REVIEW: ‘The Mob Doctor’ (FOX – Monday, 9:00 p.m.)

EDITORIAL NOTE: To understand how we do our reviews, please refer to our review of Revolution, here.

For most physicians, the Hippocratic oath is sacred. But for one Chicago doctor, who is indebted to the mafia, saving lives isn’t her only concern. THE MOB DOCTOR is a fast-paced medical drama featuring a brilliant young female cardiothoracic surgeon who is split between two distinct worlds as she juggles her promising medical career with her lifelong debt as a doctor to Chicago’s Southside mob. DR. GRACE DEVLIN (Jordana Spiro, “My Boys”) is a top resident at Chicago’s Roosevelt Medical Center. Smart and self-assured, she’s heralded as one of the country’s most promising young surgeons. But family ties keep her glued to her Southside roots. To pay off her brother’s life-threatening gambling debt, she makes a deal with the devil and agrees to work “off book” for the mafia men she once despised.  During the day, Grace must deal with the emotionally compelling cases at Roosevelt Medical – a toddler in need of a heart transplant, an elderly man desperate to donate a lung to his sick wife, the mass chaos in the wake of a two-train collision on the ‘L.’ But in her other vastly different world, she must juggle an onslaught of mob-related demands, including operating in mob-sanctioned locations, removing bullets from dead bodies to hide incriminating evidence, saving a juiced-up race horse and covertly helping an aging mobster with his erectile dysfunction. All the while, Grace must keep her dual life a secret from everyone: her protective best friend, NURSE ROBERTA “RO” ANGELI (Floriana Lima, “Glory Daze”); her handsome, blue-blooded boyfriend, DR. BRETT ROBINSON (Zach Gilford, “Off The Map,” “Friday Night Lights”); her boss at Roosevelt Medical and Chief of Surgery, DR. STAFFORD WHITE (Zeljko Ivanek, “The Event,” “Damages”); her rival, DR. OLIVIA WATSON (Jaime Lee Kirchner, “Necessary Roughness,” “Mercy”); even her well-meaning screw-up brother, NATE (Jesse Lee Soffer, “As the World Turns”), and her overly dramatic mother, DANIELLA (Wendy Makkena, “NCIS”). The only one who knows the true scope of Grace’s activities is the man to whom Grace owes her debt: the charming and diabolical Southside mob boss CONSTANTINE ALEXANDER (William Forsythe, “Boardwalk Empire”), an oddly compassionate killer whose relationship with Grace is more than it seems. Recently released from prison, the former head of the Chicago mob looks to reclaim his place in the organization, with the help of his right-hand associate – and Grace’s ex-boyfriend – FRANCO (James Carpinello, “The Good Wife”). As Grace tries to heed the demands of these two conflicting worlds – not to mention the needs of her own slightly dysfunctional family – her moral center comes into direct conflict with the very immoral things she’s asked to do. But with nerves of steel and a tough-as-nails exterior, she somehow manages to make it all work – at least for now. – FOX

Score:     18 out of 100

Initial Impressions (June 5, 2012):  Oh, how we really wanted to look forward to this show… then we got a minute into the trailer.  This is just going to be stupid.  It looks like an idiotic and cartoonish attempt to combine The Chicago Code and Prison Break.  Let’s just dispense with the dopey premise right off the bat:  the Mafia doesn’t kill people who owe them money because you can’t collect from a dead guy, ergo, there is no life-threatening gambling debt as described above. If you need a television reference for this, we refer you to how the Newark crew dealt with Danny Scatino’s (Robert Patrick) gambling debt in The Sopranos.  And holy crap did they honestly just use the quote, “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely?”  While we’re at it, let’s quote some clichéd bits from Sun Tzu’s The Art of War because that hasn’t been done enough in film and television, either.

Shawn: The Mob Doctor  has once again this season taken us by surprise as a series that turned out even worse than it looked in the trailer.  First, you know it’s a bad sign when in the opening scene of the of the pilot they show a flashback to our protagonist as a child attempting to close the eyes on the dead body she found in a field (her father) and the actor playing said corpse closes them himself in advance.  Normally, I’d point and laugh at this major principle photography and editing flaw as one of those cases where the producers have completely forgotten that crap like that really stands out in HD TV… but then for giggles I went back on watched it OnDemand in SD and it was still as obvious as it was the first time. Seriously?  What I immediately realized was that this was a harbinger of how lazy, awful and amateurishly produced this pilot would be.

Once you get past this scene, it’s really all downhill for this show.  The first thing that stands out is that the series is based upon a biographical non-fiction book, Il Dottore: The Double Life of a Mafia Doctor by Ron Felber, about a Jewish kid from Brooklyn who witnesses a murder and keeps quiet about it and then eventually willingly becomes the Mafia’s go-to-guy for medical care.

From Amazon:

A respected thoracic surgeon and also a Mafia confidant, Elliot Litner was a self-described “nerdy, Jewish kid from the Bronx” who’d witnessed a slaying as a boy yet kept mum, impressing local hoodlums; later, his acquaintance with mobsters’ sons provided entree to New York’s Cosa Nostra during its heyday. In 1971, while a surgical resident, Litner helped Gambino family associates establish clandestine abortion clinics. Soon, Litner was the Gambinos’ go-to for sensitive medical emergencies and even served as a courier for the family. His enthusiasm for the gangsters’ rough-edged lifestyle wrecked his marriage, even as his career was, according to Felber, abetted by hospital associates with mob connections. In an overwrought narrative, Felber (The Privacy War, etc.) alternates depictions of Litner’s divided life with the narrative of how Paul Castellano unwisely divided the Gambino family into white collar and “muscle” crews. This led to open warfare in the 1980s, Castellano’s assassination and Rudy Giuliani’s devastating RICO prosecutions. Things climaxed for Litner in 1986, when he was asked to engineer an “accident” during surgery on Giuliani witness Ralph Scopo, the request accompanied by John Gotti’s threats. Litner’s story, though provocative, is related with melodrama and purple prose and sheds little new light on figures like Castellano and Gotti.

Now, to suggest that they’ve taken some liberties with this plot would be an understatement but notice how in comparison to the book synopsis, the show description jumps around all over the place and in the end really bears no resemblance to the original material.  The show is no different.

Besides being poorly written with embarrassing performances all the way around, the show is so all over the place that it’s nearly impossible to keep up with.  There were no less than five different subplots going on in the pilot and I had no idea what the point of any of it was.  Seriously, if you’re going to have a show called The Mob Doctor, try not to bore the ever-living sh*t out of us with a sub-story about hospital bureaucracy and politics.  Also, being cute by naming your main character with a dichotomous first and last name (Grace Devlin) isn’t fooling anyone and it’s the laziest of lazy metaphors.

To make matters worse, in an attempt to flesh-out some kind of sense of righteousness for the main character, they actually present the audience with a scenario where a young girl gets pregnant and they have to perform a surgery to terminate an ectopic  pregnancy and our young doctor takes it upon herself to lie to the girl’s father about the surgery they have to perform because he’s afraid of how the Roman Catholic will react toward the daughter (and some nonsense about losing her scholarship to a prep school).  I’ve never seen anything so absurd in my life.  In one fell swoop they intentionally painted Devlin as completely immoral and unethical with no redeeming value.  I found myself actually rooting for Moretti (Michael Rappaport) to catch up with her in the car chase near the end of the episode and shoot her right in the forehead.  The lesson to be learned with this is that it’s usually a bad thing if your audience is looking forward to your protagonist’s death… in the pilot.

Overall, it’s obvious that this show was created by committee.  Just a bunch of writers sitting around jotting ideas down on Post-its, pinning them to a corkboard and then  just trying to cut and paste them into a script and call it a series.  It literally seems as if they used rejected plotlines from other television shows to try to hobble something together resembling a pilot.  America, this is how stupid Hollywood thinks you are that they will just slap any old crap together in procedural format and expect that you’ll watch it.

Chance of Renewal: 0%

This show already has terrible ratings and you know how FOX deals with those.  The only question is what’s going to take its spot in the timeslot within the next few weeks when it gets canceled with FOX having announced that Touch won’t be returning until January.

Watch full episodes of The Mob Doctor, here.

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