The Good Doctor: A Worthy Follow-up to House

Freddie Highmore in The Good Doctor
Photo Credit: ABC/Eike Schroter

The Good Doctor Series Premiere Plot Summary:

A young medical student with autism and savant tendencies witnesses a freak accident on the way to his interview for a medical residency. While fighting to save a stranger’s life, his own future in medicine hangs in the balance of a debate by the medical board at a prestigious hospital.

Dr. Shaun Murphy (Freddie Highmore) is potentially the newest surgical resident at San Jose Saint Boniventure Hosipital. Dr. Shaun Murphy also has autism. With autism having such a wide spectrum of possible tendencies and abilities, I think The Good Doctor has taken on a large challenge in maintaining truthfulness with its main character.

Freddie Highmore already does a great job of tying in little aspects of the main character, such as how he takes the time to fix his hair neatly in the beginning of the episode, and then tousles the front of it. We later see the reasoning behind this is because his brother used to mess his hair up as a way to show he cared for him. Strong ties to his brother are shown throughout his back story, which helps to explain the reasoning behind the toy scalpel we always see Shaun so lovingly carrying around. The writers also do a great job of verbalizing how Shaun’s lack of a social filter can be slightly abrasive, but also allow for slightly humorous moments. It is possible to see how the storyline can explore future concerns with Shaun’s questionable ability to have proper bed side etiquette, versus his amazing ability to solve problems and potentially save lives.

As far as the supporting cast, the primary doctors play their roles as per usual. Viewers immediately know which ones they’re meant to like such as Dr. Glassman (Richard Schiff), and Dr. Browne (Antonia Thomas) and which characters are going to be the hard-headed leaders and/or potential “villains” of the show such as Dr. Melendez (Nicholas Gonzalez), who immediately tells Shaun that he doesn’t belong in the hospital and that he will not be allowed to do more than hold the suction valve in the presence of his operating room. Given time, I’m sure Dr. Melendez will ease up and trust Shaun more. However, I think the one person Shaun will always have to watch his every move around will be Dr. Andrews (Hill Harper), who is very vocal about his beliefs on not hiring Shaun. Luckily, Shaun appears to have an ally in Jessica Preston (Beau Garrett), owner of the hospital.

The plot line itself was fairly predictable, though I was surprised that in such a short time of knowing this main character that the show managed to stir up relatable emotions through the flashes of Shaun’s back story and his connection to Dr. Glassman. As a viewer, I usually feel more removed from the characters in the first episode, but this premiere did a pretty good job of drawing me into Shaun’s prior losses and how those losses have affected him, both the good and the bad.

With all new medical dramas I am always curious to see if they’ll go the Grey’s Anatomy route and try to make the chaos of hospital life look sexy, focusing heavily on the individual characters and their romantic interactions, or if it will be more akin to House, where the characters’ situations and personal lives often help them solve the puzzling cases at hand. While The Good Doctor offers up romantic interests fairly early on, I think it might just change the way medical shows typically run.

The Good Doctor is premiering at a time where adversity is high and people have vastly different views on just about everything. While the main character is considered different because of his autism and possible savant tendencies, I think his situation of not fitting into the barriers of what is expected of him or what is the “norm” resonates with many viewers. As Dr. Glassman says, “Aren’t we judged by how we treat people? I don’t mean as doctors; I mean as people, especially those who don’t have the same advantages that we have. We hire Shaun and we give hope to those people with limitations, that those limitations are not what they think they are; that they do have a shot.” The Good Doctor might just be a medical drama as unique as its very own Shaun Murphy.

Rating: 7 out of 10