Monday, September 17, 2012

Pilot Review: The Mob Doctor

The Mob Doctor (Mondays at 9:00 on Fox)

Let me start by saying that the above image is better than anything in the first episode of Fox's mind-numbing new series The Mob Doctor.

The plot is exactly what the title suggests: half mob show, half medical show. Grace Devlin (Jordana Spiro, My Boys) is a hotshot surgeon in Chicago who overcame meager beginnings in the city slums to become one of her hospital's most sought-after doctors. Her mother (Wendy Makkena, Oliver Beene) is in remission, her brother (Jesse Lee Soffer) is a compulsive gambler, and her father figure is a notorious mob boss recently released from prison on parole, Constantine Alexander (William Forsythe, Boardwalk Empire). Years ago she made a deal with a mafioso named Moretti (Michael Rappaport, Boston Public) to work off her brother's gambling debts in exchange for his life; now that agreement has come back to bite her in the ass when Moretti demands she kill a patient who is testifying against him.

Aside from how utterly ridiculous the whole plot is, the execution is something to marvel: it's constantly moving, yet it never goes anywhere. How this is even possible is beyond me, but somehow creators Josh Berman & Rob Wright (Drop Dead Diva) have managed. There must be upwards of fifty scenes in forty-five minutes; Grace is always dashing from one location to the next, answering phone calls and darting off screen: hospital to home to hospital to mob house to hospital to chop shop to home to hospital to OH MY GOD, TAKE A NAP ALREADY, YOU'VE SUPPOSEDLY BEEN AWAKE FOR 36 HOURS NOW! But seriously, so much happens in so little time... yet I felt like the episode was never going to end. There are tons of subplots that go nowhere (and make no sense), including a young gunshot victim's recovery and the playing out of hospital politics. How Grace doesn't just collapse at any given moment is miraculous. She performs two surgeries in the pilot, one of which is under the scrutiny of the FBI, plus she makes house calls to Constantine, all while balancing her delicate familial relationships and a new romance with a fellow doctor (Zach Gilford, Off the Map). Is Grace supposed to be a superhero or something? I'm pretty sure even Superman sleeps.

There are so many things wrong with The Mob Doctor that it's almost too much to try and point them all out; I could just say, "Watch the episode" and call it a day. But I don't want to subject any of you to that. The script is the first and foremost issue. Well, the unbelievable and bloated plot is the foremost issue, but anyway... the script is terrible. At one point, in one of the myriad subplots, a girl Grace used to babysit has come into the hospital for surgery; the fourteen year old finds out she's pregnant despite being a virgin, so Grace compares her immaculate conception to Star Wars: "You remember that scene where Luke pops that one-in-a-million shot, and it goes straight through the air duct and blows up the entire Death Star?... You are like the Death Star. You have this air duct that has the potential to be penetrated, even if you're not doing it full-on... it's called outercourse." Now, just stop for a second and reread that statement. This is an actual line of dialogue from a script that actually got made and then ordered to series. Let that sink in. Add in barely discernible, over-the-top sequences of nonstop medical jargon; a scene where one doctor accuses another of tattling; horrible bookend scenes about Grace touching her first body; and a car chase through the streets of Chicago, and you have one big "WTF" of a script to work with.

On top of the truly awful, none of the actors are any good. Jordana Spiro is almost entirely lifeless as Grace, blank-faced and even-voiced throughout. Her family is portrayed as a bunch of bumbling idiots by Makenna and Soffer, and Forsythe does little more than curl his lips into a snarl in his two scenes. David Pasquesi plays a caricature of every douchebag boss ever, spitting out such gems as "This isn't over!" in between scenes of utter pomposity. Even Zeljko Ivanek, a scene stealer on Damages, looks bored. But by far the most ridiculous performance comes from Rappaport, who is so melodramatic that his portrayal of Moretti often crosses the line into self-parody. He yells, spits into cell phones, and wags his finger in everyone's face... because he's, you know, in charge. How else would anyone know that? It's as if everyone on board was just collecting a paycheck, knowing full well how awful the concept and material is, and not expecting much to come of it.

If that's the case, they're the smart ones here. The Mob Doctor never should have seen the light of day. It's the type of show that gives merit to a saying I heard recently: "Theatre is life, movies are art, television is furniture." Because this is mindless, horrible, and embarassing.

1 comment:

  1. That’s the one thing we have to deal with when getting ready to see a new show: that densely packed pilot episode that leaves our heads spinning. So much stuff gets crammed into this first episode that sometimes we don’t know up from down. I’m hoping that the show will come around and give us something to work with. So I’ve set my Hopper to record the next few episodes because I’m trying to be positive. Maybe there is a lot of pressure from the network that is causing this show to be such an easily spotted train wreck. My DISH co-workers agree that the show has some potential but that there are a lot of hurdles to be crossed. I agree although I think if the show had a little more life and didn’t stick to clichés we’d be halfway there. I sure hope that The Mob Doctor figures out where it’s going really soon.