I am not a big fan of medical dramas. I recall growing up watching shows like Desperate Housewives and Without a Trace with my mom, but as soon as she switched the channel to ER I left the room. I still get judgmental looks from people when I tell them I have never seen an episode of Grey’s Anatomy. Nevertheless, when I saw the first preview for The Good Doctor I knew I wanted to take a chance on the show. It is definitely special and the best show to premiere on a major network this fall.
The basic premise of the show is Dr. Shaun Murphy, played by the brilliant and underappreciated Freddie Highmore, begins his medical residency at a new hospital. He is immediately disregarded and underestimated by his fellow surgeons because Murphy is autistic. But as one of the key characters points out in the first episode, Murphy should not be prevented from succeeding in the workplace just like blacks and women should be not treated unfairly. The message of this show certainly isn’t that being autistic is the same as being black, Latino, a woman or a member of the LGBTQ community. The point is while all minority groups don’t struggle in the same way, they all have to unnecessarily prove themselves instead of being treated like human beings.
While the show predominately focuses on Murphy struggling to be understood my his coworkers, it also includes flashbacks of his difficult childhood and his current adjustment to living on his own. The best aspect of the show is Shaun’s personality. He lacks a filter which is refreshing. He bluntly tells people when they are being insincere. Two highlights so far is when he questions why people are only kind when they need something in return or why others use sarcasm to excuse insulting or embarrassing someone. Everyone he comes in contact with seems to become better and more likeable even if the character isn’t supposed to be an audience favorite at first. However, Murphy will immediately capture your heart from his first scene.
Of course since this is a medical drama, there are still multiple surgeries in each episode. Warning, some of the surgeries are hard to watch for those with easily disturbed stomachs. The constant medical jargon might also require a few rewinds throughout the episode. However, if these are characteristics that turn you off, the other characters will certainly keep you engrossed. Dr. Glassman, Murphy’s mentor played by Richard Schiff who fans of The West Wing will recognize, is always standing up for Murphy and guiding him when he makes mistakes. Another surgical resident named Claire, played by Antonia Thomas, takes the time to known Murphy, understand how she can best communicate with him and make him feel accepted. Plus, anyone who has watched British programs like Misfits and Lovesick can appreciate Thomas finally being recognized in the U.S. for her talent.
The pilot is admittedly a little shaky, but from then on each episode deeply invests you in Murphy’s life and the lives of his patients. Prepare to laugh at his witty remarks and then immediately sob over how much he cares for the people he treats. There is no doubt why The Good Doctor is the biggest hit this television season.