Review: A Gifted Man 1×1

A procedural - with a ghost

A Gifted Man

In the US: Fridays, 8/7c, CBS

CBS, the home of the procedural TV show, has been a little bit strapped for medical procedures. It’s tried in the past with shows such as 3 Lbs , but they’ve never really stuck.

So desperate are they for a medical procedure, it would seem, that they’re willing to take something with just a hint of medical procedure to it and revamp it to fit the new mould.

Take A Gifted Man. Now on the face of it, this is a supernatural/spiritual tale of life choices and redemption. Patrick Wilson (The Watchmen) is a rich and indeed gifted neurosurgeon, at the top of his profession. He’s divorced, he’s a complete dick, he doesn’t have many friends and he treats his sister (Julie Benz) and her son like crap, but he’s doing well for himself at least. Then one day, he bumps into his ex-wife (Jennifer Ehle from Pride and Prejudice) and they have dinner together.

But the next day, he discovers she’s been dead for two weeks. After having the necessary brain scans, he comes to the conclusion that she really is a ghost and begins to re-evaluate his life choices, his attitudes to the poor, his family, his friends, his employees and in fact life itself.

Except that’s not good enough for CBS, so on top of that, he has to do three to four exciting, brain-related medical procedures per show on top of that.

Here’s a trailer.

A GIFTED MAN is a drama about a brilliant, charismatic surgeon whose life changes forever when his deceased ex-wife begins teaching him the meaning of life from the “hereafter.” Michael Holt (Patrick Wilson) is an exceptional doctor who lives a materialistic life of luxury thanks to his work-obsessed career and powerful and wealthy patients; however, Michael’s ordered world is rocked when his ex-wife, Anna (Jennifer Ehle), an idealistic free-clinic doctor and the love of his life, mysteriously appears to him. Michael’s off-beat sister, Christina (Julie Benz), a single mom to her teenaged son, Milo (Liam Aiken), is thrilled that Anna’s back in her brother’s life, even as an “illusion,” because Michael was always a better person with her. Curious about Michael’s sudden change in behavior is his efficient assistant, Rita (Margo Martindale). When Anna asks Michael to go to her clinic to help keep it running, he meets Autumn (Afton Williamson), a volunteer carrying on Anna’s work with the underprivileged. Touched by those in need and accepting of Anna’s compassionate “presence,” Michael’s attitude toward serving the rich and poor is turned upside down, and he begins to see that there’s room in his life for everyone. Academy Award nominee Susannah Grant (“Erin Brockovich”), Academy Award winner Jonathan Demme (“The Silence of the Lambs”), Sarah Timberman, Carl Beverly and Neal Baer (“ER”) are executive producers for CBS Television Studios.

Is it any good?
In common with most CBS dramas, it’s very nicely made and has some good actors. When it focuses on Wilson and Ehle, it’s very good; when it focuses on the medical, it’s indistinguishable from any other medical drama you might see on TV. But ironically, as well as the conflict between procedural and spiritual, it’s quite schizophrenic. It doesn’t know what it wants to be.

On the one hand, it wants to be a show about ghosts and the afterlife, saying that yes, ghosts are real, heaven is real and we need to act accordingly; on the other, it wants to poo poo it and laugh at it, saying that such beliefs are the realm of shamans, quacks and idiots. Whether it’s trying to tread its own agnostic path, saying that yes, all this ghost stuff is real, but no traditional beliefs understand it, or whether it’s simply hedging its bets so as to try to not offend anyone, isn’t clear.

At the moment, though, it’s a slow burner. Wilson hasn’t yet truly seen the light but it looks like he’s on the way. Most of the first episode is introduction, showing us what a dick Wilson is until Ehle’s Ghost of Marley turns up to begin his rehabilitation – or at least to carry on with her helping of the poor. Wilson is compelling, Ehle is very likeable. The supporting cast and characters, with the exception of Benz (formerly signed up as a regular until CBS’s shift of emphasis towards a procedure has downgraded her to recurring), are lacking in any real development or noteworthiness. It alternates between compelling and unoriginal, between absorbing and utterly ignorable -whether you’ll enjoy it or not depends on how much of one you can cope while having to deal with the other.

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that it’s not going to last very long, just like all of CBS’s other medical procedurals. It’s just not interesting enough, at least not for a series – it might have been an interesting mini-series. Certainly, though, it’s worth tuning in, if you have nothing else to do, just to watch Wilson and Ehle.


  • Rob Buckley

    I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.

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