Freddie Highmore Can’t Save ‘The Good Doctor’
A young novice doctor, Shaun Murphy (Freddie Highmore), with autism must prove himself under the high-stakes pressure at a pediatric surgical unit. Dr. Aaron Glassman (Richard Schiff), a pseudo-father figure to Murphy, pleads for the prestigious hospital medical board to allow Murphy to join the team. “The Good Doctor” comes from “House” creator David Shore, who attempts to recreate the magic of his former Hugh Laurie starrer. In essence, Highmore’s Murphy is quite the opposite to Laurie’s House – at an almost melodramatic and campy daytime level.
Whereas the main character in “House” was somewhat cold and sharp-edged, “Good Doctor” is rather warm. But both, however, are physicians who set themselves apart from the rest of the pack. Shore does (only) this well. The bright beam out of the otherwise moderate medical drama is Highmore’s performance as Dr. Shaun Murphy. The newly titled surgeon struggles, or rather strives, with both autism and savant syndrome. For the 25-year-old British actor, playing a character who struggles with various mental diseases is what he does best. The talented actor carries over a lot of traits from his former incarnation as Norman Bates on “Bates Motel.” Somewhat of a social outcast, the character excels with immense intelligence in a way that Highmore is more than capable of handling. To say the actor has been typecast is somewhat of an overreach. But he arguably fits a particular bill.
Murphy is made to be the perfect surgeon, filled with sharp intuition, and tremendous memory. But, of course, Murphy (much like Bates) contains a deviant past – illustrated by overly tragic flashbacks to his childhood. The primary motivation of the character seemingly lies with the pain of the past experiences he wishes not to relive.
However, with Dr. Murphy’s complexity and comprehension, comes the rest of the cast of characters that are rather uninteresting and poorly crafted. In an attempt to set Dr. Murphy apart from the remainder of the characters, the script suffers greatly by trying to create too large of a gap between them.
The pilot doesn’t waste much time illustrating Dr. Murphy’s ability to thrive under the tough pressure that can occur under the glaring life or death situations that surgeon’s face. Immediately, the audience is privy to Murphy’s brilliance. With his story holding much of the central focus, other characters are left to cover meager medical drama clichés – a secret sexual relationship between two of the residents and an arrogant chief surgeon, Dr. Neil Melendez (Nicholas Gonzalez) hit a cliché mark. But as much as Melendez will seemingly challenge Murphy, the true antagonist of the series appears to be Dr. Horace Andrews (Hill Harper) – a hospital board member who seems to be willing to do anything in order to scheme Glassman out of his job.
With Highmore’s draw and an intriguing premise, the series on paper appeared to have a great deal of promise. But amongst the lineup of new fall television offerings, the initial 13-episode count of “The Good Doctor” is going to have to strive further out of its generic boundaries to prove intriguing stamina.
“The Good Doctor” premiered Sept. 25 and airs Monday nights at 10 p.m. ET on ABC.