Thursday, September 20, 2012

Welcome to Our Newest Blog Feature: The TeeVee Referee! First Up: "The Mob Doctor"

In the debut episode of the new Fox Channel drama "The Mob Doctor", Chicago resident Grace Devlin (Jordana Spiro) is introduced extracting what appears to be a screwdriver from the temple of some bozo--in a vet's office. Then her phone rings and Grace zips off to her hospital, where she performs surgery on a little kid and over-rules some pompous jerk doctor in order to save the tot's life.

That done, Dr. Devlin's phone rings again and it's her pushy ma (Wendy Makkena). It seems that Susie, a neighbor kid Grace used to babysit, came over to their house and fainted. Ma brought the girl over to the hospital to help out her stressed out dad; his wife recently left him for a female butcher.

Grace learns from Susie's doctor Dr.Brett Robinson (Zach Gilford) that, although the tween is a virgin, she's also pregnant. Viewers will quickly ascertain that Dr. Brett is Dr. Grace's after-hours cuddlemate.

While trying to unravel how a virgin managed to get preggers, Grace's hospital admits a mob informer in need of some super-duper delicate surgery that ONLY Chief of Staff Dr. White (Zeljko Ivanek) and Dr. Devlin can perform. When Grace opens up the stoolie's file, a note falls out. It reads, "Kill Him."

Off like a shot, Grace tracks down a thick-necked wise guy named Moretti (Michael Rapaport). He reminds Grace that her brother is in deep to the mob for gambling debts. To settle his account, she agreed to give the mafia free health care, so to speak. Thus, Grace must kill the informant or the mobsters will kill her brother. Considering what a weenie jerk Grace's brother is, I say whack the sibling and call it good.

In a huff, Dr. Devlin returns to her hospital only to learn that the little boy she saved in the morning is now dead. How? Some pompous jerk doctor gave the tyke a different dosage of medicine than Grace prescribed. Furious, Grace threatens to report the pompous jerk doctor to the medical review board--and is stopped by her Chief of Staff who says her action will accomplish absolutely nothing and will only piss off the pompous jerk doctor even more.

Now, about that pregnant virgin, Susie: Grace tries to explain to the 14 year old that even if she and her boyfriend didn't go "all the way", they still went "enough of the way" that allowed his man juice to slip past her intact hy...Realizing she is getting nowhere, Dr. Devlin tries a "Star Wars" metaphor. Remember when Luke Skywalker demolished the Death Star with that one-in-a-trillion-shot? Well, that's how she got pregnant: her boyfriend unwittingly sent a one-in-a-trillion-shot of man juice and it hit her Death Star.

But, wait, there's more: Susie has just won a swimming scholarship to a Catholic high school and the good Sisters would revoke the offer if they found out she was knocked up. What can she do?

Dr. Grace furrows her brow and then offers up this solution: Dr. Brett will perform a secret abortion on Susie and list it as the removal of "an ovarian cyst." In other words, she wants her cuddlemate to lie to Susie's dad about his daughter's true condition and falsify hospital and insurance records, which is slightly against the law. Dr. Brett hems and haws a bit and then says yes.

This crisis is no sooner solved than Grace's damn phone rings again. It's that thick-necked mobster Moretti who reminds the doc to kill her informer patient or he'll kill her mom--he's at her house right now, in fact. So Dr. Grace jumps into her car, zooms home, sneaks into her backyard and sees that Moretti is indeed holding her mom hostage.

Quick as a wink, Grace jumps back into her car and begins purposefully ramming into near-by parked vehicles. This makes their car alarms go off and Moretti runs out of the Devlin house to see what the hell is going on. Spying Grace, he jumps into his car and the wiseguy and the doctor partake in a very lame version of the "French Connection"s classic car chase. Dr. Devlin  then drag races over to the estate of someone called Constantine (William Forsythe), yelling at the top of her lungs, "Constantine! Constantine! Open the gate!" The gates duly open, but Moretti manages to enter the compound anyway. The two wiseguys argue a bit and then Constantine--a retired mobster who supposedly went straight--shoots the thick-necked Moretti at point blank range. He then coolly tells the dazed Grace to go home, which she does.

End of episode one.

Apparently, the reprehensible Honey Boo Boo isn't the only one sipping spiked "Go-Go Juice" to get through the day. The producers of "The Mob Doctor" obviously came to the conclusion that piling on the plot points and the characters and then pacing their show at Warp speed is the way to go.

They were wrong.

Believe it or not, TV viewers DO NOT have the attention spans of gnats. Given quality writing and interesting characters, viewers are more than happy to let a show unfold at a proper pace.

This high speed approach to 60 minute dramas is not only exhausting to watch, it doesn't give the actors the opportunity to develop their characters beyond the sketchiest of thumb-nail descriptions. Racing back and forth all over Chicago, Dr. Grace is less a character and more like a marble in a pinball machine, ricocheting bumper to bumper without any rhyme or reason. Who is she? What's her story? With all the running around she does, we never find out. Instead, you're left wondering how Grace can still do her job without collapsing in an exhausted heap.

And besides, keeping her gas tank filled up must cost a fortune!

Maybe "The Mob Doctor" wants it that way. With everything happening so fast, viewers won't have time to process the show's flaws, which are considerable. The fancy pants hospital where Grace works doubles as a moral black hole. After all, what healing institution would keep an incompetent doctor on staff just to avoid making him mad? What kind of a doctor would lie about giving a minor a secret abortion, especially when the parent--stressed out or not--is a family friend? Then there is the mob connection. Why does every mob drama have to have an old-time wiseguy who seems more like a grandpa than a hardened killer? And of course the street-smart Grace would hook-up with the rich, sensitive Dr. Brett because opposites attract, right?

The TeeVee Referee's call: pull the plug on "The Mob Doctor"--STAT!!