HOLLYWOOD—The Fall TV season is upon us and there is plenty to choose from. You run into the situation where you have to decide rather you want to watch one of your returning shows or a new show that is hoping to tantalize viewers to take a ride with them. Well, I was already intrigued by the premise of the new ABC series “The Good Doctor” and I will admit after watching the first episode, it’s a must see America.
We have had plenty and I mean plenty of TV shows that center on the world of medicine and doctors, and rarely do you see such a difference in most of those shows. In most cases the biggest difference is that you have different doctors in a different city, but rarely an element that pops to separate amongst the pack. However, “The Good Doctor” focuses on Dr. Shaun Murphy who suffers from autism and savant syndrome. I think as a writer, this is fascinating to watch things unfold. Why? We live in this world where so many people are quick to judge a person based on what they perceive as a limitation.
To see a drama really take a deep dive into some of the struggles that a person with autism encounters, not just as a kid, but in the job force is eye-opening. First off, I have to tip off my hat to actor Freddie Highmore, who just after one episode finds a way to pierce through the viewer’s heart. Through countless flashbacks, we get to see the struggle that Shaun endured as a kid: being bullied, being ostracized and being violently attacked by his father. The family dynamic for the Murphy family was not great, but the love Shaun received from his brother, who came to his defense in more occasions than one can count, explains his character’s drive to want to help others.
I loved watching the banter transpire between Dr. Aaron Glassman (Richard Schiff) and Dr. Marcus Andrews (Hill Harper) who go to battle regarding the merits of Dr. Murphy, and rather hiring him to work at the hospital could lead to more problems than benefits. It takes a slice out of American playbook about how companies analyze candidates for a job. In this situation though, Shaun has more pressure because what many perceive as a detriment (his inability to socially connect with others), will place patient’s lives at risk.
It is frustrating to watch Shaun’s character face such adversity, but the scary aspect is that this is something that so many people who suffer from autism encounter on a daily basis. I think I am personally connected to the narrative and the character because I know plenty of family members who suffer from autism and see the struggles they encounter and how they attempt to function in a world, where not every completely understands how their brain operates.
The bulk of the narrative for the first episode really focuses on Shaun and his gifted abilities. Notably, his quick thinking saves the life a kid who is severely injured by falling glass at a train station. A doctor on the scene immediately comes to the kid’s aid, but Shaun quickly retorts the methods being used by that doctor because it could compromise rather the kid lives or dies. When Shaun attempts to get security guards to assist him in the matter, they look at him as a joke and a threat and tackle him. Pay attention to this people; this happens far too often in the everyday world. Those who are autistic are misunderstood and perceived as threats when that is not the case.
After saving the kids life, he is transported to San Jose St. Bonaventure Hospital for further treatment. It is here that Shaun encounters more obstacles when he attempts to alert Dr. Claire Browne (Antonia Thomas) and Dr. Neil Melendez (Nicholas Gonzalez) that there is a blockage in the patient’s heart that has to be altered otherwise he could die. Just watching Shaun pace back and forth after being tossed from the hospital, was frustrating. He knows what he is talking about, but has trouble at times conveying his thoughts so that others can clearly understand. He tries on multiple occasions to get back into the hospital, but is stopped every single time by security. As the doctors attempt to figure out just what is going on, Claire and Neil have a conversation with Shaun and learn that his assertion is actually correct.
I think the kicker for the pilot episode has to be the final moments. It is during this time the audience learns Shaun’s reasoning for wanting to become a surgeon. We learn that a bunny that his father tossed against a wall didn’t survive, but the biggest surprise is the audience learning that Shaun’s younger brother and biggest advocate, Steve dying in a freak accident after falling off the top of a bus where the brothers would frequent during turmoil in the family house. I admit that twist took me for a loop and shocked me, but it explains a lot and I’m certain more flashbacks will transpire throughout the series to explain more about Shaun and his connection to Dr. Glassman.
“The Good Doctor” is a series that is indeed on my must list for this TV season. It has great acting, a unique narrative and tackles an issue that so many people have little knowledge about. “The Good Doctor” airs Mondays at 10 p.m. on ABC.