The Good Doctor is one of several medical dramas that got off to a late start in the 2020-2021 TV season, a few debuting later in fall than usual, and two not premiering until winter. The COVID-19 pandemic was responsible for the prolonged hiatuses, and each of the shows has dealt with incorporating COVID into the story in different ways. And now that we're well into the current TV season, I'm ready to say that for me, The Good Doctor Season 4 is beating the likes of Grey's Anatomy, Chicago Med and more in addressing the pandemic.
As a refresher, The Good Doctor wasted no time in taking the storyline into pandemic territory, even more or less ignoring an in-depth exploration of how Season 3 ended so as to track the COVID spread in the United States over the early months to the late fall. In the opening two-parter of Season 4, the doctors of St. Bonaventure were slowly but surely worn down by the stress of handling the pandemic, and nurse Deena Petringa was killed off. It was a tragic way to start the season, but The Good Doctor also moved past COVID after that opening two-parter.
Yes, in the Good Doctor universe, the pandemic was more or less resolved after the action caught up to the present, allowing the show to get back to business as usual with the plot without focusing on COVID on a weekly basis, or hiding the characters behind masks whenever they were at work. The Good Doctor managed to explore the devastation of the pandemic without actually becoming a show about the pandemic. And for me personally, that has been a relief and sent The Good Doctor to the top of my list for medical dramas handling the issue.
Television can be a solid form of escapism, and never has escapism been more appreciated than over the past year or so. While The Good Doctor hasn't been my favorite of the medical dramas to hit the airwaves in the 2020-2021 TV season, I do find the way that it addressed and then moved on from the pandemic to be superior to how Grey's Anatomy, Chicago Med, New Amsterdam, and The Resident have handled it.
Grey's Anatomy picked up Season 17 just about where Season 16 left off in the show's timeline, and the protagonist of the series spent most of the season so far unconscious and on a ventilator due to COVID while the rest of the characters dealt with her illness on top of everything else. Season 17 has actually been great in my book, but also bleak and definitely not escapism. The recent death certainly didn't help!
Chicago Med addressed the pandemic in particular in the first couple episodes, and not just in the form of Will Halstead not getting a haircut for quite a while. That said, the show kind of just stopped dealing with the pandemic at a certain point but never fully resolved it beyond the doctors getting vaccinated. COVID is now mostly just referenced via mentions of patients being tested and occasionally sending April back to the COVID ICU ward.
Of course, Med had to keep consistent with Chicago Fire and Chicago P.D., but Med mostly moving past the pandemic without the pandemic being solved has been a bit distracting for me, even as the vaccine started to be distributed in the show. Again, Season 6 of Chicago Med has been pretty great, but how it dealt with COVID beyond the first episode or two doesn't elevate it above The Good Doctor in that aspect for me.
The Resident actually handled COVID similarly to The Good Doctor, insofar as it started the latest season with the doctors and nurses dealing with the pandemic, then ultimately jumped forward to a time when the pandemic had been resolved. To get a bit nitpicky, I appreciated The Good Doctor going for a two-parter rather than a one-off to cover the crisis, as it allowed the series to really explore the impact of the pandemic on the characters from an emotional standpoint as well as the impact on the world and hospital.
New Amsterdam was the last of the major broadcast network medical dramas to premiere in the 2020-2021 season. It too addressed the thick of the pandemic in the premiere before mostly moving on in subsequent episodes, even as the doctors continued to deal with the trauma of what they went through on the frontlines and lingering danger of coming to the hospital for elective reasons.
That said, New Amsterdam primarily dealt with the pandemic at its worst in a montage that opened the Season 3 premiere, and while it definitely packed an emotional punch, it also mostly skipped over what The Good Doctor spent two episodes exploring. Viewers saw the effects of the pandemic as things were getting better, and I'm not ashamed to say that I shed a few tears when it looked like Dr. Kapoor was going to die. Like the rest of the medical dramas mentioned here, New Amsterdam hasn't done a bad job at dealing with the pandemic.
But for me, The Good Doctor is the clear winner when it comes to handling the pandemic at its worst and then delivering some escapism afterward, despite the fact that The Good Doctor would actually be toward the bottom of the list if I was going to rank my favorite medical dramas of the 2020-2021 TV season.
There are a number of ways that I think The Good Doctor could spice itself up, not the least of which is exploring its new characters rather than introducing and then dismissing them. But I know what isn't going to happen, and that's fine by me. Just as I know tuning into Grey's Anatomy means more COVID, I know that watching an episode of The Good Doctor will deliver plenty of drama of the non-pandemic variety.
And of course, I say all of this as somebody who is indeed watching plenty of medical dramas this season, so the heavy focus on the pandemic on Grey's Anatomy and Chicago Med only kinda sorta continuing to address COVID obviously haven't ruined the shows for me. By this point, more than halfway through the traditional TV season, though, I have to commend The Good Doctor as the standout for addressing this particular real-world issue and then moving on while giving an in-universe reason for it.
The matter is somewhat simpler for The Good Doctor than for Grey's Anatomy and Chicago Med specifically, as The Good Doctor stands alone while the other two exist in a multi-show universe on their own networks, and The Resident and New Amsterdam not premiering until winter 2021 as opposed to fall 2020 means that comparisons between them and The Good Doctor can be apples to oranges to a certain extent. Still, as somebody who watches a lot of TV for my job, I give the top spot to The Good Doctor in this particular area.
New episodes of The Good Doctor air on Mondays at 10 p.m. ET on ABC, and they deliver plenty of dramatic twists without the pandemic. The unplanned pregnancy that Shaun and Lea are moving forward with is bound to only get more complicated, while the return of Claire's father didn't exactly result in an overjoyed reunion. As for how it compares to the other medical dramas of the season, be sure to vote in our poll below!
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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).