18
Sep
2012
The Mob Doctor: Season 1, Episode 1
Pilot
Chris
As on the nose as it is ridiculous, the title of Fox's newest medical drama was the first warning bell that went off in the heads of those who looked over the incoming slate of new Pilots, desperately searching for something, anything worth checking out this new Fall season. If you count yourself in that number, your instincts were right on the money. Obvious and ludicrous are the watchwords for the debut episode of The Mob Doctor. I'm sad to say that I cannot recommend this pilot unless you have an extremely high tolerance for fluff, or could use a light chuckle or two (at the expense of the plot, it's not witty. At all).

Grace Devlin (Jordan Spiro) is a local girl turned highly accomplished Surgeon at one of Chicago's premiere hospitals. The show wastes no time in introducing us to the dual life she leads, as a respected doctor, and an on call physician for the criminal underworld. Working out of a Veterinary operating room, Devlin must quickly treat a wanted fugitive and return to the hospital before she is missed. Neither this first injury we see Devlin diagnose and treat MacGyver style, nor her in-your-face bedside manner during this scene comes off nearly as shocking as I think the writers intended. If they wanted to open with a bang, at best, they achieve a "Huh, ew."

Upon arriving back at the hospital, we see Devlin in action in a crisis situation, working to save the life of a young gunshot wound victim who is crashing. While this scene does a serviceable job of establishing Devlin's drive, self-assuredness, and skill, the cinematography and editing fail to capture the urgency and gross out factor that a good surgical melt down scene requires. During this scene we also see that it's not just Devlin, but the entire staff of the Hospital that has trained at the Perry Cox school of bedside manner.

Maybe it's the House fan in me, but it's very, very difficult for a medical drama to shock me, be it in how gross the blood and guts are, or how gruff the doctors' attitudes may be. And speaking of House the whole set up kind of feels like it was cobbled together from an abandoned idea for the post-incarceration Season 8 of that show, but I digress.

From this point, we are taken on a whirlwind tour of Grace's relationships with the numerous characters that populate her day and wise-guy-night jobs. I will only lightly touch upon the plot of the episode as my attempt to recap the many intertwining threads will undoubtedly leave you more confused than the actual episode left me (but just barely). Simply put, the episode really suffers from having too much going on at once.

The show quickly establishes that Devlin became indebted to the mafia in return for local boss Moretti showing lenience to her brother who owed him a substantial sum of money. At the hospital Devlin clashes with her immediate superior and colleague over the post-op treatment of Little Timmy Red Shirt whose life she saved at the episodes outset, bends the rules to protect the reputation of a young pregnant girl and friend of the family (Devlin's family, not THE family), attempts to impress her chief of surgery with her dedication and willingness to perform new procedures, and finds some time to grab a little nookie with hunky fellow doctor/boyfriend (Zach Gilford) in the On-Call Room.

Outside of the hospital, rapid fire scenes showcase Devlin's strained relationships with her mother and brother, and that Morretti isn't the only criminal in her life, as she is also administering insulin shots to the older and seemingly reformed mob boss Constantine (William Forsythe).

If all of that sounds like a sell just shy of the show runners popping out after each subsequent development to scream: "But wait! There's More!" I'd be hard pressed to disagree with you. But you might be surprised to learn that we haven't even gotten to the meat of the plot yet.

See a federal witness has been admitted to the hospital in need of experimental heart surgery, see? And Devlin is the only one who can perform this surgery, see? But the federal witness if a former lieutenant of Moretti's, who's about to turn state's evidence, see?

Seeing an opportunity, Moretti orders Devlin to botch the surgery, making it look like the witness died of natural complications to a risky procedure. This was an obvious development for a show with this premise, but it's surprising that show runners Josh Berman and Rob Wright decided to pull the trigger on this particular dilemma so quickly, as it leaves little room to escalate throughout the season, let alone multiple seasons (Hey, let them dream). With so much going on, it''s not surprising that Devlin is hardly given time to agonize over this decision outside of some meaningful gazes, and my least favorite of all plot devices: the dream sequence.

While Jordan Spiro performs the material she was given to the best of her ability, connecting the audience to the character of Devlin is an uphill struggle. Devlin plays so obviously fast and loose with the rules that it seems implausible that she wouldn't be caught within the span of a couple episodes. She solves her professional and personal problems by running to the nearest (patriarchal) authority figure and "telling on" whoever has slighted her. And while the second instance of this did lead to the episodes most interesting development, it completely undercuts Berman and Wright's attempt to build Devlin up as a strong, independent protagonist.

Finally, given a chance to walk away from her indentured servitude, she chooses to remain in-depth to the Mob. A highly implausible development given that a Surgeon with her skills could probably easily relocate herself and her family to another hospital. If there is a compelling reason for Devlin to stay, the writers better tip their hands quickly.

The Mob Doctor's greatest disappointment is that this did not have to be a bad show. As ridiculous as the title makes the proceedings out to be, this is not an inherently flawed concept. The elevator pitch: Surgeon becomes indebted to the Mob to save her brother, definitely peaked my interest. It was only when details and trailers started leaking out that my enthusiasm dissipated. A subtler, less busy, more character driven narrative formed around that same basic premise could have been great television about impossible choices and the conflict between ethics, familial duty, and basic survival. Instead, we're stuck with melodrama, confounding characters, and a set-up that feels unsustainable.

GRADE: C-


Notes:

-William Forsythe turns in an engaging, charismatic, and intimidating performance as aging mobster Constantine. Probably the brightest spot of an otherwise dismal hour of television.

-"B.G.L.D." "Big gun, little"¦uh discretion" "¦ Really?

-Between their monopoly on time travel in the soon to hit theaters Looper and their co-opting of a highly skilled surgeon in this pilot, the American Mafia is having a banner year!

-"Do you remember that scene where Luke pops that one in a million shot and it goes right in the air duct and blows up the entire Death Star? Ok well, because of your anatomy, you have something called a frimbiated hymen. You are like the Death Star, you have this air duct." The end of Star Wars Episode IV used as an analogy for the purposes of sex ed. I don't know how I feel about this. (Yes I do. I feel bad.)

-Why is the Numbers set-up located right above the Chop Shop? Did Morretti get a deal on rent or something? Is one illegal set up the front for the other?


-It would appear that all of the hospital's computers have been supplied by Tony Stark.

-"I never agreed to kill anybody!" "Yes you did!" Oh, ok. That Moretti is a persuasive guy.

-"Whoa spill on Aisle 5" I just"¦I"¦I can't.
Tags: The Mob Doctor
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