I love Tamlyn Tomita – but that’s not why I love The Good Doctor.
When I was an undergrad at UCLA, I had a big crush on Tamlyn Tomita. The Karate Kid II was one of my favorite films at the time, largely because of her and so when she volunteered to be a judge at UCLA’s Mardi Gras festival, I had the opportunity to escort her for the day. A student at UCLA as well as an actress, she graciously gave of her time to help the annual event which raises money to help underprivileged kids be able to go to summer camp. My friends knew of my infatuation with her and let me show her around. She was kind and sweet and even gave me the picture we took together and autographed it for me. When I found out she was going to be in this new show on ABC, I had to tune in. I’m glad I did.
This has quickly become one of my favorite freshman shows and a regular on my DVR list. The Good Doctor is about an autistic savant named Shaun Murphy who has the keen ability to see the world in unique ways. It also makes him an exceptional physician. A surgical resident at San Jose St. Bonaventure Hospital, Shaun has to overcome various obstacles of a more personal and social nature while dealing with the expectations (and sometimes lack thereof) of the other people there. The stories are not just engaging, but brilliantly written and wonderfully performed by the actors. But this show is more than just a one trick pony. While it’s fascinating to see Shaun solve medical problems with his brilliantly analytical mind, it’s also about the lives of the rest of the medical team and their growth together and as individuals.
David Shore, who developed The Good Doctor and serves as series showrunner, is no stranger to medical procedurals. Having developed the critically acclaimed House, he is used to characters who stick out in a crowd. Shaun and House share some qualities in common. Both are brilliant. Both are outstanding doctors. Both can see the world in unique ways. And both are not exactly in tune with social graces. But the characters are radically different despite their similarities. Shaun is unintentionally abrasive due to his different set of social skills, whereas House was intentionally confrontational. Shaun is a resident as opposed to House who was the head of his own diagnostic team. And Shaun is kind and loving, whereas House is…complicated. What is the same is the high quality of the two shows that will make you want to watch again and again.
Freddie Highmore is engaging as Shaun Murphy. He makes the character interesting and believable in what could easily be a stretch for many actors. Richard Schiff portrays Aaron Glassman who is not only Shaun’s mentor but also the hospital President. Schiff is a great fit for the role, similar in many ways to the role he played on The West Wing as the ever pessimistic yet idealistic Toby Ziegler. Aaron like Toby has strong beliefs and is willing to risk everything for them. He is a compelling character you can’t help but root for. Nicholas Gonzalez is great as attending surgeon Neil Melendez, both tough-as-nails and grounded at the same time. And of course, Tamlyn Tomita plays a small but important role as the Chairperson for the foundation that controls the hospital at times putting her at odds with her staff.
The rest of the cast are all excellent and their characters have some shades of House characters. Antonia Thomas’ Claire Brown reminds me of Allison Cameron because of her idealistic view on life and her deeply caring persona. Chuku Modu’s Jared Kalu reminds me of Chase, not just because he’s sleeping with Claire but because he’s a bit of a hothead who is trying to prove his worth and is a bit insecure about it. And he’s rich. Obviously, Tamilyn Tomita’s character Allegra Aoki has shades of Cuddy while Schiff’s Glassman is most like Wilson. It is far from the same formula though and The Good Doctor has a life and a voice of its own and with such a diverse cast it promises to be a touchstone for so many who watch it. If you’re looking for a good show with engaging stories, complex characters, great writing and wonderful acting, then The Good Doctor is the medicine you need for the TV blues. Make sure to give this one a chance!