This first episode of The Choir's new series was a bit like watching Grey's Anatomy, with the doctors singing to their own montages instead of Snow Patrol.
I was overseas until a couple of years ago, so I missed the moment when Gareth Malone became an official national treasure. But there's no doubt he's safely installed now on his plinth, courtesy of a number one Christmas single with his Military Wives, a creative partnership with fellow Royal-friendly good egg Gary Barlow and an bottomless well of enthusiasm for his subject.
Gareth Malone is intent on creating four new choirs for his new series
This series, he's made it his mission to get the nation singing while it's working. Like all the best ideas, it feels so obvious now it's out there you can't believe it didn't exist before. In a deceptively simple formula, Gareth chose to pick the first of his four choirs from a hospital - and he landed on the sprawling corridors of Lewisham NHS Trust.
There were three aspects to the process that made a hospital an inspired choice.
Like any institution, the hospital, seemingly one whole, is actually full of a myriad of wings and departments, many of whom never communicate. It's also full of invisible barriers of rank and authority. This meant the audition process was the first time an anaesthetist had sat next to his consultant surgeon colleague - "he probably doesn't recognise me" - despite their sharing the responsibility of someone's life in an operating theatre. Extraordinary.
Choir judges are Manvinder Rattan, Ruby Turner and Ralph Allwood
The second was their choice of songs, when all the old favourites, from the audition ditty of A Spoonful of Sugar to the upbeat Lean On Me, suddenly took on a whole new resonance when sung by people charged with actually looking after me.
Of course, just as with the Military Wives, the hospital was able to conjure up the personalities to make the hour swing by - from the "desperately competitive" consultant vascular surgeon Eddie, to the nervous pharmacy porter Aaron.
And then, finally, Gareth did the unthinkable and made these most practical of people tap into their emotional sides for the soulful Everybody Hurts - revelatory stuff as each reacted to the challenge so differently, including Eddie's 'clinical performance' (be-dum).
Gareth kept his poker face straight and bow tie twirling for everyone, but he found his soloist in tearful Nathalie. And just as bespectacled James Morton is the breakout star of Bake Off, keep your eye on Aaron the pharmacy porter - surely a star in the making, even if he does have to lie down to hit the notes.
Below are Gareth Malone's Military Wives in action...
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