Why The Good Doctor Is Jumping To A Post-COVID World Early In Season 4

the good doctor season 4 premiere dr shaun murphy abc
(Image credit: ABC)

The Good Doctor wrapped its third season back in March, in the early weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic shutdowns in the United States that ultimately brought the entertainment industry to a standstill. Now, with the show returning more than a month later than usual, The Good Doctor is planning on addressing COVID, but that doesn't mean the doctors at St. Bonaventure will be on pandemic duty every week during Season 4. The Good Doctor is actually moving into a post-COVID world, and showrunner David Shore explained why.

Season 4 of The Good Doctor is actually launching with a two-parter, and the trailers have been packed with characters in masks and social distancing. David Shore spoke with EW about The Good Doctor moving on from COVID following the opening two-parter, saying:

These two episodes largely stand on their own, not completely. We will definitely carry stuff forward. The impact of these two episodes on our characters personally will be carried forward. This is the type of thing where it would be simply wrong of us to do it and forget about it. But episode 3 will pick up a little while after these episodes and it will pick up in a world that is not the world we are living in right now, and it is a world that is past-COVID. We’re a little worried about that because we don’t want people to watch and think, ‘Oh, The Good Doctor is implicitly endorsing people not wearing masks inside.’ But we also want the stories we’re telling to stand on their own and not be overshadowed by this pandemic. We wanted to deal with, shall we say, smaller human stories, but very real, very powerful, and very emotional.

Fans are evidently in for a time jump following the first two episodes of The Good Doctor Season 4, and that jump will be enough to take the doctors and nurses to a time when it's safe to not wear masks quite as constantly. So, The Good Doctor presumably won't keep Shaun and Lea separated for the full season, or make the stories harder to tell by covering half of all the actors' faces from start to finish.

David Shore's comments about the impact of the COVID-centric two-parter continuing in Season 4 echo his statements about the show not resolving all of its Season 3 stories very early on, which may or may not include the emotional aftermath of Dr. Melendez's death. "Smaller human stories" suggests that The Good Doctor can focus more on character in the post-COVID world than while the doctors are immersed in treating the pandemic.

Still, the post-COVID world is fictitious at this point, as the world is still dealing with the pandemic, and the television industry continues to be impacted as well. David Shore went on to explain how The Good Doctor is going to approach telling post-COVID stories while the real world is still very much in the midst of COVID. He explained:

What we’re going to do is that there’s going to be a message before each episode for at least a little while after the first two in which we acknowledge this episode is, like the show, about hope for a future where COVID is behind us and to remind people that they still have to take precautions, because that is what we’re doing. We are filming, but boy we’re taking precautions on the set: Testing, masks, distancing. We’ve got several people on our crew right now, who weren’t employed on our crew last year, whose job it is to make sure everybody is complying with the COVID protocol, which is what everyone wants to do but it’s easy to forget. Everything is going well so far.

The Good Doctor won't be trying to sell a story that going without masks in real life should happen just because Shaun and Co. have more or less given them up. Besides, the show itself is taking many precautions, like other series that managed to return to production for the 2020-2021 season. For some platforms, the cost of COVID protocols has resulted in reduced episode counts and even cancellations, while one ABC series chose not to stop production despite some positive COVID tests among the crew.

See how The Good Doctor handles the COVID pandemic and then moves past it starting with the Season 4 premiere on Monday, November 2 at 10 p.m. ET on ABC. New episodes will continue airing Mondays at 10 p.m. ET, and there are plenty of other viewing options on top of The Good Doctor that you can find on our 2020 fall TV premiere schedule.

Laura Hurley
Senior Content Producer

Laura turned a lifelong love of television into a valid reason to write and think about TV on a daily basis. She's not a doctor, lawyer, or detective, but watches a lot of them in primetime. Resident of One Chicago, the galaxy far, far away, and Northeast Ohio. Will not time travel and can cite multiple TV shows to explain why. She does, however, want to believe that she can sneak references to The X-Files into daily conversation (and author bios).