September 24, 2012

TV: The Mob Doctor (Fox, Mon 9)

Grace Devlin (Jordana Spiro) is a hot-shot surgical intern who's paying off her brother's debts to the Chicago mob. She's expected to provide medical service whenever a local mobster has the sort of injuries for which going to the hospital might be a bad idea.

This places her in great moral dilemmas, such as when the mob wants her to kill the government witness whose heart surgery she'll be performing. But moral dilemmas appear to be Grace's stock in trade; the pilot also finds her lying to the father of a teenage girl about the operation she's having, because Grace is afraid the father will react badly to his daughter's pregnancy. (The show is careful to spell out -- repeatedly -- that it's an ectopic pregnancy, because god forbid we should think that anyone might have an abortion if there was no medical risk involved in the pregnancy.)

Grace also doesn't get along well with fellow resident Olivia Wilcox (Jamie Lee Kirchner), or with chief of surgery Stafford White (Zeljko Ivanek); were it not for her boyfriend Brett (Zach Gilford), she wouldn't have any friends in the hospital.

There are hints here of something interesting, moments when Grace is almost allowed to be flat-out unlikable, a rare female antihero. But then the writers remember that they're on network TV and not cable, and they immediately do something to soften the character and take the rough edges off. If The Mob Doctor had had the courage of its convictions, it might have been something interesting. But in watering Grace down into a tepidly inoffensive character, the show's creators have sucked all the life from the show and left behind nothing worth watching.

Spiro is a strong lead, and Ivanek is always entertaining. But Kirchner's rival is a cartoon Mean Girl, and Gilford brings so little personality to his role that he might as well not be there. A strong contender for the first cancellation of the year.

No comments: