REVIEW: A Gifted Man (CBS – Friday, 8:00 p.m.)

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. – CBS

88 out of 100

It’s rare that a show lives up to the hype generated by its trailer so completely that a critic could simply watch a trailer to do a review of the show and be spot-on.  What’s even rarer is when a show is actually better than the trailer and the network undersells it.  That’s what’s going on with A Gifted Man.

As noted in our Fall preview, we knew A Gifted Man looked like a winner, we just had no idea how charming it would be in so many ways.

Now, if you take away the ghost-of-the-dead-ex-wife scenario, the premise doesn’t come off as particularly original.  Successful and arrogant doctor who once was full of passion and had a heart of gold has dramatic event -“X” happen in his life and makes him re-evaluate his life and go back to his roots and work to do nothing but help people regardless of the bottom line, yadda, yadda.  Most recently, Everwood comes to mind (shoot, the wife dying was the dramatic event in that, as well) and in a non-medical scenario, the crappy Harry’s Law and Eli Stone come to mind.  Sharing a similar theme but going back two decades we have Northern Exposure and of course the 1991 film, Doc Hollywood (which The CW just couldn’t resist when they greenlit Hart of Dixie).

But Anna Paul (the ghost) is what sets A Gifted Man apart from its predecessors.  One thing to note is that despite the trailer, Holt isn’t as nearly as much of a prick as you would think he would be.  He actually comes off as a sympathetic lost soul more than anything else and Anna is there to give him the push he needs in the right direction.  He’s a man who’s lost his way and his sense of purpose and of course that brings us to the basic premise of this morality play that would be best suited to star James Stewart: success, money and power are fleeting and what truly matters is what we do for others while we are here during this very short time we have.

That’s pretty powerful stuff for the prime time television and more surprising, this is a very spiritual and – dare we say it – religiously themed show.  Think about it.  The premise of the show is that there is indeed an afterlife and what we do with the time we have determines where we end in that afterlife.  There hasn’t been this kind of in-your-face non-secular dramatic program on television since Touched By an Angel.  Sure, there have been shows like Medium and Ghost Whisperer but they really don’t deal with the fundamental issues of our existence like A Gifted Man does at its heart.

It is simply impossible not to enjoy this show.  It’s a wonderful break from the downtrodden premise of dramatic television in general.  It’s uplifting and although it has its fair share of dramatic scenarios, you get the sense that no matter what happens, it was kind of meant to be.  The spirituality of the show brings about a great sense of peace.

The show has been brilliantly cast (this has been a recurring theme for most of the shows this Fall) with everyone from 2010 Emmy Winner Margo Martindale (Justified) to Dexter’s Julie Benz to fantastic character actor Pablo Schreiber (The Wire, Lights Out).

Finally, and back to the spirituality theme, the show leaves the audience with more questions than it does answers which is probably the biggest litmus test for good story-telling.  When the audience is introspective after an episode, the writers have done their job.

You may see mixed reviews from other critics about A Gifted Man.  Ignore them.  Any disdain for this show is just the cynicism of the reviewer creeping in and the media’s general vitriol that they direct toward anything that has a spiritual context.  A Gifted Man is a wonderful show for the whole family.

You can watch full episodes of A Gifted Man, here.

10 comments on “REVIEW: A Gifted Man (CBS – Friday, 8:00 p.m.)

  1. Pingback: CBS Renews 18 Shows For 2012 – 2013 Season: Person Of Interest, NCIS, Hawaii Five-o, Blue Bloods, More… | TV-Tastic

  2. I LOVE this show and I have been waiting for Eposide 17 to air and nothing! I am very disappointed. What’s going on?

    • Shows how much I’ve been paying attention. I have 18 episodes in my DVR. I must have recorded reruns. I knew that it had only gotten an order for 16 but I assumed that I had missed news on an order for the normal 22.

      Yeah, it’s dead for all intents and purposes. It wasn’t announced as renewed when CBS announced the 18 shows they had picked up for next year and to make matters worse, Julie Benz has been cast in the SyFy epic series, Defiance which begins shooting in April.

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