Freddie Highmore is an immensely talented actor, and he brings intelligence and depth to his portrayal of Dr. Shaun Murphy, his character on “The Good Doctor.” A newly minted surgeon with both autism and savant syndrome, he must navigate a range of challenging workplace situations and social dilemmas.
The problem with “The Good Doctor” is that it doesn’t trust Highmore’s versatile and substantial acting skills. Every other aspect of the show is either overwrought or frustratingly simplistic, as if it’s determined to get the viewer to care about Shaun by hook or by crook. But Highmore makes the viewer care, thanks to his intense presence and precise portrayal. Unfortunately, the actor can’t undo the flat writing and one-dimensional elements in the show’s unpromising pilot.
Almost every scene with other doctors at St. Bonaventure Hospital scene comes off like a third-rate “Grey’s Anatomy” ripoff: various subplots arrive complete with hot doctors, hookups and banter that doesn’t quite make the grade. Flashbacks to Shaun’s childhood are even worse — they’re so preposterously tragic that they’re almost funny.
This unfortunate execution is a shame, given that Highmore approaches his role with sensitivity and nuance, and the show’s depiction of autism is thoughtful and visually cogent. It’s seemingly impossible to make Richard Schiff uninteresting on screen, so he’s a welcome sight as a doctor at the hospital who fights to get Shaun on the staff.
But everything else on “The Good Doctor” undercuts what they bring to the story. Shaun’s first case carries with it a reasonable amount of suspense, but too much of “The Good Doctor” is a manipulative snooze. TV needs a good new medical drama, but this probably isn’t going to be it.