Review: ‘A Gifted Man’

'A Gifted Man'

The series features Patrick Wilson as the self-absorbed neurosurgeon who experiences a belated spiritual epiphany, unlocking do-gooder impulses that transform him from talented bastard into something closer to Dr. Kildare.

If you slice it down to its bones (an appropriate analogy for a medical program), “A Gifted Man” owes a debt to “A Christmas Carol”: The series features Patrick Wilson as the self-absorbed neurosurgeon who experiences a belated spiritual epiphany, unlocking do-gooder impulses that transform him from talented bastard into something closer to Dr. Kildare. The semi-religious component (embodied here by the ghost of doctor’s past) will likely play well with CBS’ heartland audience, but the longterm prognosis hangs on whether the series can find a pulse beyond just older viewers in an up-for-grabs Friday timeslot.

Wilson’s Dr. Michael Holt is arrogant and brilliant before a surprise visit from his ex-wife Anna (Tony winner Jennifer Ehle). Yet that chance encounter takes on a different hew when he discovers she died prior to their meeting (why he didn’t hear about this earlier is a mystery best left ignored), leading him to offer his services to an overwhelmed clinic his ex had championed.

Suddenly, Holt is exhibiting a more humane streak and performing pro bono surgeries — a change that isn’t lost on those around him, including his sister (Julie Benz) and office manager (Margo Martindale, built for better stuff than the pilot presents). Sis even enlists a spiritual guide (“The Wire’s” Pablo Schreiber) to see if there’s a way to exorcise Anna’s gh-gh-ghost.

Developed by Susannah Grant and run by Neal Baer (a medical doctor who worked on “ER” before “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit”), “A Gifted Man” is certainly earnest, in a “Marcus Welby, M.D.” kind of way. Post-sale tinkering also improved the pilot, with Anna becoming Holt’s conscience in a way that better explains her presence, while extracting some humor from their only-he-sees-her encounters.

Beyond establishing the premise, the opener features three medical plots — one about a tennis prodigy, another devoted to a difficult patient (Bill Irwin) and finally Michael’s grudging efforts to help an ailing kid. It’s manipulative, but fairly effective.

Granted, there’s been no shortage of medical shows built around wish-fulfillment fantasies of doctors who genuinely care, with nary a mention of insurance forms or HMOs. It’s just that medicine has grown more complicated and even politically thorny.

Presumably, the series’ beating heart lies between two comforting notions — the existence of a larger spiritual world and the good a committed physician can accomplish here on Earth once touched by an angel or infused with the milk of human kindness. Whether there’s enough material to sustain a series stemming from Michael’s pivot toward greater generosity of spirit thanks to Anna’s gentle prodding remains unclear.

CBS’ ratings expectations can’t be unreasonably high, and Wilson feels like a star who many CBS viewers will think of not just as gifted but as “that nice-looking young man.” Even so, those with a stake in “A Gifted Man’s” fate ought to practice the same regimen many follow as they go under the knife: Put trust in the surgeon, yes, but also pray for help from a higher power.

A Gifted Man

CBS, Fri. Sept. 23, 8 p.m.

Production

Filmed in New York by CBS Television Studios. Executive producers, Neal Baer, Carl Beverly, Sarah Timberman, Susannah Grant; director, Jonathan Demme; writer, Grant.

Crew

Camera, Tom Weston; production designer, John Kasarda; editors, Mark Manos, Michael Schweitzer, Nancy Forner; casting, Bernard Telsey, Risa Bramon Garcia. 60 MIN.

Cast

Michael Holt - Patrick Wilson
Anna Paul - Jennifer Ehle
Rita Perkins-Hall - Margo Martindale
Anton - Pablo Schreiber
With: Julie Benz, Bill Irwin.

Filed Under:

Want to read more articles like this one? SUBSCRIBE TO VARIETY TODAY.
Post A Comment 0

Leave a Reply

No Comments

Comments are moderated. They may be edited for clarity and reprinting in whole or in part in Variety publications.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

More TV News from Variety

Loading