Stars: Patrick Wilson, Jennifer Ehle, Margo Martindale, Rachel Lefevre, Julie Benz, Pablo Schreiber
Writer: Susannah Grant
Director: Jonathan Demme
Network: CBS, Fridays @ 8 PM
Original Telecast: September 23, 2011
CBS has had very good luck with ghosts in its Friday 8 PM time slot – GHOST WHISPERER ran for five seasons – so it makes sense for them to put A GIFTED MAN there. However, unlike the older show’s Melinda Gordon, MAN’s protagonist, surgeon Michael Holt (Patrick Wilson), can only see one ghost. We see Michael at work being rude, pushy, oblivious to others, even to his terrific secretary Rita (Margo Martindale), though he is brilliant at his life-saving job in his high-tech clinic for the super-wealthy. Then Michael encounters his ex-wife Anna (Jennifer Ehle). He lights up, they go to supper together, it’s a great reunion. Then Michael discovers that Anna died two weeks earlier.
Michael has a lot of trouble accepting what’s going on here, particularly when Anna keeps appearing to him. Her apparent purpose in coming back from the beyond and not “moving on” is to get Michael to go to the free clinic for the poor where she’s been working so he can unlock her computer password. When Michael does finally go to the clinic, he winds up offering to treat an uninsured little boy with a serious condition and the boy’s family for free at the upscale facility where he works. Anna approves.
While this return to medical ethics over profit is certainly a beloved and worthy fantasy, it’s a little hard to see how this dynamic is going to work going forward. At least in the pilot, A GIFTED MAN is slightly coy as to whether Anna is an actual ghost, with the potential for her own agenda outside of Michael, or simply a Jiminy Cricket-style conscience. It would be a lot more interesting if Michael had the ability to impact Anna, instead of strictly the other way round, but at least right now, that doesn’t seem to be part of the premise. Since we see that Michael has practically no life outside of his work, we don’t know yet of any other areas where Anna could wield her influence, and the dynamic seems pretty clear-cut at present.
Luckily, Wilson is very adroit at portraying stoic-seeming men who are roiling with conflicting emotions under the surface. He’s intriguing to watch here (not to mention fun for anybody who saw him grappling with very different ghosts early this year in INSIDIOUS). Ehle brings what can best be termed as a state of grace to Anna – she is warm, sincere and likable, while providing just the right dose of the ethereal to go with the character’s current condition. Martindale, who just collected a much-deserved Supporting Actress Emmy for her work on JUSTIFIED, seems extraordinarily underused, but we can hope this will be rectified in future episodes. Julie Benz is a lot of fun in her recurring role as Michael’s bubbly, open-minded sister Christina and Pablo Schreiber is likewise enjoyable as the medium Christina brings into the situation.
Watching the characters in A GIFTED MAN is diverting, even though what they do in the pilot is very predictable. However, the series is brought to us by gifted people – writer Susannah Grant of ERIC BROCKOVICH and director Jonathan Demme of THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS are among the top names here – so perhaps all these gifted people will make something more of the show as it goes forward.
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Article: TV Review – A GIFTED MAN – Season 1 – Series Premiere