The guiding principle of The Good Doctor 2017 movie is summarized right there in its title. This is an ABC drama about a promising young surgeon who wants to make a positive impact and should be rooted for — and perhaps will be in every episode, if the pilot is any indication — for his exceptional capacity to perform medical miracles.
In fact, less than ten minutes into the first episode, which airs tonight at 10 on ABC, Dr. Shaun Murphy (Freddie Highmore) is already doing one of those miracles, utilizing his borderline telekinetic ability to diagnose and treat a boy suffering from a deadly accidental injury in the San Jose airport.
The first half of the episode, the only one ABC made available in advance, toggles between those suspenseful moments, as Shaun attempts to bring breath back into the child’s lungs, and a board meeting at St. Bonaventure Hospital, where Shaun’s mentor, Dr. Aaron Glassman (Richard Schiff), is arguing that Shaun should be brought on staff despite the fact that he is autistic.
The initial portion of the hour also sprinkles in some flashbacks to Shaun’s childhood, as well as scenes involving other members of the St. Bonaventure staff, who involve business with pleasure to an extent that suggests they may have stumbled over to The Good Doctor full movie following a stint on Grey’s Anatomy.
Every time the action cuts away from the dire situation Shaun is dealing with, all the tension in the episode gets punctured, which speaks to an overall tendency on The Good Doctor 2017 online free to soften every conceivable edge. There’s a lot going on here; too much, really. Like so many TV pilots, this one is auditioning for our attention and trying to cram every key character, theme, and backstory into that first tryout. It’s possible that once the show settles in, it could improve. It certainly has some factors that, at least theoretically, should work in its favor.
The Good Doctor full movie comes from executive producer and writer David Shore, who created Fox’s House, a medical drama centered around a lead character who was nothing but edges. The show’s two leads, Highmore and Schiff, are both brilliant and manage to make some very heavy-handed dialogue sound less didactic than it otherwise might. (“He sees things and analyzes things in ways that are just remarkable, in ways that we can’t even begin to understand,” Schiff says of Shaun. This is not the last time the actor will remind us that The West Wing provided excellent training for grounding overly earnest moments.)
Seth Gordon — executive producer and a director of Netflix’s Atypical, another recent series about an autistic protagonist — directed The Good Doctor’s pilot, which is why some of the visual cues that convey autistic sensory overload may feel a tad familiar.
The Good Doctor movie is one of many new or recent series focuses on young men on the spectrum. In addition to Atypical, the best of the bunch so far, there is also Young Sheldon, the Big Bang Theory prequel that, like The Good Doctor, signifies the magnificence of its young hero’s mind but, different from The Good Doctor movie and in keeping with Big Bang’s approach, never outright discusses his condition.
The ABC The Good Doctor series, like Dr. Glassman, is very open about Shaun’s autism and the fact that he has savant syndrome. But it’s mostly on a mission to prove that he is capable of doing extraordinary things, able to express compassion, and, most important from the show’s perspective, deserving of the audience’s empathy. Basically, Shaun is a superhero, right down to the X-ray vision and the extremely tragic childhood that made him realize he had a calling to help others in need.
There is nothing wrong at all with producing a series about an autistic character that emphasizes his skills and talents, however, as with any lead on any drama, he should also have what the rest have: some flaws. While The Good Doctor 2017 full movie doesn’t shy away from presenting Shaun’s difficulties with communication and social norms, it tends to spin those qualities into a positive. When he says things in an overly blunt fashion — like telling a superior that he is very arrogant, then asking, “Does that make you a better surgeon? Does that hurt you as a person?” — it frames this as honest, laudable truth-telling rather than an ill-advised comment.
Shaun is there not only to treat patients, but, apparently, to make everyone around him a better person. There’s not a lot of nuance in that. Hopefully The Good Doctor movie will find some more of it in the episodes ahead. If it doesn’t, all the over-the-top sentimentality is going to make viewers feel sick pretty quickly.
Quite deliberately, this series positioned itself as not-cable: it’s about lightness rather than darkness. Lessons are learned. Shaun’s challenges make him a hero, not an anti-hero.
Highmore is able to keep most of his performance treacle-free. He speaks in a flat affect and avoids eye contact. But he’s allowed those small smiles of triumph, indicating, “Hey, we’re all damaged, we’re all underestimated, we can all strive for more.”
That’s the secret of its success. Dark thing that challenges its viewers is dandy, said ABC. But we believe there’s another viewer that wants to be healed and uplifted. And it worked: The Good Doctor 2017 movie is the highest-rated drama on network TV, surpassing even the buzzy This Is Us.