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Fall 2011 Review: A Gifted Man

1 Oct

Patrick Wilson is a renowned neurosurgeon in New York, operating on the richest and most exclusive clients (billionaires, world class tennis players) and basically being the best damn doctor he can be.  Unfortunately, he’s kind of a jerk, focusing only on his work, forgetting his assistant’s birthday (played by Margo Martindale who was wonderful as Dixie mafia leader Ma Bennett in Justified; she’s slightly less evil here), or being rude to his sister.  All of a sudden, during one day of his cold, nearly emotionless life, he appears to run into his ex-wife, who he hasn’t seen in years.  They get dinner and chat at his apartment, and he mentions to his sister that he saw her.  Later, he finds out she died three weeks ago in a car crash.  She visits him several times during the episode, in ghost form, and convinces him to help out the free medical clinic she left behind, by putting her password into the computer there, and to help out of the clients at the clinic in need, even though it takes time away from the VIP clients he normally services.

Wilson plays a privileged middle aged dick-ish guy as well as anyone (see:  Little Children) and I actually find myself liking him more than I’m supposed to.  Sure, he was kind of a jerk, but he was really more of an insanely career driven guy than anything else.  I’m actually not sure whether I’m supposed to like him more or less, but it’s probably better to like him more if I’m going to watch again.  The main hook of the show is that his dead wife’s ghost will try to make him a better man, which sounds utterly cheesy but didn’t play out as sappy as it could have.

This series faces the same issue I talked about in my review of the Secret Circle, or in many supernatural shows set in the real world – the how-long-should-it-take-before-I-believe-something-that-seems-insane syndrome as Wilson struggles with the existence of the ghost of his wife.  He has himself checked for a tumor with his MRI machine but by the end of the first episode it seems he’ll more or less have to get used to the existence of ghosts.  He visits some sort of spirit healer played by Pablo Schreiber, best known as The Wire’s Nick Sobotka, to attempt to remove the spirit, but bails out at the last minute when the ghost convinces him not to.

I watched this on back to back nights with Person of Interest, both on CBS, so it’s hard not to attempt to make a comparison.  Both shows were in a way the opposite of what I thought they’d be.  Person of Interest I thought would be a sort of sci-fi serial, and it seems to be more of a week by week procedural.  A Gifted Man, I thought, and I’m not sure I have a great reason for this, would be at least mostly procedural, and after one episode, it’s not really clear that that’s the case.  I still think there’s likely to be episode to episode plots, but the most important aspect of the show with Wilson and his wife’s ghost and him growing as a person and so forth has to be serial.

If I bashed the fake New York-ness of 2 Broke Girls, I should compliment shows set in New York that are clearly filmed in New York.  A Gifted Man doesn’t let you forget it, showing at least twice Wilson jogging by the East River.  Good for A Gifted Man.  It may be occasionally gratuitous but I’m happy to reward shows actually filming in New York by tolerating their showing it off.

Will I watch it again?  Probably not, but it was better than I thought it would be.  It’s a very respectable show, and I think has the potential to be more interesting than it sounds like it would be from its description.  That said, it’s not particularly up my alley just from the description alone, and it wasn’t quite good enough in any one way to make me really feel any need to see another episode.  I’m vaguely curious to check out what the show looks like if it’s still around for my midseason review.