Actor Paul Rudd is narrating a six-part series that documents some of the life-and-death drama inside Children’s Mercy Hospital.
The program, filmed over the summer, will air on KMBC, Channel 9, starting next week. Rudd returns to his hometown each June to raise money for the hospital at the Big Slick charity event.
At first blush “Inside Pediatrics,” made by a TV production company in St. Louis, might sound like an infomercial or a fundraising appeal, especially given that it will be shown just before Christmas.
But officials at Children’s Mercy and KMBC say that’s not the case, although the hospital acknowledges the program’s potential marketing value.
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“Not only is this series going to spark viewers’ interest, but obviously we’re highlighting our expertise as well,” Children’s Mercy spokeswoman Jessica Salazar said.
The hospital hired Coolfire Studios to produce the series. Salazar said that while the production house had editorial control, the hospital did sign off on episodes, sometimes after asking for changes.
For instance, if a scene in an operating room “might be a little too much for the parents to see or the child to see, we definitely had that conversation” with Coolfire, Salazar said. “But there really wasn’t much of anything like that.”
Unlike a lot of TV “reality” series, nothing was staged, Salazar added.
“Viewers are going to see what’s happening in real time for these patients,” she said. “Really, this series gives viewers an inside look at what happens when a child is living at a hospital or has to go through surgery or has to be admitted to the hospital.”
Channel 9 is selling advertising time for “Inside Pediatrics” as it would for any other program, said Sarah Smith, KMBC’s president and general manager.
“It’s being very well received by advertisers, of course,” Smith said.
She said Channel 9 was honored when Childen’s Mercy asked the station to partner on this project.
“Having children without medical conditions, sometimes you almost take it for granted,” Smith said. “But when you see the heartbreak and the fear that some families have had to go through, you’re even more thankful. They really are just beautiful stories that come out in this documentary. … To me this is just great television.”
Coolfire Studios had previously filmed a similar series at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. That one was narrated by actor Jon Hamm, a St. Louis native.
Rudd, who grew up in Overland Park, said in a statement released by the hospital: “This is a very personal project for me. I get to meet these remarkable kids every year when I visit Children’s Mercy for our Big Slick Weekend. I don’t think anyone can understand what happens every day at a hospital like this unless you’re here, and you meet the families and the staff. ‘Inside Pediatrics’ takes you there, and the stories are very real and powerful.”
The series follows 28 patients from 22 cities and five states.
Among the stories:
▪ Chad and Joanna, a St. Joseph couple, discover their unborn baby has a hole in his diaphragm, causing his organs to shift and crowding his heart and lungs. The child’s likelihood of survival seems questionable.
▪ Ten-year-old Julio, who travels three hours to Kansas City for treatment, had a successful kidney transplant six months prior but the disease is now attacking the transplanted kidney. Doctors introduce alternative therapies to treat him.
▪ Nilijah is a 13-year-old athlete preparing for the fall sports season when his routine physical results in a quick referral to Children’s Mercy. Cardiologists discover a mass in his heart that requires an urgent heart surgery.
Each 22-minute TV episode will feature two to four patients. Six 2- to 3-minute online-only “webisodes” will focus on one patient’s story. Go to insidepediatrics.com to see those. The TV shows will also go up on the website after airing on Channel 9.
The hospital (@ChildrensMercy) will host Twitter chats during and after each TV broadcast with some of its doctors, using the #InsidePediatrics hashtag.
WHERE TO WATCH
KMBC will air the first two episodes of “Inside Pediatrics” back-to-back in prime time, at 7 p.m. Wednesday. ABC sitcoms “The Middle” and “The Goldbergs,” both reruns next week, can be seen at noon and 12:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 21.
Episode 3 will be shown at 6:30 p.m. Thursday instead of “Entertainment Tonight”; episode 4 at 6:30 p.m. Friday. (“ET” can also be seen at 9:30 p.m. weeknights on KMBC sister station KCWE, Channel 29.)
The final two episodes will air at midnight Sunday, Dec. 21, on Channel 9.
If you’d rather do some binge-watching, KCWE will air the first four episodes from 7 to 9 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 20, and the final two episodes from 8 to 9 p.m. Dec. 21.