'The Mob Doctor' Review: An Edgy Drama With No Edge
Monday, September 17, 2012
In the history of television, few shows have a duller, more uninspired title than FOX's new drama The Mob Doctor.
The title tells you everything you need to know about both the plot
(it's about a doctor who works for the mob) and the show itself (lacking
any nuance or edge). If the writers couldn't come up with a more
compelling title, it's probably a safe bet that the show itself isn't
going to be that great either.
The Mob Doctor centers on Dr. Grace Devlin (Jordana Spiro), a cocky Chicago doctor who secretly works for mob boss Paul Moretti (Michael Rapaport) to pay off her brother's debts. She's dating a fellow doctor (Friday Night Lights star Zach Gilford) and has a complicated relationship with a recently paroled ex-mob kingpin named Constantine (William Forsythe).
In the pilot, Moretti wants Grace to kill one of her patients, a former mobster turned federal witness. This brings up Grace's moral dilemma: Does she go through with it or try to find a way out of this situation? After all, Nancy Botwin makes escaping unscathed from impossible situations look downright easy on Weeds.
The series of events that follows is somewhat surprising, but it also illustrates the primary problem with The Mob Doctor: It isn't edgy enough.
Grace has a way of upsetting people around her, but then escaping without harm. In the pilot alone she alienates Moretti, her best friend, her boyfriend and her co-workers. But by the end, people just forgive her and, ironically, she appears to have no real blood on her hands.
Watching The Mob Doctor reminded me of another show that used to air on FOX Mondays at 9pm: 24. On that show, Jack Bauer's wife was killed off, Air Force One was shot down, a former president was assassinated, a nuclear bomb was detonated on U.S. soil and Jack killed one of his own innocent co-workers to appease the terrorists.
That's the kind of edge The Mob Doctor is sorely lacking. It doesn't take risks, it doesn't let its lead character make hard choices and when she does, there are no real consequences to her actions. It's like a parent telling a child "Don't eat that cookie or else." Then the child eats the cookie and the parent realizes that there is no "or else" and things just continue without punishment.
Grace Devlin has the God complex of Dr. Gregory House, but she is also genuinely interested in helping people and making human connections. Those two things don't mix well. You can't think you're above everyone else while simultaneously relating to them. Grace's character is a contradiction, the construction of a writer too scared to push her too hard in one direction or another. The show wants her to be the best of House and Wilson but without either of their flaws.
The Mob Doctor is co-created by Josh Berman whose previous credits for FOX include Killer Instinct and Vanished, two shows that lasted a combined 22 episodes. That bodes very poorly for this show's prospects. If The Mob Doctor is to succeed, it needs to become a lot more compelling very quickly, and the only real way to do that is to add some edge so that Grace isn't always right.
The Mob Doctor airs Mondays at 9pm on FOX.
(Image courtesy of FOX)