Every so often, a great story comes along and expands the potential of its medium. While the overwhelming majority of these works are original, we can’t turn a blind eye to imports that address important concepts in a compelling way. The Good Doctor may be an adaptation of a one-and-done medical drama out of South Korea, but it mixes heart, humor, and medical mysteries in a way that demands attention.
So, let’s give it some!
The Cast Is Fantastic.
Freddie Highmore excels in the titular role of Shaun Murphy, a resident surgeon who has autism and savant syndrome. While certain viewers may roll their eyes at such a character, Highmore imbues the man with a lot of wit, enthusiasm, and heart. He’s incredibly honest, thoughtful, and caring, even if he doesn’t quite get all of the little ticks and quirks of his fellow man. If you need a single reason to watch this show, his stellar performance ought to do the trick.
With that said, the supporting cast adds to the power of this series. Richard Schiff does a good job in the father figure role of Aaron Glassman, who champions Dr. Murphy’s hiring at the fictional St. Bonaventure Hospital. While the writing doesn’t give Schiff all that much to do in the present day, his relationship with Shaun gives the show a lot of emotional weight. It’s impressive stuff!
Antonia Thomas adds a lot to the show as Dr. Claire Browne. She debuts as one of Shaun’s fellow residents, but some of the writing paints her as Shaun’s future love interest. Thankfully, Dr. Browne doesn’t just exist to fulfill a role. Thomas adds some personal depth to the character, creating a sensible balance between the wider story arc and Browne’s personal quirks.
The rest of the cast needs more to do, but their performances are solid. Of note, Dr. Neil Melendez (Nicholas Gonzalez) is a decent foil for Shaun’s genius, but his tactics leave a little bit to be desired. Like the rest of the surgical staff, he needs an episode or three to explain himself. Otherwise, he may become a bit too one-note for the show.
The Writing Is Serviceable, But…
The Good Doctor centers itself on a case-of-the-week format that echoes David Shore’s previous effort, House M.D. With that in mind, the balance between character and plot is important to note because of the benefits and drawbacks that it can bring to a particular show. Let’s compare the two shows and see what comes up!
While House was billed as a show of medical mysteries, it wasn’t always about the disease. Most of the episodes balanced the case-of-the-week with idiots in the clinic, House’s inner demons, and the relationships of the cast. It got quite soapy over time, but the character focus meant that each character had time to evolve.
By contrast, The Good Doctor focuses entirely on the case. While it is more realistic than its Sherlock Holmes-ish predecessor, the laser focus on plot doesn’t leave a lot of time to develop each character. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it means that the writers can’t focus on the entire cast at one time.
With that said, there is a bright side to things.
The Portrayal Of Autism Is Impressive.
A lot of the pundits and idiots on the internet don’t understand an important aspect about the diversity debate. Most people are not against the portrayal of different kinds of people on screen. After all, pop culture fans love actors like Sigourney Weaver, John Boyega, and Diego Luna. What we are actually against is the serving of shoddy execution with a side of social justice lecturing.
To its everlasting credit, The Good Doctor sidesteps this landmine with ease.
Freddie Highmore portrays Shaun as a kind-hearted man who just wants to help people. There are no speeches about how Dr. Melendez should check his Hispanic privilege or why everyone has to conform to Shaun’s stance on microaggressions. His colleagues expect him to do his job as ordered, and Shaun rises to the challenge like a pro.
What a novel concept!
The Good Doctor deserves your attention and time. While there are a few imperfections here and there, the show is a stunning work of art that has the potential to last for many years. The cast is great, the writing works well, and the direction of the show is exciting. While some may be put off by its premise, there is more than enough here for everyone to enjoy.
Go watch it!
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