The Good Doctor s2 ep 2

I was a bit lukewarm about last week’s episode. This one, though, is a cracker. Lea is staying at Shaun’s apartment and, not coincidentally, Shaun is spending as much time as he can at the hospital. He has some difficulty in articulating why he’s not happy to see Lea, but it isn’t much of a mystery: she hurt him when she left and he doesn’t want to get hurt again. He’s also been practising lying, which comes in handy when he thinks that Paul, a hospital employee, might have cancer. He’s warned not to worry Paul unnecessarily and, much to Claire’s surprise, he manages to sell Paul on a battery of tests without giving the game away. But he can’t keep it up: “You might have pancreatic cancer!” he blurts. He’s right, and Paul has to decide whether to opt for palliative care or high-risk surgery.

But it’s Dr Lim who gets the Patient of the Week: Mara, a teenage girl who presents at the hospital and requests labiaplasty. Lim examines the girl and, on discovering that she has scarring from FGM performed when she was much younger, decides to go ahead with an operation to repair the damage more or less immediately, overlooking the fact that the girl has a fake ID so that her parents’ consent won’t be required. This is potentially a tricky storyline dramatically, because there really isn’t any balance to be struck on this issue. But when the surgery becomes complicated, Mara’s parents need to be brought in – “It’s not that big a deal”, Mara’s cretinous father asserts of his daughter’s mutilation, which, y’know – and a genuine medical and ethical dilemma presents itself.

This storyline resolves quite brilliantly, with a wordless payoff between Mara and Lim which is both moving and triumphant. Lim’s contempt for, and fury towards, Mara’s parents is, incidentally, quite magnificent throughout. Apparently she and Melendez are rivals to be head of surgery. Vote early, vote often, vote Lim.


The Good Doctor s2 ep 1

Sometimes shows hit the ground running at the start of new seasons, and sometimes they… don’t. This wasn’t terrible by any means – it was perfectly watchable – but it was very clearly intended to do little more than remind us of where we left everyone at the end of the show’s first year, then set a course for season 2. Which meant the episode was on quite a low flame throughout. 

It’s Jared’s last day – it does look as if he’s definitely leaving – and his going-away present is running, with Shaun, a mobile clinic for the homeless. They drag a volatile man called Harry to the hospital, then misdiagnose and release him. Shaun then realises that Harry has a brain tumour, so he needs to be found and treated. Andrews, now hospital president, is sabre-rattling throughout. By the time Harry is operated on, his wife and daughter – who kicked him out because of his behaviour – have been found and are waiting at his bedside as he comes round from the anaesthetic. Will Harry wake up cured? It turns out to be a straightforwardly feel-good plot, but I can’t help but feel that the show at its season 1 best would have taken a couple more chances with it.

Andrews, meantime, has tempted a high-profile (I missed exactly why) patient to the hospital with the promise of a dazzling cure for her heart problem. This, he hopes, is going to launch the San Jose St. Bonaventure as a centre for cutting-edge surgical excellence. The proposal is to piggy-back a second heart onto her first, which is pretty cool, but there’s a complication and Melendez – now, presumably, chief of surgery? – decides not to go ahead. He and Andrews butt heads, and Melendez then goes ahead, conjuring a successful outcome with an assist from Claire and some masterful passive-aggression from Reznick. I hope that Andrews and Melendez can now move on, as I don’t want a season of them comparing penis size.

In other news, Lea is back, which is good. And Glassman’s oncologist is  played by Lisa Edelstein, which is even better.

Public Service Announcement 37 of 2018: The Good Doctor

It’s been a long, dry summer. And autumn. But proper TV – and proper Unpopcult – is back, with the return tonight of The Good Doctor for its second season. A huge ratings hit in America, insofar as such a thing exists any more, it’s a well-crafted medical drama with one or two things which elevate it above the average: a terrific central performance from Freddie Highmore (who writes tonight’s season opener); interesting plotting which veers off in unexpected directions; and an engaging and well-deployed supporting cast. In short, it’s much better than you think it is. Weekly reviews, at least until I get too busy (tonight, 9pm, Sky Witness).

And there’s more proper TV coming soon.

Public Service Announcement 28 of 2018: For the People, The Good Doctor

Apparently Sky Living’s name has been causing Sky TV one or two problems. Its market research has revealed that some of those who are unfamiliar with Living expect it to broadcast lifestyle shows; whereas it is, in fact, probably the UK’s most reliable source of American procedural dramas. As of tomorrow, therefore, Sky Living will be rebranded as Sky Witness. Hee. Sky Witness! Do you see what they did there? (Actually, I’m not 100% sure myself that I see what they did there. so let’s move on.)

As part of the launch there will, in August, be three new American shows on Witness, and the first of these is For the People, a legal drama from Shonda Rhimes’s Shondaland stable. It stars – among others – Ben Shenkman, who latterly became one of the most interesting things in Royal Pains; Britt Robertson;  Ben Rappaport, the “other Cary” in The Good Wife; the wonderful Hope Davis; and Anna Deavere Smith. Now, this doesn’t need to be great to push my buttons: give me some shipping, some Secret Pain, some ethical dilemmas, and some “Objection!” “Sustained!” “Counsel, approach!” dialogue and I’m likely to be on board.

The more interesting subplot, it seems to me, is whether Rhimes is still in possession of her mojo, particularly as she’s about to jump ship to Netflix for scarcely-conceivable amounts of cash money. Scandal remained relevant at least until it concluded, but it undoubtedly went downhill after its second season. How To Get Away With Murder and Gray’s Anatomy are hanging on in there, but her most recent new show, The Catch, crashed and burned after two seasons. I liked it quite a lot, but that opinion wasn’t shared by enough people to keep it going.

For the People has been renewed for a second season, and this first season is only ten episodes long. This seems to be a trend in American TV, and it’s one of which I wholly approve; with so much choice these days, it’s asking a lot of a viewer to commit to a 20-plus episode season of any new show. Anyway, I’m going to give this a go. CJ will be reviewing the first episode, and I’m sure we can rely on her to give a Shondaland show starring someone out of Royal Pains a fair review. *looks to camera* (Monday 6 August, 10pm, Sky Witness.)

And just a quick word about The Good Doctor: if you missed it first time round, Sky Witness is running season 1 from the start, commencing on Monday 6 August at 8pm. It’s a well-crafted medical drama, which I realise sounds as if I’m damning it with faint praise. But the acting is good, the plots quite often head off in unexpected directions, and it’s definitely worth a look.

The Good Doctor s1 ep 14

There’s a new resident in town: the pushy, ambitious, and generally appalling Dr Morgan Reznick. And she’s pitched straight into a contest between Melendez and Lim: Reznick and Browne are on Melendez’s team, and Murphy and Kalu are with Lim. Each partnership has a patient of roughly equivalent trickiness to treat and cure.

Probably the more interesting case is the one allocated to Murphy and Kalu: they have Quinn, a teenage girl suffering from abdominal pain. Murphy quickly discovers that she has a penis, and undergoes an episode-long course in the use of appropriate pronouns for trans people. Quinn has testicular cancer, a situation which becomes increasingly complicated: Might it be better to take this opportunity to remove both testicles, not just the cancerous one? And will she require to stop taking puberty-blocking drugs? Her parents are supportive of her choices; her grandmother less so. As is generally the case with The Good Doctor it seemed to me, privilege duly acknowledged, that within the confines of an hour-long network drama it handled complex issues with sensitivity and delicacy. Quinn is played by Sophie Giannamore, a young trans actress (a word I try to use sparingly, but it seems relevant here).

Reznick and Browne’s case is a little more standard: a single father who develops resistance to antibiotics, but is saved by a faecal transplant (a concept I can add to my occasional but long-running Unpopcult series, Things I Totally Read About In The New Yorker). This is most notable for its bickering between Browne and the ruthless Reznick. Thing is, Melendez knows what Reznick’s up to, but encourages Browne, rather than sulking, to raise her game in response.

It’s another solid episode from this well-crafted show. And it’s probably my last review of it for now: with Homeland and Scandal back, Nashville coming soon, and an imminent Scandi-noir thing that I’m planning to take a look at, my dance card is getting uncomfortably crowded.

Public Service Announcement 11 of 2018: American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace, Scandal, The Good Doctor, Designated Survivor (maybe)

Ryan Murphy’s American Crime Story anthology series returns to UK television tonight. I thought the first season, The People vs O.J. Simpson, was something close to a masterpiece. This second season, The Assassination of Gianni Versace, arrives with slightly less of a critical fanfare, although reviews have generally been good; and, apparently, containing an excellent performance from Glee’s Darren Criss as Andrew Cunanan, Versace’s killer. Thing is, although I should be watching, I’m not going to be. It may be that I’m just not as interested in this case as I am in that of Simpson. Written, incidentally, by Tom Rob Smith, also responsible for scripting the decidedly patchy London Spy (tonight, BBC2, 9pm).

After that, though, some Unpopcult favourites are lining up to come back from their midseason hibernation. Scandal is back for its final run of episodes (Thursday 1 March, Sky Living, 10pm). The Good Doctor returns for the rest of its first season (Friday 2 March, Sky Living, 9pm). And there was a rumour that UK viewers would this week once more be getting to see President Jack Bauer in the Designated Survivor Situation Room, grappling with what we must presume to be the irrevocable REDACTED of his beloved REDACTED, who at least won’t be prosecuted for felony corruption (Netflix, maybe Thursday 1 March, but don’t bet on it).

The Good Doctor s1 ep 13

I’m going to tiptoe through part of the Patient of the Week storyline: she’s female, a person of colour, Muslim (I think), and suffering from exposure to chemicals that can be used to manufacture explosives. Shaun thinks she’s a terrorist. She isn’t. More interesting is that Melendez punctures her bronchus during what should be a routine procedure. Shaun thinks he’s distracted because of his breakup with Jessica, and grasses him up to the hospital board. Melendez says he’s fine – TV code for totally not being fine – but Kalu eventually proves that it wasn’t Melendez’s fault, and gets a grudging thanks, as no-one’s forgiven Kalu for being wrongly fired yet.

Even better than that is the news that the glorious Dr Lim is back, although this week she keeps her moxie on a low flame. She’s being assisted by Browne in the treatment of a man who keeps having strokes, despite having been prescribed medication to reduce his risk. Coyle is available to help, but Browne persuades Lim that in #MeToo world there’s a bigger picture than one single brain operation, and quite right too, because Coyle’s a serial harasser and Lim’s a bawse.

What it comes down to, though, is that the operation might leave the patient impaired in some way. In which case, says his wife, nuh-uh: he wouldn’t want that, so just let him die, and we can all move on. Shaun – playing a human lie detector this week – deduces, correctly this time, that she’s fibbing. Well, it will turn out that Someone’s been tampering with dude’s meds, and Someone Else actually wants him to die because he’s human garbage. Even in #MeToo world, though, there are some ethical boundaries which Browne isn’t prepared to cross, and the operation goes ahead. Not the best episode, but by no means a bad one.