The Good Doctor: Better-Than-Good TV {Guest post by Madison Ward}

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Introduction: Madison is our entertainment guru, keeping us up to date on the latest books, TV shows, and movies. She loves to cover pop culture and I'm glad to have her voice in this capacity.

{This post written by Madison Ward, Superstar Intern}

I can unequivocally and undeniably state that I am not a fan of Bates Motel.

It may have something to do with the creepiness or the incest or the lack of comfort it provides. Of course, it is supposed to make your skin crawl and I’m sure it is much more dynamic and has various layered meaning within all the uneasiness, but I will not take part in that.

The main character is played by Freddie Highmore and he has recently started with another TV show, The Good Doctor, as an autistic surgeon named Dr. Shaun Murphy. Because I am a stubborn person, I ashamedly was convinced that Highmore’s past acting roles would affect what this new show means and create another uncomfortable, creepy late-night watch. Unknowingly initiated into watching it with my family one night in the living room, I was immediately proven wrong.

The Good Doctor is an ABC medical drama that is derived from an earlier television series created in South Korea. It focuses on a doctor with autism being hired as a surgeon at a hospital; he is wracked with not only doubt in his ability, but challenge to his already limited chances as an autistic individual. Sentimental, but also inherently political with doctors challenging and questioning one another and their actions, the series tests the waters of prejudice and expectation and the remarkable and/or understandable reality of outliers, of irregular intangibles.

Though Dr. Shaun Murphy is autistic, he is extremely high-functioning along with a lot of other miraculous attributes to create a condition that results in an almost perfect attitude and intelligence in a surgical setting, possibly a bit on the more extreme side. There were/are concerns of him being unemotional and/or uncompassionate to the already anxious and terrified patients surgeons have to deal with, and this may be true, but his ‘cold-heartedness’ in the field also results in a completely unbiased, fact-minded individual driven by the organs on the table, not the heart in particular.

This is not to say that Shaun doesn’t feel anything. As said above, this show is not overtly sentimental, but displays emotion in a way people are less familiar recognizing. The characters in the show try to navigate this with him as well, not being able to fully relate, which causes confusion, doubt, and bias. In many situations in life--race, gender, and now disabilities--this misunderstanding has held back various groups of people for ridiculous amounts of time. What is believed to be limitations can also open up amazing opportunities for other development, and Shaun is a perfect example of that.

Freddie Highmore plays Dr. Shaun Murphy perfectly, and he is not the only cast member who has piqued my interest. This show is supposed to be kind of like a new and improved Grey’s Anatomy, but where that show was yummily encased in romantic trysts and social disasters, The Good Doctor steadies a firmer hand on the hierarchy of the political wheel and how characters each, differently, choose to navigate through this medical path. Characters Dr. Neil Melendez, Claire Brown, Jared Kalu, Marcus Andrews, Aaron Glassman, Jessica Preston, and Allegra Aoki all do a fantastic job at making me hate and love them at the same time.

This may seem unpleasant and confusing for most, but viewers typically don’t want a character they can always trust in or one that will always deceive them. Characters grow, and if one is perfect or a disaster the entire time, then there is no development. These developments are placed periodically throughout the show/movie’s journey; what this show does is reflect on controversial decision making throughout every episode, constantly testing the characters’ priorities and morals, which is understandable. Even the people I hate more than others, have situational circumstances or motives that I can see and relate to why and begrudgingly accept the result.

There is no perfect answer in decision making, especially in surgical scenarios, just like the trolley problem. Let’s say you’re steering a trolley which has lost its brakes on a track that ends in two different paths, one with one person, the other with five. Which path would you chose to run over? That one person may be your spouse or Mother Teresa or could be a bank robber or a serial killer, same with the five on the other path. Who do you decide to kill? Whose lives are you risking and somehow have the unfair control over? The Good Doctor does a noteworthy job of complimenting the wavering circumstances with the resulting imperfect decisions, through the values and heart of the characters that made it, and what becomes of it all.

Though this show seems increasingly intense as I continue ranting, with characters stepping on toes and breaking hearts of a poor autistic dude in the process, combined with biology and probability, the directors create a surprisingly humorous atmosphere to the very serious issue of disability and sickly patients. They even play on The Boys Next Door and allow Shaun’s dialogue to be hilariously unintentional, insulting superiors and blatantly proving others wrong. All the doctors are extremely gifted at comebacks and continuously leave me reeling from the quick wit with which they challenge each other’s positions.

The winter finale for the first half of the show ended on December 4th and will return in 2018. This show has become an immediate success for ABC, and after only the first two episodes, received so much attention they added five more episodes, making it an 18-episode first season (commonly unheard of!). Humbling me and shutting down prejudice, whether it be on cast preference or autism ignorance, The Good Doctor will hopefully be around for a very long time to beat people upside the head with open debate on controversial beliefs and actions based on those beliefs.

(P.S. I also watched The Good Place right after I caught up with this, and the ‘Good’ is an understatement in both their titles! Makes me want to try The Good Wife.)

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