by Julia Vaccarella ’20
With the arrival of fall each year comes a stream of new television shows. Although it is still somewhat early in the season, audiences this year have been extremely receptive to the new ABC show The Good Doctor, which premiered on Sept. 25. Created by David Shore, who also worked on the hit series House, The Good Doctor seems to be the new best hospital drama on TV.
The Good Doctor stars 25-year-old Freddie Highmore, who has taken on the character of Dr. Shaun Murphy, a hopeful doctor recently hired as a surgical resident at St. Bonaventure Hospital in San Jose. Highmore has worked in both film and television over the years and is extremely well-known for his role as the main character Norman on Bates Motel, an A&E series which concluded in April of this year.
However, Shaun Murphy is not your average doctor, as he happens to have autism disorder and savant syndrome, a condition in which a person demonstrates extordinary campabilities that do not amount to the average human being. Therefore, this enables him to perform medical miracles because he sees things in an entirely different manner than other doctors.
The Good Doctor is one of several recent shows that focus on young people who have autism. In addition to The Good Doctor there is Atypical, a Netflix series released earlier this year. Both shows aim to illustrate the idea that people with autism can lead normal lives just like everyone else.
In the episodes released thus far, Highmore’s character must navigate through difficulties in communication and social norms, which are important qualities for doctors. He must also face the stigma associated with autism, which is represented most directly by the other doctors on the show.
Another cast member of the The Good Doctor is Richard Schiff, who plays Dr. Aaron Glassman, president of St. Bonaventure Hospital. Glassman has known Murphy since he was a child and shows confidence in his abilities. He serves as Shaun’s biggest advocate and is essentially the person responsible for getting the rest of the hospital board to hire him and give him a chance at becoming a great surgeon.
A big part of the success surrounding The Good Doctor comes from the fact that neurotypicals (those who do not have autism) are interested in watching media that portrays people with autism and learning more about the complexities of it.
Lisa Goring, the mother of an autistic boy and director of the Family Services program at Autism Speaks, tells TV Guide, “We‘re excited people with autism [are] being portrayed.“
On the night the first episode aired, The Good Doctor ranked as ABC’s most watched Monday drama debut in 21 years, replacing Dangerous Minds, which aired September 1996.
The show also had the highest rating in the 18-49 age category in over eight years. With these remarkable ratings, it is evident that The Good Doctor is a must watch.