I would like to go on record saying it’s about dang time there is a show about a female doctor whose brilliance and skill are not offset by near-crippling insecurity, adolescent anxiety or the coldness associated with same.
Whether that doctor needs to be a surgeon working off a debt to the Chicago mob while performing innovative heart surgery at a top-notch hospital where she also advises on everything from obstetrics to upper management is another issue.
It’s difficult to say what sort of show “The Mob Doctor,” which premieres Monday on Fox, will be. Like the title, the pilot teeters between odd and simply ridiculous. We meet Dr. Grace Devlin in a voiceover and moody preface as a child, surveying her first dead body, a drunk sprawled in a field. In real life, Grace is played by “My Boys’” Jordana Spiro and is first seen pulling a screwdriver out of a mobster’s head in a veterinarian’s office.
Back at the hospital, she strides into the operating room to cheekily defy her arrogance-addled attending surgeon and perform a death-defying procedure on a young gunshot victim. Next up, her mom, Daniella (Wendy Makkena), brings a young neighbor to the ER, allowing Grace to swoop in and seize control of that case from her ob-gyn boyfriend, Brett (Zach Gilford).
One delivery of a balloon basket later, she’s swaggering through an auto parts establishment to face down a deadly mobster. Apparently, in exchange for her younger brother’s life, Grace has offered to work off his debt with one Paul Moretti (Michael Rappaport), who now would like her to kill the FBI witness she has just promised to save via a virtually untried surgical procedure that only she is capable of performing.
Aaaand break for commercial.
It’s as if co-creators Josh Berman and Rob Wright hoped that if they kept things moving fast enough, viewers would be so bowled over that they wouldn’t have the energy to ask certain questions like: How could a brilliant and street-smart heart surgeon offer to “do anything” to save her brother from the murderous wrath of the mob and yet assume that this will not include murder?
How about some better security for the ailing stool pigeon? And perhaps most troubling, why on earth would Grace use a known mobster’s real name as the I.D. on her ever-ringing cellphone?
The bigger question is whether Berman and Wright’s ambitions are more cable than network (also, if it is too late to change the title). Despite the frantic and at times clunky initial execution, there are times when “The Mob Doctor” shows signs of transcending the typical doc-with-something-extra medical procedural.
Spiro, when she is allowed to walk and talk like a human being instead of a template for Feisty Force of Nature, shows signs of being able to handle the moral ambiguity of a woman who, for whatever reason, has chosen to act as arbiter between the angels and their fallen comrades.
The best thing about “The Mob Doctor” may be its willingness to portray the rule-breaking brilliant doctor in a light that does not necessarily use the brilliance to excuse the rule-breaking. So there’s a possibility that “The Mob Doctor” is headed toward the kind of complex character development of AMC or HBO.
To get there, however, the creators have to cut the cord attaching them to the traditional, and quasi-soap operatic, medical procedural. The two-genre straddle is not only difficult to sustain but it’s also uncomfortable to watch.
‘The Mob Doctor’
When: 9 p.m. Monday
Rating: TV-14-DLSV (may be unsuitable for children under the age of 14 with advisories for suggestive dialogue, coarse language, sex and violence)