THE GOOD DOCTOR – “PILOT – Burnt Food” – (ABC/Liane Hentscher)

ABC’s THE GOOD DOCTOR (which counts David Shore and Daniel Dae Kim among the producers) tells the story of Dr Shaun Murphy (Freddie Highmore), a surgeon with autism and savant syndrome.  He leaves his quiet life to interview for a surgery position at San Jose’s St Bonaventure on a recommendation by his mentor, Richard Schiff’s Dr Aaron Glassman.

The first episode follows Shaun’s journey from home to the hospital for his interview, making time, almost immediately, to show flashbacks of what it was like growing up, including what pushed him to explore medicine as a career path. Sprinkled throughout are scenes where Schiff’s Glassman faces the board and other typical medical drama characters – the hard nosed woman who got her job through nepotism; the arrogant “stud” of a surgeon – in an effort to explain why Shaun is the man for this job.  He’s a doctor who sees things that Glassman asserts others can’t possibly imagine.

THE GOOD DOCTOR establishes itself as a heart-string-puller right away, while starting as a medical “mystery” show with a distant lead character who knows medicine better than he knows people (reminiscent of HOUSE, a show also brought to us by David Shore). It could be interesting to explore the politics of the microcosm of this hospital and how it might make room for Shaun’s different approach, but it’s just not quite “there” yet.

Freddie Highmore, it should be no surprise, is heart-breakingly good in this role; he’s made a career most recently of playing a man who is uncomfortable with the world around him, and Dr Murphy is no different. He only seems to “relax” as an actor when Shaun is diving into the medical work, showing, by doing, that Shaun is most at home when he’s performing the acts that he’s ready about in his school books.

Richard Schiff remains wonderful as his advocate; Hill Harper is a bright spot. I liked the pilot a lot – it’s slick, creative, well shot, and the rest of the cast does stand out. There is always the chance that this falls into the cliche territory, but I’m cautiously optimistic that the exposition heavy pilot will settle into a nice rhythm. Give it a chance!