The Comedy Vault – Surgical Spirit.

Surgical Spirit (ITV, 1989-1995)

This is another of the sitcoms that was rather successful on ITV in the 90s, indeed such a thing does exist. This one was set in a hospital. There have been many other hospital-based sitcoms over the years, Scrubs was one of them (although this was American and came long after this one), but this was somewhat different from the likes of The Young Doctors (I know that wasn’t a sitcom, well not intentionally anyway).

It might be a little unfair to say that Surgical Spirit revolved around one character, but there is no doubt that most episodes featured the life and career of Sheila Sabatini. This was a rather bold woman, who had a withering put-down for every occasion, the phrase “her tongue is as sharp as her scalpel” was often used to describe her personality. Everyone would be targeted, this was someone who you definitely didn’t mess with.

This was a woman who was so stern I imagine that even Anne Robinson herself would probably have said “blimey”. Sabatini is a surgeon who works at the Gillies Hospital. As the series progresses, she goes through a divorce, and starts to become involved with Dr Haslam. She also worked her way up the ladder, whilst continuing to put people in their place, if that makes sense.

They finally get married at the end of the sixth series. And her teenage son from her first marriage becomes a medical student at the hospital, which opens up all of those “there’s enough of it at home, don’t start with me here”-type situations. The combination of all this was a sitcom that was consistently popular, and ran to 50 episodes in seven series, when other sitcoms flopped and barely got past series two.

This was definitely better received than most ITV sitcoms of the era, with the Sabatini character being so formidable, despite overshadowing the others, viewers did take notice of her. There have been some repeat runs, including on ITV3 that I remember watching a while ago, along with on Forces TV more recently. All of the episodes have been released on DVD by Network as well.

4 thoughts on “The Comedy Vault – Surgical Spirit.

  1. Des Elmes says:

    Surgical Spirit was made by Humphrey Barclay Productions, which also made Desmond’s.

    Yet while all 50 episodes of SS have been released on DVD, only the first 19 eps of Desmond’s (out of 71) have been so released. I’d argue that Desmond’s is the more fondly remembered of the two, though obviously SS was good too.


  2. George Kaplan says:

    Surgical Spirit another entertaining sitcom launched before the franchise changeover had a deleterious effect on ITV (though S.S. – that’s both Sheila Sabatini and Surgical Spirit! – continued after that disaster). Interesting how much *less* diverse in a real way – rather than a “look how this symbolises diversity viewers! Praise us! Praise us!” one – television would become.


  3. George Kaplan says:

    Ha, yes! S.S. might have led to me confusing the series with Secret Army or ‘Allo ‘Allo!
    (Whimsically, I notice that Sheila Sabatini was the lead character in Surgical Spirit which I now know – thanks to this website- ran for *S*even *S*eries. Ho!)


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