The Good Doctor has all the makings of a great pilot, but it will probably be remembered as one of the biggest disappointments of the fall.
The Good Doctor Season 1 Episode 1 introduces us to Dr. Shaun Murphy, a young man with autism and savant syndrome who moves from Wyoming to San Jose for his residency.
Dr. Murphy must fight for his chance to work as a surgeon. Many of the doctors do not believe in him because of his disability. However, the president of the hospital Dr. Aaron Glassman believes he is capable of being a brilliant surgeon.
It's a classic underdog story, with a diverse cast led by Freddie Highmore (Bates Motel) and Emmy winner Richard Schiff (The West Wing). Highmore is as incredible as always, showing off the acting chops that should have garnered him at least an Emmy nomination for Bates Motel.
Highmore accomplishes a lot with very little expression and emotion, perfectly capturing some of the symptoms of autism.
In one of the final scenes of the show, Shaun is telling the board of directors why he wants to be a surgeon. Highmore barely shows any emotion in the scene, but it's hard not to be affected as a viewer by his heartbreaking story.
The day that the rain smelled like ice cream, my bunny went to heaven in front of my eyes. The day that the copper pipes in the old building smelled like burnt food, my brother went to heaven in front of my eyes. I couldn’t save them. It’s sad. Neither one had the chance to become an adult. They should have become adults. They should have had children of their own and loved those children and I want to make that possible for other people. And I want to make a lot of money so that I can have a television.Dr. Shaun Murphy
Schiff, on the other hand, is expressive. He serves as the perfect cheerleader for Dr. Murphy. When Schiff is on the screen, it's difficult not to be captivated by his passion for doing what is right and hiring Shaun.
Unfortunately for Highmore and Schiff, these two stellar performers get lost in the melodrama of the show. The flashbacks to young Shaun's life are so tragic that they feel unrealistic. It's one heartbreak after another for this boy with autism.
We even see a flashback of Shaun and his younger brother running away from home and living in a school bus. How he survived and was able to put himself through medical school, though, is unclear. Perhaps it's going to be explained in future episodes, but the pilot leaves a lot of questions unanswered.
Aren’t we judged by how we treat people? I don’t mean as doctors. I mean as people. Especially those who don’t have the same advantages that we have. We hire Shaun and we give hope to those people with limitations that those limitations are not what they think they are. That they do have a shot! We hire Shaun and we make this hospital better for it. We hire Shaun and we are better people for it.Dr. Aaron Glassman
At first glance, it's refreshing to see such a diverse cast. However, the characters they play are very unlikeable.
Are we supposed to care about the relationship between Jared and Claire? What about the relationship between Dr. Melendez and the woman on the board of directors whose name I don't think is mentioned once in the 44-minute episode?
The supporting characters felt especially dull when compared with the brilliance of Highmore and Schiff. Anytime these characters were on screen instead of Drs. Murphy and Glassman, I was ready for the show to be over.
Dr. Claire Browne, played by Antonia Thomas, was particularly rude to Dr. Murphy. She even went so far as to call him a "really weird" guy.
It's difficult to imagine doctors treating someone this way, especially when Shaun is so desperately trying to help a patient. But in the most satisfying part of the episode, Dr. Murphy earnestly asks her why she was so rude to him.
Dr. Browne is clearly shaken by this moment, but Shaun is whisked away before she can answer. It's a brief moment of clarity for Claire, and it gives the viewer hope that maybe she's not as awful as she seems initially.
Why were you rude to me when we first met then nicer to me the second time we met and now you want to be my friend? Which time was it that you were pretending?Dr. Shaun Murphy
The most annoying part of the show was the overuse of medical speak. It was often overwhelming and difficult to follow. As a person who devoted years of her life to E.R. and Grey's Anatomy, I can honestly say I've never felt this way with a medical show.
I found myself rewinding parts of the episode to make sure I was following exactly what was being said. But viewers of medical shows do not need every detail of the procedure explained to them. Give us the gist, and we'll trust you to take us where the story needs to go.
The writers attempted to put us into the autistic mind of Dr. Murphy. At times, this was effective, particularly when Shaun arrived at the San Jose airport and was overwhelmed by the noises he heard. I found myself turning down the volume because it was sensory overload for a brief moment.
However, this tactic failed spectacularly when they attempted to show us Shaun's photographic-like memory.
The veins and heart of the patient are highlighted on the screen as explanations of the medical problems scroll across. This distracts the viewers from what is happening in the moment. It even makes it seem as if the writers don't believe Highmore is capable of showing the viewers how Shaun sees the world.
During pilot season, I've always lived by the "give it three episodes" rule. After all, I'm the girl who absolutely loathed the pilot of The Office but went on to love the series years later.
I hope The Good Doctor can reach its potential. The premise is wonderful. It's a much-needed lesson in today's political climate about embracing those who are different from us. However, the pilot of The Good Doctor could not have been more disappointing.
Now it's your turn. What did you think of the series premiere? Was The Good Doctor any good?
Hit the comments with all of your thoughts!!
Kaitlynn Smith was a staff writer for TV Fanatic. She retired in May of 2018.