Mid-season drama Good Sam finally made its debut last night, but those among us who anticipated our own heaping helping of teary-eyed smiling throughout CBS’ new medical drama pilot were left disappointedly dry eyed. In fact, were it not for the occasional appearance of a patient or two, one might be forgiven for thinking CBS’ latest venture is a breezy comedy instead.
Starring Sopia Bush and Jason Isaacs as father-daughter surgeon duo Dr. Rob “Griff” Griffith and Dr. Sam Griffith, the new series sets out to explore the fraught relationship between this sparring chalk and cheese pair.
Head of surgery Griff is brilliant and gifted, but he’s also an insufferable and arrogant know-it-all who refuses to take any opinions other than his own, and views the compassionate nature of his daughter Sam as weakness. In fact, the pair are so at odds as the show premieres that Sam is considering moving to another hospital in oder to get out from under her father’s extra long shadow.
However when Griff is shot by a mentally ill patient (whom we simply never hear from again, fyi) he falls into a coma, leaving room for Sam to step into his chief of surgery shoes in his absence. This drama might have ended there if Griff had not woken up six months later, telenovela style, anxious to resume his duties on the very same night of Sam’s formal acceptance of his role.
Now there are two Griffiths doing the rounds, correcting the residents, bickering over treatments, and breathing down each other’s necks during surgery. You get the point.
Griff, who we learn was absent for much of his daughter’s upbringing, can’t seem to distinguish between being a great surgeon and being a great dad, and feels the best way to help his child is to make her a better doc. However in doing so, he fails repeatedly to see that Sam is already a capable surgeon in her own right, and that he’s probably just an asshole.
The pilot episode breezes along at a lighthearted pace and drops an upbeat musical tempo at intervals just in case we become tempted to take Griff and Sam’s upsetting and potentially deadly bickering seriously. “Don’t worry,” plink the cheery strings in the background of the latest row. “This is a funny moment! There’s no need to feel upset!”
Even the patients don’t seem to mind the hospital’s goings on too much. It’s only the residents who find themselves torn between father and daughter as they argue over how best to not kill their latest patient while the others stand awkwardly around, or are forced to vote on the next course of action like contestants on Survivor. But even that particular area of potential tension is dissolved when Sam reminds everyone of their strengths, and encourages them all to pull together for the best outcome.
There is a brief moment towards the third act where Sam discovers her best friend once had a secret relationship with Griff (who we learn is long divorced from Sam’s inexplicably doting mother). Sam is upset and betrayed, but we are left wondering why. It doesn’t matter, as when we next see these besties together Sam has forgiven her fully adult single friend for having a brief relationship with another fully adult single man. Phew!
Meanwhile, Sam may be experiencing the beginnings of a love dilemma of her own when her previously selfish, tardy and non-committal resident boyfriend wants to start things up again just as Sam meets someone new, mature, handsome and rich. Hmm.. Now there’s a quandary.
Although Bush and Isaacs make for a pretty compelling father daughter duo, the show seems reluctant to want to show us the uglier parts of the standard medical drama formula we have come to expect on New Amsterdam, The Resident and others. (Sidenote: I watched the pilot twice before I was able to locate the name of the hospital. It’s Lakeshore Sentinel, as seen clearly for the first time in the closing seconds of the hour, almost as an afterthought.)
The accidental(?) result of this laser focus on relationship dynamics is that the show effectively anaesthetises its audience to such a degree we feel no pain. Or much of any other emotion. For fans of medical dramas who come to the TV expecting expecting guts, glory and blood-spattered docs yelling “Breathe dammit!” as heart monitors flatline and relatives clutch each other tearfully, Good Sam may leave you feeling comfortably numb instead.
TVPulse Magazine Grade: C+
Good Sam continues Wednesdays, (10:00-11:00 PM, ET/PT) on CBS.