A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Good Doctor is a medical drama with all the usual trappings: workplace romances, bloody surgery scenes, and disagreements between the lower-level staff and the upper management. The main character, Dr. Shaun Murphy, is a young man with autism and savant syndrome, and the show examines the challenges he faces trying to work alongside his neurotypical peers who don't always understand the way he behaves (he's referred to as "really weird" by one). There are childhood flashbacks involving bullying and abusive family members.
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What's the story?
In THE GOOD DOCTOR, Dr. Shaun Murphy (Freddie Highmore) -- an aspiring surgeon with a double diagnosis of autism and savant syndrome -- leaves his isolated life in the country for a job in the pediatric ward at San Jose's prestigious St. Bonaventure Hospital. He finds himself working alongside colleagues who are either curious about and befuddled by his atypical social behaviors -- like fellow residents Claire (Antonia Thomas) and Jared (Chuku Modu) -- or openly hostile, like the attending surgeon who brusquely informs Shaun that he has no intention of ever letting him actually perform surgery in his operating room. His only real advocate is a mentor from childhood, hospital president Dr. Aaron Glassman (Richard Schiff). Dr. Glassman puts his own job on the line when trying to convince the reluctant hospital board that they should be hiring Shaun not in spite of his differences, but because of them.
Is it any good?
While it may follow the same contrived formula that so many hospital dramas have relied on, this show is elevated by Freddie Highmore's genuine, sweet, and thoughtful performance. Autism is a spectrum disorder, and as such, no two autistic people are alike -- everyone has different personalities, behaviors, and levels of functioning -- which means that no show is going to get autistic characters "right" 100% of the time. This show is no exception. Add in the fact that the lead character also has savant syndrome, meaning that he conveniently exhibits above-average skills in certain areas (in his case, an encyclopedic medical memory), and it would be easy to criticize The Good Doctor for making what some in the autism community have termed "inspiration porn."
There's also the fact that the show relies on the idea of a "quirky doctor who's bad with people, but great with medicine." Dr. Murphy's relationship with his mentor Dr. Glassman is warm, and while the doctor is fervently outspoken in his belief that his skeptical colleagues need to learn to accept Shaun, he doesn't make the mistake of speaking for him, as if he's helpless -- a detail that may seem small, but that makes his advocacy and their bond ring true. If they can continue to examine Shaun's interior life and how he navigates his challenging new environment without turning his behavior into a punchline, they may have a solid show on their hands.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about diversity in the workplace, and why it's important. What does it mean to be "neurodivergent"? Why is it important to hire differently abled people?
How do you feel about the show's portrayal of someone with autism? Was it stereotypical, or more nuanced? Did Shaun remind you of any autistic people you have known?
Some characters in The Good Doctor debate openly about Shaun and his merits while he is in the room -- almost as if he isn't there. Do you think there is something about Shaun's behavior that makes them feel emboldened to act in this way? Why might this be considered offensive?
For kids who love medical dramas
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