TV shows just aren’t original anymore. In a market filled with a plethora of shows about doctors, we have seen doctors trapped in the jungle, doctors working with a limited budget, emergency room-only doctors, pediatric doctors, teenage doctors, drug-addicted doctors, shows about how doctors deal with patients living in a hospital, and time traveling doctors. When it comes to creating an original doctor, there are very limited choices. That’s when someone shouted, “why not an autistic doctor?!”
And just like that, what became a thought is now an ABC show starring Freddie Highmore as Dr. Shaun Murphy. However, this young doctor is not just any doctor, as seen in the pilot episode, he thinks outside the box, tests at genius levels, and possesses an understanding of the medical field that us lowly humans can’t even begin to comprehend. He is a savant and if you forget this, you’ll be reminded every five minutes.
In this drama-free show, storytelling switches between the past and the present, jamming as much information about Dr. Murphy as its runtime will allow. We first meet him as he’s traveling to his new job as a surgeon. However, like all melodramas, danger awaits as a child is struck down by a falling glass pane. As the child’s mother cries out, “who will save us!” Dr. Murphy carefully approaches a doctor who also happened to be nearby to conveniently tell him that his actions will kill the dying child.
As Dr. Murphy is trying to save our young victim, the storytelling switches between his disjointed and abusive life growing up in a household where autism had no name; and a debate with the hospital owners about the struggles and possible complications of hiring an autistic doctor; bringing up genuine concerns and misconceptions about the autistic community. While it does a wonderful job at highlighting the miraculous things people can do no matter what their condition is, it’s message is unnecessarily drowned out by its lazy writing and lackluster acting.
The Good Doctor means well and actor Freddie Highmore tries his best to embody the role of a young autistic doctor but plays the role with such gentleness that it’s downright boring. It’s welcoming to see a doctor with a soft-spoken nature and politeness who is seemingly not bothered by his convenient new environment nor his impending fate. However, despite a show with so many opportunities and avenues to explore, nothing ever truly happens and the script simply falls apart because of its paint-by-numbers third act, Highmore’s unfazed attitude and villainous doctors who seem to randomly hate Dr. Murphy solely because of his condition.
While it’s refreshing to see a show tackle autism if you strip away his condition, the show has nothing that’s refreshing or dramatic that stands out. It’s just people making long speeches about someone’s condition instead of showing us why Dr. Murphy is worthy of our time. This world is full of special people, who think outside the box and challenge the norm. They grab life by the metaphorical balls and take charge, refusing to let anyone nor other people’s opinions stop them. Unfortunately, The Good Doctor can barely convince us why we should care about Dr. Murphy’s medical career, let alone his personal trials and tribulations.