September 25, 2017

SHOWBUZZDAILY Series Premiere Review: “The Good Doctor”


THE GOOD DOCTOR:  Monday 10PM on ABC – Change the Channel

ABC’s THE GOOD DOCTOR arrives with some pedigree, being a medical series from David Shore, the creator of House, and starring Freddie Highmore, fresh off his remarkable turn on Bates Motel.  The pilot, though, suggests that there’s very little of note here.

The Good Doctor (which is based on a South Korean format) is yet another variation on the brilliant-but-difficult genre, in which the protagonist–usually a man–has a phenomenal gift for noticing crucial details and leaping to unorthodox conclusions, matched only by his eccentric inability to interact with other people.  The detective shows in this subgenre include everything from Monk to Sherlock (and Elementary), and Shore’s own House was one of the medical sagas built on the archetype, with Black Box and Heartbeat two recent failed attempts to follow his model.  Good Doctor‘s addition to the canon is that Shaun Murphy (Highmore) isn’t just eccentric, he’s actually autistic, albeit at the extremely high-functioning end of the spectrum, where his symptoms are mostly in the area of social awkwardness.

This was perhaps the worst possible role for Highmore to take on after Norman Bates, because as brilliant as Highmroe was on Bates Motel, here he finds himself recycling the same mannerisms–inability to meet the eyes of the person he’s talking to, blurting out inappropriate statements–for a character that’s far less layered.  (I’m  not making this up:  a key reason that Shaun decided to become a surgeon is because his bunny died when he was a child.)  It makes the performance feel like schtick.

Everything on Good Doctor is predictable, from the early sequence where we learn about Shaun’s genius by watching him improvise a surgery for a man bleeding out at an airport, to the visual gimmick employed by director Seth Gordon of having us see the pages of the medical textbooks and diagrams that Shaun has memorized as he arrives at his extraordinary diagnoses.  Of course the hospital board has a member warmly sympathetic to Shaun (Richard Schiff) and another who wants him the hell out (Hill Harper).  The other residents and attending surgeons are cold to Shaun, except for the 1 or 2 who are sympathetic.  Everyone doubts his radical ideas, until they have to acknowledge his skill.  And so on.

The Good Doctor faces mild competition in its timeslot from two action shows, the aging Scorpion and NBC’s new military series The Brave, so perhaps it will survive for a while.  As a prescription for what ails broadcast TV, though, it’s no more than a placebo.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."