From David Shore comes a story about a doctor, unmatched in his skill but generally incapable of social interaction. No, this isn’t a House M.D. reboot but something entirely different (almost).

The Good Doctor, developed by David Shore for American television from a South Korean series, is a hospital drama about Shaun Murphy (Freddie Highmore), an extraordinarily skilled young surgeon with high functioning autism.

Episode one of this series, entitled “Burnt Food,” indeed gives flashbacks of House M.D., with a whole lot of Sherlock thrown in there, both in the character of Shaun Murphy and in the on-screen visualizations of Murphy’s photographic memory and savant syndrome. It’s a Shore script, so it has the punchy-ness of a House M.D. episode, but reeled back enough to accommodate that there aren’t any characters to which that kind of banter seems suited.

But enough about House. The Good Doctor – well, it’s pilot episode – is tight. It’s clear this is one of those old-fashioned case-of-the-week style hospital dramas, with a focus on the case, and the character drama weaved into it naturally rather than separately.

The case in “Burnt Food” isn’t just a device to introduce Shaun Murphy and display his skills – it is that – but it is also as much a part of the episode as his introduction, and it is seen through to its conclusion.

There’s nothing really new here, conceptually or stylistically. But “Burnt Food” is clear and concise, though not without a bit of the ol’ pilot clunkiness. Half-natural exposition in an generally ill-conceived and boring boardroom setting, combined with heavy-handed and all-too-revealing flashback sequences to Murphy’s youth do the job of setting up the character Shaun Murphy, and are as palatable as any such mechanism can be.

There is an overabundance of characters, such that it is difficult to determine if some are inconsequential, pertinent to just the episode plot, or here to stay. But that’s what episode number two is for. Or the opening credits, if you are proactive enough to find out which characters are principal actors.

One sigh of refreshing relief that The Good Doctor offers is in its lead character Shaun, who avoids the trope of jerk savant. He has poor communication and interpersonal skills, yes, that’s the hook. But unlike the usual genius-level professionals in other TV series, Shaun seems to come across as a very sweet and genuinely likable young man, which is particularly refreshing in today’s landscape of bad boy murdering, drug dealing and just plain rude anti-heroes.

Recommended for: Anyone wanting a break from heavily serialized TV shows with some episodic goodness.

Categories: TV Show Review

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