CBS’s new Friday night drama, “A Gifted Man,” boasts an impressive cast, great acting, well-developed characters, and strong writing. The only thing wrong with its pilot episode is its premise.
It’s kind of dumb.
Patrick Wilson stars as Michael Holt, an ultra-competitive asshole neurosurgeon who doesn’t care about anything except his high-powered job and his super-rich patients. He has a secretary, Rita (“Justified’s” Margo Martindale), who is almost as ruthless and unfeeling as he is. Holt’s only family is his sister (Julie Benz) and her son, and while Holt is willing to provide for them and offer money when needed, he’s cold and dispassionate about it. The only time in his life that Michael was a decent person, it seems, was when he was with his ex-wife, Anna (Jennifer Ehle), who was a doctor for low-income families. He split from her a decade prior, however, because he couldn’t deal with being married.
One night, however, Anna re-enters his life and, in doing so, begins to bring out his kindness again. The catch, of course, is that he soon finds out that Anna is dead. She’s visiting him from afterlife’s limbo, asking Michael to help her complete her unfinished life. Subsequently, Michael finds that he’s balancing the needs of his wealthy, demanding patients and with those of Anna’s impoverished former ones.
See what I mean about the premise?
But the thing is, if you can overlook the “Ghost Whisperer” element, “A Gifted Man” is sharply written, compelling, and well acted, thanks largely to a very strong cast anchored by Wilson and Margo Martindale. It has all the makings of a sappy supernatural show, but at least with the pilot, director Jonathan Demme deftly ratchets down the sentimentality.
What I don’t know, however, is if “A Gifted Man” will be able to build on its pilot with a less capable director. There’s too much potential here for a medical iteration of “Touched by an Angel,” and I’m not sure that Martindale and Wilson can do much to prevent it. For now, though: I’m going to keep checking in until “A Gifted Man” gives me reason not to do so. If the pilot episode is any indication, it’s at least a more entertaining and less frustrating show than it’s time-slot competitor, “Fringe.”