With House off the air, Fox has a vacancy for a new medical drama. I thought The Mob Doctor just might fit the bill there, with a concept that twists a medical drama with the suspenseful world of organized crime, following a female doctor who's attempting to pay off her brother's debt by working on the side for the mob. There was potential in the concept, but unfortunately, the pilot pushes things too far, too fast. From the first episode alone, the series could be described as a drama about a surgeon with ties to the mob, questionable ethics and really great hair.
Created by Josh Berman and Rob Wright, The Mob Doctor begins by introducing us to Jordana Spiro's character Dr. Grace Devlin, a woman who's no stranger to dead bodies, as she tells us in her intro. And we soon learn that, when she's not working long shifts as a surgeon, she's trying to pay off her brother's debt by moonlighting for the mob. Based on the series premiere, the range of tasks she's ordered to fulfill move from pulling a screwdriver from the frontal lobe of a hardware store burglar to killing a witness who's a patient at the hospital. Obviously, some things are no-brainers (frontal lobe humor!), while others force her into ethical dilemmas. She's taken an oath, after all. There's potential in the concept. And the pilot sets out to demonstrate that full force.
The premiere episode jumps in with Devlin already working for the mob, so we don't get a whole lot of set-up at first, nor do we get to see what her life was like before she was pushed into this situation. But her situation changes later on in the episode in what is really the only intriguing aspect of the pilot. But by that point, I was already too irritated by a number of issues with the episode to feel all that compelled to watch more. For one thing, Devlin being asked to kill a patient seems like something a show like this would build up to. Putting it in the pilot episode makes me wonder what kind of over-the-top scenarios she'll face by the time sweeps comes, assuming the show goes that far. (Surgery at gunpoint seems inevitable.)
And on the non-mob side of the story, we have Devlin interacting with her other doctor and nurse friends, including her boyfriend Brett (Zach Gilford), her boss Stafford White (Zeljko Ivanek), and her rival, Dr. Olivia Wilcox (Jaime Lee Kirchner). It's a solid supporting cast, to be sure, but I was as underwhelmed by their introductions as I was the rest of the set-up. Devlin gets into it with her boss over a bad call that cost a child his life. And she's also working alongside Brett with Suzy, a 14-year-old patient that's technically a virgin, but pregnant. Both of these situations give us an idea of Devlin's non-mob-related medical and ethical dilemmas, but not only did they seem unnecessarily crammed into the story, I wasn't sure what to make of the way one of the issues was resolved.
Without going into the spoilery details, I'll vaguely state that the end result of one of the Grace's medical challenges leaves her looking clever and victorious after having basically lied to a parent about his child's diagnosis. I got the impression we were supposed to be impressed by how crafty she was, and I didn't know what to make of that. Is lying to a 14-year-old patient's parent part of Devlin's secret dark side? Or was this just supposed to be a demonstration of how she's able to get around the rules? It's a side-story and one that probably isn't meant to be overanalyzed, but it left an impression on me mostly because i wasn't sure how I was supposed to feel about it.
The truth is, I like dark characters. The ones that do everything by the book usually aren't all that interesting. And there are hints that Devlin's character has a dark side, or at the very least, that she can handle the sight of a dead body, even if it's not on the operating table. But a series that combines a mob story and a medical drama is something that should probably be handled with surgical precision, as we see the lead character pushed to the limits each week. The pilot episode comes at the concept like a Mack truck and never eases off the gas. Maybe that'll appeal to people who tune in for that kind of tension and suspense, but it didn't work for me. With that said, pilot episodes aren't always the best example of what a series has to offer. In this case, The Mob Doctor feels more like a pitch for the concept than it is a proper introduction to this series. So I'll reserve full judgment until I see another episode or two. But things really aren't looking good for this one.
The Mob Doctor premieres Monday, September 17 at 9:00 p.m. ET on Fox.
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