September 25, 2012

THE SKED’S PILOT + 1 REVIEW: “The Mob Doctor”

A lot can happen between the creation of a TV pilot in the spring and the production of episodes for the regular season: a writing/producing team is hired, audience focus groups weigh in, networks and studios (which may have had their own turnover) give plenty of notes, helpful and otherwise, and critics begin to rear their ugly heads. The results can include changes to tone, pace, casting, and even story. Here at THE SKED, we’re going to look past the pilots and present reviews of the first regular season episodes as well.’


Previously… on THE MOB DOCTOR:  Dr. Grace Devlin (Jordana Spiro) is a promising Chicago surgical resident who owes a debt to the mob–well, actually the debt belongs to her brother Nate (Jesse Lee Soffer), but Grace is carrying it.  To pay it off, she has to provide medical services to local gangster Constantine (William Forsythe).  Meanwhile, she toils in her real job beside boyfriend Brett (Zach Gilford), under the direction of Dr. White (Zeijko Ivanek).

Episode 2:  Things are a lot less dramatic than in the pilot, where Grace was ordered to murder a mob witness (she didn’t), survived a car chase, and then the original mob boss she owed was killed in front of her by Constantine, who took over her debt.  This time, Grace’s services are inconvenient but only technically illegal:  she has to diagnose and treat a hood (guest star Terry Kinney) doing a deal with Constantine who, it turned out, was being poisoned by his wife because she didn’t like life on the lam.  This involved some Weekend At Bernie‘s-type hijinks as Grace had to smuggle the patient into her hospital under the guise of a dead one.  Meanwhile, her legitimate patient of the week was a bride-to-be whose supposed extreme panic attack down the aisle (bleeding from the eyeballs) was actually the result of a tumor.  All ended well, even if Brett ended up eating a duck dinner alone with Grace’s mom (Wendy Makkena), and the poisoning wife was executed by the bad guys (the body naturally brought in for Grace to pronounce DOA).  In terms of a larger continuing story, Constantine denied he was the one who killed Grace’s father years earlier, and Nate, after finding out about what Grace was doing for him, volunteered to go work for Constantine.

There’s a basic problem with the concept of The Mob Doctor, and it’s even more obvious in the less florid 2d episode, written by series creators Josh Berman and Rob Wright, and directed by pilot director Michael Dinner:  since Grace is entirely disapproving of the mob and feels no temptation whatsoever, there’s no interesting shading to her character at all.  She has no dark side; she’s just a good doctor who has some bad patients.  Add to that the fact that brother Nate appears to be an imbecile of the first order, and that their mother is an utter cliche, and there’s not much to grab onto dramatically.  The death of Grace’s father, 20 years before the series begins, is hardly a fascinating mythology, and the conventional hospital plotlines are just that, conventional.

The Mob Doctor got off to a terrible start in the ratings, and there’s little in the first regular episode that would build an audience.  The cast, headed by Spiro, is proficient, but nobody stands out–in fact, between Gilford and Ivanek among the regulars, and tonight’s guest stars Kinney, Kevin Corrigan and John Benjamin Hickey, the show seems to be trying to waste the maximum possible number of talented actors.  This series may well be headed for intensive care.


PILOT + 1:  Not Worth A 3rd Look

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."