The Good Actor

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The creator of “House” returns to the prim and sterile halls of a metropolitan hospital in ABC’s “The Good Doctor.”

“So what separates this from the 7 billion other doctor shows that ape ‘House’?,” I hear you ask. Well, dear viewer, the Good Doctor in question, Shaun Murphy, has savant syndrome autism. The series is centered on Shaun and his struggle just to interact with his patients and fellow doctors. Much like “House” before it, that dynamic is where “The Good Doctor” shines.

You really can’t discuss “The Good Doctor” without bringing up the absolutely stellar performance by Freddie Highmore as Shaun. As someone who’s uncle is affected by autism, I can safely say that Highmore did his research for the part. He keeps a solemn face and speaks in a monotone voice, but though unfiltered words we are painted the picture of a gentle soul who just wants to help people with his skills. There are several scenes dedicated to Shaun staring at random objects, remembering facts or how they are put together. It’s in these small moments where we get a window into the seemly impossible mind of Shaun Murphy.

I seriously cannot commend the man enough for the effect he is putting into the role… especially since everyone around him is phoning it in.

I suppose that’s sort of inaccurate, since the supporting actors are satisfactory. It’s just they have absolute garbage for subplots to work with. I’m not sure how much of this is ABC meddling with it to add “appeal,” but whatever the case, it’s painful. The forgotten-about romantic subplot between one female doctor and a hunky surgical assistant was sad, Shaun’s backstory is at best cheesy and at worst unintentionally funny, and all the times the show tries to artificially raise the stakes just comes off as try-hard.

“The Good Doctor” is a fiery rising phoenix, with two large garbage bags full of baloney chained to its neck. The series has enjoyed a huge surge in popularity since its debut and with good reason. However, it is difficult to recommend a series, even one with such talent behind it, based entirely off the back of one character. Shaun Murphy is only on scene for about half of each episode, but that half is the best thing on ABC, period.

I’ll let you decide for yourself whether it’s worth it with a clip from the first episode.

(Images are official publicity material from ABC.)

TV Talk is a regular television column written by Robert Pulford, Current Staff.

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