Despite Hollywood’s infatuation with the Mafia and “The Sopranos,” attempts to transfer such material into more conventional broadcast packaging have seldom yielded much success. Enter “The Mob Doctor,” a Fox series derived from the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup school of development, inasmuch as it takes two taste treats — “It’s a medical procedural and a mob story!” — then mashes them together into one. The show’s title character explains in an opening voiceover she’s “not your typical doctor,” but even with a few unexpected twists, this show is about as typical as TV gets.
While the underlying notion of a principled doctor grappling with a nagging issue would appear to make “Mob Doctor” a logical heir to “House” in terms of tone and style, any parallel represents a stretch. And if the medical aspect offers comfort and familiarity — or at least a diversion from the more demanding crime thread — there’s nothing initially compelling enough to warrant regular visits, much less house calls.
Created by Josh Berman and Rob Wright, the premiere immediately thrusts Dr. Grace Devlin (Jordana Spiro), into an ethical quandary. Despite having agreed to do favors for the mob — like treating wounded members on the sly — in exchange for sparing the
life of her indebted brother (Jesse Lee Soffer), she understandably balks at a request from the mob boss (Michael Rapaport) to ensure a potential witness doesn’t leave the hospital alive.
On top of that, her legitimate bosses at the hospital, led by Dr. White (Zeljko Ivanek), aren’t much more likable than the made guys, whose ranks include the always-welcome William Forsythe (segueing from “Boardwalk Empire’s” larcenous lot) as a soft-spoken don who Grace has known since childhood, one with a knack for making offers you shouldn’t refuse.
Best-known for the genial TBS comedy “My Boys,” Spiro comes across as tough enough to play a character straddling these worlds, but Grace is almost too much of a saint. In the pilot alone, she nobly defends her family, crusades for her patients, races around trying to serve her various masters, and still squeezes in time for her doctor boyfriend (“Friday Night Lights'” Zach Gilford, deserving of more).
Barring a deeper dive into serialized crime, the medicine-Mafia juxtaposition will grow tiresome fast as a (mostly) procedural. Nor does the on-the-nose dialogue help, like having one of Grace’s colleagues dismiss her as a “plucky Southside girl.”
Facing stiff Monday competition makes “Mob Doctor’s” prognosis more uncertain, but should also temper Fox’s expectations. And that might be the best prescription for providing the show and its heroine a chance to strike a proper balance between its worlds before the bill comes due.