital staffed with fake doctors.

‘’ Hyperbole and slapstick comedy acts can be hilarious and fun if used properly, but to make a series which portrays an unfair image of physicians defiled by crude frivolity is neither correct nor gladdening’’, wrote Dr. Alireza Zali, head of the Medical Council, in a letter to IRIB head, Mohammad Sarafraz.

The critical letter of course was not the first of its kind from the medical community. Earlier protest from the ministry of health -- including minister of health himself- succeeded in halting the production of the series for a time. But with a new head at the state-owned IRIB, some comic elements were toned down and finally aired during Nowruz holidays, attracting a large number of viewers.

But with holidays ending and the prospect of the series to continue in future seasons, the medical community - with leadership from their oversight body, the Medical Council - has come up with a fresh campaign to voice its disapproval at the series. They have gone so far as to seek official permit for staging a public protest rally. On its website, the council has set up an online survey to see how many doctors are willing to participate in the planned protest. It says so far it has 7,000 signatures.

 Diverging Opinions

While the medical community is firm in its assertion that the TV series is the latest of its kind in singling out doctors for unfair drubbing, IRIB officials and many viewers disagree.  Ali Asghar Poormohammadi, TV deputy at IRIB said in an interview with the Persian Shargh newspaper that his organization has gone to great lengths to ensure no offense has been leveled at physicians and hence the hiatus in the production the series.

‘’After all the setting for the plot is a medical center which makes it inevitable for some criticism and pre-conclusion to circulate around, but it is still too soon for a blanket judgment’’, he said. In the series, some honest and dedicated doctors are pitted against some double-dealing fakes, and in order to see the true storyline emerge one should wait and see the future episodes, the senior TV official was quoted as saying.

 Uncertain Denouement

As controversy is building around the program by a comedian who has made a comeback to television after a rather long absence, social networks are replete with viewers’ comments in strong support of a series they have finally come to like and enjoy. A fan who happens to be a notable physician himself, wrote in a piece posted on Salamtnews- a popular medical website- that satirists have a right to impugn all factions of society provided they observe professional ethics. Dr. Kianoosh Jahanpoor called on his fellow physicians to ‘’do away with artificial red lines ‘’ and ‘’raise their tolerance for criticism’’.  It remains to be seen how the present drama ends and whether the medical community is finally placated.