The Good Doctor Review: ABC's Inclusive Medical Drama Attempts A Fresh Take
If there's one tried and true TV genre that will never go out of style, it's the medical drama. The weaving of interpersonal issues with emergency surgeries never ceases to thrill TV fans, although it's often hard to stand out from the pack. But ABC is attempting to do just that with its new series The Good Doctor. While the title makes it seem like another Good Wife spinoff, new series follows a group of surgeons in a San Jose hospital. The twist? One of these surgeons is a young man with both autism and a genius level intellect. Move over Meredith Grey, there's a new surgeon in town.
The Good Doctor was created by Hawaii 5-0 and Lost actor Daniel Dae Kim and writer/producer David Shore (House). The series largely follow Dr. Shaun Murphy (Freddie Highmore), as he begins his first days in the surgical program at San Jose St. Bonaventure Hospital. Murphy's entrance is an exciting and flashy one, and it sends waves through the hospital staff, particularly in the surgical program and Hospital Board. The series follows much like most medical dramas, as conflict arise both in the operating room and between the personal drama of the staff.
While the show's title may make it seem completely focused on Shaun's storyline, the first few episodes introduce a fairly large cast of characters. Standouts include Dr. Claire Browne (Antonia Thomas), who immediately charms the audience and will likely become the secondary protagonist as The Good Doctor continues developing. Shaun's father figure Aaron Glassman is also the President of the Hospital, played with appropriate levels of anxiety and kindness by The West Wing's Richard Schiff. The main cast also includes surgeons and members of the Hospital's board, played by Nicholas Gonzalez, Chuku Modu, Beau Garrett, and Tamlyn Tomita.
While The Good Doctor is a strong enough medical drama, it's best scenes truly do surround its lead character. The way that Shaun sees and hears the world are shown through the use of visual affects. When he's agitated by loud noises or crowded spaces, they're amplified for the audience. But more thrilling than this is when the young doctor is combing through his extensive medical knowledge or assessing a medical emergency. Shaun's knowledge becomes our own, and we see as he processes the situation and realizes a plan of action.
Aside from the scenes involving the series lead, The Good Doctor may still be able to separate itself from other medical dramas like Grey's Anatomy and Chicago Med. Because rather than focusing solely on the doctors and nurses of the hospital, ABC's new series also heavily involves members of the board. By including the business side of running a hospital, The Good Doctor can include moments of law and business drama, giving audiences a breather from the medical hoo-hah that comes with the genre. It's these group of people that were taught a lesson in empathy by giving Shaun the chance to join the program, so perhaps his myriad skills and perspective will help change more minds in future episodes.
If there's one thing that could be improved improved in The Good Doctor, its fleshing out the supporting cast. The series has quite a few series regulars, so it's going to take a number of episodes before they all start feeling real. One exception to this is Claire Brown. While she's certainly a good person, her ignorant first interaction with Shaun will allow the series to deliver an educational narrative to the audience, without it feeling forced or exposition heavy. Another standout is the surly Doctor Neil Melendez (Nicholas Gonzalez) who is a stereotypical arrogant doctor. He regularly demeans both Claire and Shaun, and is the hard ass doctor that every medical drama needs. Unfortunately, the rest of the starring cast members fail to make a particularly strong impression in the first handful of episodes.
It should be interesting to see how The Good Doctor functions in the ratings, especially with Grey's Anatomy already airing on the same network. Grey's is gearing up for its whopping 14th season this week, so will the network's fans be willing to watch two similar shows? They both contain dueling egos, shocking surgeries, and on call room sex sessions; it's going be up to the show's two previously mentioned unique characteristics to captivate viewers. Luckily, the moments featuring Shaun are pretty great, so The Good Doctor may end up having legs on it.
Due to the concept, The Good Doctor will no doubt be compared to Netflix's recent dramedy Atypical. Both star a young man on the autism spectrum, and show as he attempts to navigate the world of personal and professional relationships. Atypical was met with some backlash regarding its portrayal of autism, and its currently unclear if The Good Doctor will fare any better. Although I will say that Shaun is far more likable that Keir Gilchrist's Sam, if only because of his vastly more optimistic outlook and natural charm. But Atypical has already been renewed for a second season on the streaming service, so we'll see if The Good Doctor is able to follow suit.
The Good Doctor airs Monday nights on ABC, so be sure to tune in and form your own opinion on the newest hospital show to hit network television.
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Corey was born and raised in New Jersey. Double majored in theater and literature during undergrad. After working in administrative theater for a year in New York, he started as the Weekend Editor at CinemaBlend. He's since been able to work himself up to reviews, phoners, and press junkets-- and is now able to appear on camera with some of his favorite actors... just not as he would have predicted as a kid.
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