September 17, 2012



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THE MOB DOCTOR:  Monday 9PM on FOX – Worth A Look


THE MOB DOCTOR may be the busiest pilot of the season.  The idea hatched by creators Josh Berman and Rob Wright (previously of Drop Dead Diva and a host of crime shows, including Bones and Crossing Jordan) is to graft a thriller onto a hospital procedural, in the person of Dr. Grace Devlin (Jordana Spiro).  Grace is the kind of heroic, fearless young surgeon we’re used to seeing in a hundred medical shows, but in her private life, Grace has also pledged her medical talents to the Chicago mob in order to save her brother (Jesse Lee Soffer) from their vengeance.  The pilot may set a record for the number of times Grace has to interrupt a conversation when her cell phone rings, with a curt “Wait–I have to take this.”  If it’s not a medical crisis for one of her patients, it’s a call ordering her to pull a screwdriver out of some thug’s head–you know how it is.

This is all fairly idiotic, but it makes for a fun hour.  What’s less clear is whether Mob Doctor will be able to sustain as a series.  The medical part of the story is familiar stuff, as Grace butts heads with an egotistical senior surgeon responsible for a patient’s death and alienates a rich-girl rival (Jaime Lee Kirchner), while she protects the interests of another patient even at the risk of her romance with Dr. Brett Robinson (Zach Gilford, from Friday Night Lights).  The pilot ramps up the excitement by making her criminal assignment for the week not to heal an injured crook but to murder a witness who’s in the hospital for surgery.  SPOILER ALERT, she doesn’t kill him, and that leads to open conflict with the mob boss (Michael Rappaport) and puts her own life in danger.  But by the end of the hour, it’s pretty clear that she won’t face that particular life-or-death conflict again, and now she’s under the wing of dangerous but less-crazy Godfather Alexander Constantine (William Forsythe, not quite as colorful as he was on Boardwalk Empire).  The pilot doesn’t do much to indicate how her regular criminal duties will be as compelling on a weekly basis.  Also, the show doesn’t care to delve into the idea that Grace might have a darkness of her own that likes working on the other side of the law (we never believe for a moment she’ll harm that witness), which would have made everything much more interesting.

No one’s going to be expecting Peabody Awards for this one, and one has to be nervous about a pilot that doesn’t clearly set out what it’s series is going to be like–there certainly isn’t an ounce of originality in the medical stories so far.  Still, it’s a new spin on the old genre, Spiro has spirit and a convincing amount of stubbornness as Grace, and the supporting cast includes Zeljko Ivanek (as the Chief of Surgery) as well as Forsythe and Gilford, so she’s surrounded by strong actors.  The pace of the pilot, directed by Michael Dinner, races along from crisis to crisis.  If Mob Doctor can stay diverting once its regular plotlines are in place, it could draw fans of the kind of genre shows that air on USA and TNT. 

Mob Doctor is quite compatible with the workplace murder/comedy of its lead-in Bones, and other than the last gasps of Gossip Girl on CW, it won’t face any directly competitive programming on the other networks.  While The Voice will own the hour, a light drama like this could find a niche against the reality shows on NBC and ABC and sitcoms on CBS.  The show is, to be sure, not an offer that can’t be refused, but it’s one some viewers may be willing to take.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."