At the very least, Katie Wech’s “Good Sam” knows what you might be thinking when you hear it’s a show featuring a chronically cocky doctor with no respect for authority outside his own. Even after spending six months in a coma, Dr. Rob “Griff” Griffiths (Jason Isaacs) takes over a crucial diagnostic brainstorm session to suggest that their mystery patient is suffering from … lupus. For anyone even glancingly familiar with the long-running Fox drama “House,” which starred Hugh Laurie as a chronically cocky doctor whose favorite past time was rejecting lupus diagnoses, it does feel like a wink to the TV doctor who most clearly paved the way for Isaac’s Griff. The “Good Sam” twist on the classic doctor procedural recipe, though, is that Griff’s surgeon daughter (Sophia Bush) took over his post of chief while he was unconscious, and now that he’s back, the battle for the department is well and truly on.
Outside this central relationship, “Good Sam” is a fairly straightforward medical procedural. The rest of the cast is rounded out with a group of residents, including Michael Stahl-David as Sam’s ex and Skye P. Marshall as her best friend Lex, a character with potential who will nevertheless need more (or any) storylines unrelated to the show’s main (white) character in order to fully register. Then there’s Malcolm (Edwin Hodge), the hospital’s new financial director who bonds with Sam over their mutual, perhaps delusional belief that neither of them got their jobs courtesy of their parents (his father is chairman of the board, and in addition to Griff, Sam’s mother is chief of medicine).
But it’s the antagonistic relationship between Griff and Sam that fuels the series, and is the its most interesting and most frustrating aspect overall. The fact that Sam’s relief at her father waking up is tinged with more than a little dread at what it might mean for her professionally is a pretty big creative swing to take with a main character that’s otherwise determined to do and be good. Her determination to prove herself and cold fury at Griff’s confusion between being her father and boss give her potentially overly sincere character an intriguing edge, allowing Bush to give a more layered performance. In at least the first two episodes, Isaacs doesn’t get great opportunity to convey much about Griff beyond his sheer arrogance, but the few moments when he does are nonetheless sharply rendered.
It’s genuinely intriguing that “Good Sam” refuses to let father and daughter come to some happily ever after detente by the early episodes’ endings, especially as Bush and Isaacs prove well-matched for the task of portraying this particularly thorny, complex relationship. But the constant scenes of Sam and Griff bickering over each other’s territory and methodologies already start to get old by the end of episode 2, making it more difficult to see how “Good Sam” might evolve beyond it. In order to prove its longevity, the show will have to find more material to mine outside this central tension without scrapping it entirely.
“Good Sam” premieres Wednesday, Jan. 5, on CBS.