September 24, 2011

TV: A Gifted Man (CBS, Fri 8)

CBS has had very good luck with lightly supernatural dramas on Friday nights -- Joan of Arcadia, Ghost Whisperer, the last two years of Medium -- and A Gifted Man should continue the tradition very nicely.

Michael Holt (Patrick Wilson) is a talented neurosurgeon with no time in his life for anything but work. He unexpectedly runs into his ex-wife, Anna (Jennifer Ehle), whom he hasn't seen in ten years; she's now running a free clinic, and says she hadn't called because she didn't think he'd want to hear from her. Michael is delighted to have run into her again, and thrown for a loop the next morning when he learns that she died two weeks earlier.

Yup, it's Anna's ghost visiting Michael, determined to make Dr. Ghost Whisperer a better man. By the end of the episode, he's doing free surgery for poor Latino kids, and reluctantly accepting Anna's presence in his life.

The cast here is terrific. I've never quite understood the "Patrick Wilson is so sexy" bandwagon, but he's a fine actor, and very good at arrogant and contemptuous. Jennifer Ehle comes across as a bit too perfect for words, but that's not entirely inappropriate, since she is a spirit, and to a large extent, we're seeing her as Michael's idealized memory.

Also on hand is Margo Martindale as Michael's hyper-efficient assistant, Rita; Julie Benz as his sister, Christina, who sees Anna's visits as a "cosmic gift;" and Pablo Schreiber as Anton, a shaman whose role will be to help Michael understand and cope with Anna's presence. All are well suited to their roles; Benz provides the show with just the right touch of comic relief without letting the character's New Age-iness become just a cheap joke.

So, it's part emotional/supernatural journey of growth, part medical procedural (with both Michael's upper-crust clientele and the free clinic patients), and all of it done with great style and skill. It's a little too earnest and sincere for my taste, and I probably won't be watching regularly, but the target audience for the show should be very happy with it.

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