Sunday, September 25, 2011

A Gifted Man might be a gift

     CBS's newest Friday night drama is A Gifted Man. The titular guy is Michael Holt (Patrick Wilson, Watchmen, Phantom of the Opera), a very talented and successful brain surgeon. Michael is visited by ex-wife, Anna (Jennifer Ehle, The King's Speech), only to learn that she died two weeks ago. Michael's sister, Christina (Julie Benz, Angel, Dexter) is excited, knowing that Michael was a better person than with Anna, and definitely buying the whole "visited by the dead" thing. Michael asks Christina's friend (Pablo Schreiber, Weeds, The Wire) to extract Anna. But as Anna pushes Michael to help those in need at her clinic, Michael decides to let her stay.
     A Gifted Man brings to mind the too-quickly-canceled drama Eli Stone. Both involve messages from the supernatural world pushing the main character to be a better person, even though their life is going quite well up til then. There are major differences between the two, to be sure, so this new series cannot be called a copy. But for fans still mourning the loss of Eli, this might just be the best they're going to get.

     It's not that Michael is a terrible person, exactly. He's just a bit of a jerk, and is just now realizing that maybe replacing living a life with living a career is a mistake. As such, he soon begins helping patients from Anna's clinic. To what extent Michael will go remains to be seen. He does not seem anxious to quit his own practice, probably a good thing, considering that is what is making him all the money. But maybe he can start funneling some of the profit, or his seemingly large salary, into avenues to assist the less fortunate. It's likely to be a slow process. Otherwise, A Gifted Man would be a movie instead of a television show. But there is plenty of room to grow.

     All of this means A Gifted Man will not be a standard procedural. It is on CBS, so there are sure to be elements. Michael may end up helping a new patient every week. But there are also bound to be many other elements. Considering it wasn't too long that Ghost Whisperer occupied the same slot, and it was allowed to be character driven, this bodes well for A Gifted Man.

     Wilson is a gifted actor, and handle the plot very well. Ehle doesn't seem to be as good, but perhaps the qualities that can appear weaknesses to some, will be chalked up by others as her talking from the "other side." It will be interesting to see how Schreiber's character fits into the fix, perhaps helping Anna and Michael connect and better communicate will be his mission.

     The only real regret going into this is that Margo Martindale is locked into a main character role as a secretary. Just coming off her Emmy-winning, layered performance on Justified, this definitely seems like a step backwards. Surely, her talents are far above this level. However, since only the "Pilot" had aired, it is possible that there something much deeper planned for her, as unlikely as that might seem.

     The fifth main character, Kate (Rachelle Lefevre, Off the Map, Twilight), will join the cast next week. Watch A Gifted Man Fridays at 8 p.m. ET on CBS.

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