[07/20/12 - 08:12 AM]
The Futon's First Look: "The Mob Doctor" (FOX)
By Brian Ford Sullivan (TFC)

Please note: As a courtesy, please do not reproduce these comments to newsgroups, forums or other online places. Links only please.

Welcome once again to our annual "first look" at the broadcast networks' offerings for the 2012-2013 season, now in its seventh year! Each day we'll walk you through one of the new series set to premiere next season (or one that didn't make the cut) and go over our initial impressions after viewing the pilot. Keep in mind that a lot can change from what's being screened right now - recasting, reshooting, etc. - but we still want to give you a heads up on what you should (and shouldn't) keep on your radar in the coming months. So enough of our rambling, on with the show!

[IMPORTANT NOTE: The following is based on the original sales presentation which was screened to us privately or supplied by a third party NOT an informational, not-for-review screener provided by the network in question.]

(written by Josh Berman; directed by Michael Dinner; TRT: 43:41)

The network's description: "For most physicians, the Hippocratic oath is sacred. But for one Chicago doctor, who is indebted to the mafia, saving lives isn't her only concern. THE MOB DOCTOR is a fast-paced medical drama featuring a brilliant young female cardiothoracic surgeon who is split between two distinct worlds as she juggles her promising medical career with her lifelong debt as a doctor to Chicago's Southside mob. DR. GRACE DEVLIN (Jordana Spiro, "My Boys") is a top resident at Chicago's Roosevelt Medical Center. Smart and self-assured, she's heralded as one of the country's most promising young surgeons. But family ties keep her glued to her Southside roots. To pay off her brother's life-threatening gambling debt, she makes a deal with the devil and agrees to work "off book" for the mafia men she once despised. During the day, Grace must deal with the emotionally compelling cases at Roosevelt Medical - a toddler in need of a heart transplant, an elderly man desperate to donate a lung to his sick wife, the mass chaos in the wake of a two-train collision on the 'L.'

But in her other vastly different world, she must juggle an onslaught of mob-related demands, including operating in mob-sanctioned locations, removing bullets from dead bodies to hide incriminating evidence, saving a juiced-up race horse and covertly helping an aging mobster with his erectile dysfunction. All the while, Grace must keep her dual life a secret from everyone: her protective best friend, NURSE ROBERTA "RO" ANGELI (Floriana Lima, "Glory Daze"); her handsome, blue-blooded boyfriend, DR. BRETT ROBINSON (Zach Gilford, "Off The Map," "Friday Night Lights"); her boss at Roosevelt Medical and Chief of Surgery, DR. STAFFORD WHITE (Zeljko Ivanek, "The Event," "Damages"); her rival, DR. OLIVIA WATSON (Jaime Lee Kirchner, "Necessary Roughness," "Mercy"); even her well-meaning screw-up brother, NATE (Jesse Lee Soffer, "As the World Turns"), and her overly dramatic mother, DANIELLA (Wendy Makkena, "NCIS").

The only one who knows the true scope of Grace's activities is the man to whom Grace owes her debt: the charming and diabolical Southside mob boss CONSTANTINE ALEXANDER (William Forsythe, "Boardwalk Empire"), an oddly compassionate killer whose relationship with Grace is more than it seems. Recently released from prison, the former head of the Chicago mob looks to reclaim his place in the organization, with the help of his right-hand associate - and Grace's ex-boyfriend - FRANCO (James Carpinello, "The Good Wife"). As Grace tries to heed the demands of these two conflicting worlds - not to mention the needs of her own slightly dysfunctional family - her moral center comes into direct conflict with the very immoral things she's asked to do. But with nerves of steel and a tough-as-nails exterior, she somehow manages to make it all work - at least for now."

What did they leave out? It's actually shot in Chicago.

The plot in a nutshell: "During my first week of med school an attending told me I'd eventually lose count of all the bodies," Chicago cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. Grace Devlin (Jordana Spiro) explains in the opening narration. "But after 237, I still remember every one... then again I'm not your typical doctor." Case in point: she spends her breaks and off-hours tending to mobster Paul Moretti (Michael Rapaport) and his associates, all in exchange for forgiving her screw-up brother Nate's (Jesse Lee Soffer) gambling debts. Usually said duties involve patching up various thugs and stick-up artists however when Ralph Severino, a State's witness arrives at her hospital, Paul wants something more: for her to kill him.

And Grace's problems are just beginning: her rival Olivia Watson (Jaime Lee Kirchner) is snaking her cases at work; her cancer-survivor mom Daniella (Wendy Makkena) continues to meddle in her personal life; her boyfriend (Zach Gilford) is complicating a case involving a teenager from her old neighborhood, just as an old flame (James Carpinello) makes a return appearance; her attending (David Pasquesi) routinely overrules her instructions; and her various absences - despite the best efforts by her go-to nurse (Floriana Lima) - are getting harder and harder to cover at the hospital. Thankfully she has a few people in her corner: Dr. Stafford White (Zeljko Ivanek), the hospital's Chief of Surgery who believes in her talents; and Constantine Alexander (William Forsythe), a retired mob boss whom her mother has a history with. Ultimately she'll have to make a choice between the Hippocratic Oath and the promise she made to protect her brother.

What works: It's actually shot in Chicago, which I'm always a sucker for. Beyond that...

What doesn't: ...it's exactly as ridiculousness as the above suggests. There's such a huge disconnect between what this show thinks it is and what's on screen that it's borderline laughable. First and foremost is that the show actually gives Grace an easy way out of all her foibles and yet she knowingly decides to press on. Said rationale - which I won't spoil here - is so ridiculous it's practically character assassination. And yet the show goes all in on her choice because - as the forgettable B-plot suggests - she's apparently a rule breaker at heart and - as the even more forgettable C-plot suggests - she really wants to help people. It doesn't aid its cause that Spiro emotes neither of these traits, making it an even bigger leap.

The rest of the show is just empty chum in the aforementioned waters: Grace's brother puffs his chest that he would have been able to handle his problems; Grace is hypercritical of fellow doctor Olivia because she knows best and cares more; there's kind of a chance people might think she's not at work all the time; and a half-dozen other vanilla developments. Even worse, big moments like Moretti sending Grace a balloon bouquet to the hospital with a card saying "KILL HIM" - because, of course, mobsters write in caps - or obvious dream sequences play as silly rather than suspenseful. And have I mentioned that Moretti may be the worst mobster ever? Between forgetting basic tactics - he says he'll kill Grace's brother if he doesn't kill Severino, but doesn't bother to actually have him in custody and can't find him when the time comes - and general ineptitude - wait until you see how Grace rescues her mom, whom Moretti takes instead - the phrase "paper tiger" doesn't even do it justice.

The bottom line: It's all just a big ol' mess.

  [july 2012]  


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