I don’t watch too many television shows on the major networks. I am a fan of classic movies, so most evenings I pull up my menu on the Tivo machine(God Bless the person or persons who invented this!), and watch a movie from Turner Classic Movies. When a new television season is about to begin, I do peruse the lists of new shows and this Fall, one did catch my eye, A Gifted Man, which airs on CBS on Friday evenings. Starring Patrick Wilson(my oldest daughter and I were suitably impressed with his skill at portraying Raoul, the hero in Phantom of the Opera, the 2005 film version), and Jennifer Ehle( she brilliantly portrayed Elizabeth Bennett in a 1995 BBC TV production of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, and yes, it is my favorite rendition of Miss Austen’s famous book, even better than the Greer Garson/Laurence Olivier MGM version!). With these two actors in the cast, I eagerly set my tivo machine and watched the first episode.
The premise of the show is very far-fetched. Brilliant neurosurgeon Michael Holt,(Wilson), divorced from wife, Dr. Anna Paul,(Ehle), is a busy man with a successful practice in Manhattan, his office capably run by Rita, played by Margo Martindale. Dr. Holt, one day, sees a child’s ball roll into a side street and goes over to pick it up, but cannot find it’s owner. Later in the early evening, as he is about to enter a restaurant, his ex-wife walks up to him and he is very surprised to see her, as last he had known, she was practicing at a clinic she had begun in the city for the lower-income residents who live near her clinic’s doors. After going back to Dr. Holt’s apartment and enjoying an evening of conversation about the way they were when they had a joint practice in Alaska, Anna begs off staying longer and departs. The next day, Dr. Holt discovers that his ex-wife was actually killed some months before, while chasing after a child’s ball into a street. Dr. Holt is in shock over this discovery, and soon his ex-wife’s ghost begins to visit him frequently, asking for him to help her clinic survive, as it is struggling since her unexpected demise. This ghost element added an interesting twist to what could have been a straightforward doctor drama and I thought all the actors involved were doing a good job with their parts, so I programmed the tivo machine to record it every Friday night.
The program added some new cast members, namely Eriq LaSalle, for a 4 episode arc, as Dr. Evan Morris, a new partner in Dr. Holt’s practice( he had been a star on that other doctor’s show I watched in the 1990s ER), and an actress I am unfamiliar with, Rachelle Lefevre, who plays Dr. Kate Sykora. Dr. Sykora was selected by Dr. Holt to continue running his ghost ex’s clinic. There are also some minor characters on the show, Dr. Holt’s ditzy but nice sister, Christina(Julie Benz), a new ageish holisitic handy man, Anton Little Creek(Pablo Schreiber), and Dr. Zeke Barnes( Rhys Coiro), who helps Dr. Sykora run the clinic for the low-income patients that fill the clinic’s waiting room. The show seemed to be humming right along, with side stories about Dr. Holt’s nephew needing some guidance, sundry patients with weird symptoms that only a neurosurgeon could figure out, and the poorer patients with their weird symptoms, usually being sent by ambulance to Dr. Holt’s lavish Manhattan clinic for emergency procedures. No one ever asks about insurance, I’ve noticed, on this show, but we do get to see the long, long lines to see a doctor at the clinic for the poor.
I finally caught up with the show last night and am now concerned that it won’t make it for renewal for next season. I think that’s a shame. What has me concerned is the way the story line looks to be going and some plot points, or holes. First of all, Dr. Sykora is a beautiful woman with a handsome husband. We don’t know what her husband’s job is, although he is shown in a suit and is ultra busy with this job(Hedge Fund manager? Lawyer? I don’t know, and if it was mentioned, mea culpa!). Dr. Sykora has shared with Dr. Holt that her husband and she agreed long ago to not have any children, as they will just be too busy with their careers to deal with children and all that that entails. Two adults in a marriage with all consuming careers? A bad idea that is ripe for bad choices. I think the writers of the show have planned for her marriage to fail, have her fall into Dr. Holt’s arms, and then ramp up the bedroom antics as a way to boost the show’s ratings. I think the show would be better served if Dr. Sykora was single, and for her and Dr. Holt’s characters to have a working relationship where they respect each other’s skills as doctors, and if a romantic relationship would occur, that it occur slowly, very slowly. Secondly, I noticed two plot holes, and one I blame on mamby-pamby liberal story telling. Dr. Sykora, who is too busy at work to have much time to be with her husband, and has twiced mentioned she is too busy to have children, is, surprise!, a volunteer Big Sister to a high school basketball star! The star player injures her back, causing Dr. Sykora to break her date with her husband, who had managed to get good tickets to a Broadway show, in order to be with her student to get her back x-rayed at Dr. Holt’s clinic. After the teen has a needed surgical procedure done by Dr. Holt, it is discovered that the teen had drugs in her system, heroin. Dr. Sykora is shocked, shocked! She has always told the teen girl not to do drugs. The mamby-pamby part was when Dr. Sykora confronted the teen, who began to cry and state that it wasn’t her fault! She needed painkillers and wanted to do well at her sport and to get college scholarships! When the kid selling prescription painkillers ran out of his stash, he offered her heroin! I was talking back to the tv screen at all of this-“It was too your fault for taking illegal drugs and painkillers!” No mention of how this teen got the money to feed her habit and all of the adults around her were clueless. That whole bit of how it wasn’t her fault was a bunch of baloney!! The other minor plot hole I noticed was due to my tivo machine. A crazy woman bursts into the poor folks clinic late at night, when the clinic is closed, as Dr. Sykora and Dr. Barnes are about to send a patient via ambulance to an area hospital for an emergency gall bladder surgery. The crazy woman has a gun and wants to see Dr. Holt, who isn’t there. He is tricked into coming to the clinic when crazy lady( she has a large handgun-I thought NYC’s anti-gun laws kept things like this from happening?), gets Dr. Sykora’s cell phone and texts Dr. Holt for help. It is revealed that the lady is a desperately grieving mom, who’s daughter was killed in a house fire, set by some troubled teen. Dr. Holt had recently testified at a hearing that the teen arsonist was cured due to a surgery Dr. Holt had done on the teen’s brain, that removed all desires to burn things up. In the hearing scene, we saw the upset dead girl’s father, who shouted at Dr. Holt, and then confronted him outside the courtroom. No mom in these scenes. I ran my tivo machine back to these “angry father” scenes, and the actress portraying crazy lady with a gun wasn’t in any of them. Why? It couldn’t have been too expensive to have the actress stand there next to her husband as he yelled at Dr. Holt.
I have read articles that A Gifted Man is on the bubble, meaning it may not be renewed for a second season. I think if the writers made some changes and stopped the story line from going too fast with a romance between the two main doctors, it might make it. The first couple of episodes had Ehle’s character popping up a lot more, talking with her ex- husband, challenging him on his ideas about how to handle situations with patients and with her clinic. That needs to be happening much more than it has of late. It is always a bit amusing whenever Dr. Holt is having an animated conversation with his ghost ex and a total stranger walks by and sees this man talking to himself in such a dramatic fashion! Rita, the stalwart office receptionist/manager/ scheduler had a lot more to say and do in the first couple of episodes, including one involving a former NFL star who she helped out quite a bit due to her and her husband’s love of football. Why not show Rita’s husband once in a while, inviting Dr. Holt over for a home-cooked meal, as he lives alone, and other than his sister and her son, has no family to speak of. Speaking of his sister, we’ve seen her son once, why not have more interactions with these two characters and the good doctor? It is also a mistake to only have Eriq LaSalle’s character on for 4 episodes. His character, a neuro psychologist, is an interesting one, and he could add new dimensions in dealing with difficult and puzzling patients. As for Dr. Sykora’s character, either have she and her husband renew their marriage commitment to have more time for one another, and bring in a new love interest for Dr. Holt, complete with ghost ex’s comments, sort of like what happened in the movie The Ghost and Mrs. Muir. Or, have Dr. Sykora’s marriage fail, and she and Dr. Holt slowly, very slowy realize they love each other.
With an abrupt halt to what I think will be a huge storyline mistake for this show, ending the mamby-pamby plots, and adding the other characters back into the show more, I am hoping A Gifted Man will be saved and won’t die a premature death!