|A Gifted Man - "Pilot"||1 out of 1 user found this review helpful.|
A Gifted Man is the best drama pilot I’ve seen so far this fall, it’s beautifully directed by Jonathan Demme and while there are a few unnecessary and overly sentimental sequences it’s well written. Patrick Wilson’s also strong as the lead of the show, managing to get across his character’s rough personality while showcasing why he’s not an entirely unlikable jerk. This is about as assured and enjoyable a pilot as I can imagine this kind of show being. Which makes it all the more frustrating to say that A Gifted Man is probably not going to be a good TV show. A good movie, probably, but sadly that’s not what it ended up being.
It comes down to the fact that it’s a TV series on CBS, and while CBS has a fantastic drama series, and probably the best drama on network TV at that, in The Good Wife, I’m just not sure that Patrick Wilson’s ghost aided surgery is going to lend itself to weekly installments in the same way that the legal system does. The Good Wife uses its focus on lawyers to get at issues endemic to both the city it’s based in, Chicago, and modern American life, and its fantastic character work elevates the show even further. A Gifted Man’s premise doesn’t really lend itself to dissecting larger social concerns, and that’s not a necessary feature of great TV, but that means it has to focus on character and story to succeed. A Gifted Man could indeed manage to have great character work and fun procedural storytelling, but the pilot doesn’t really hint at that, as the weakest parts of it are invariably the scenes where Wilson’s brilliant neurosurgeon Michael Holt starts becoming a better man by listening to his dead wife. There’s a subplot involving him donating his surgical abilities to a family that can’t afford to pay him that’s overdone in more than a few ways, and seeing Michael wrangle a bunch of kids just goes too far too fast in redeeming him and hits all the obvious story notes you could imagine.
Despite that, this pilot really managed to invest me in Michael’s relationship with his now dead ex-wife. Demme utilizes a fantastic technique where Wilson stares straight into the camera many of the times he’s addressing his non-corporeal wife and the effect is both startling and engaging. The pilot in general is beautiful to behold, and Demme just keeps coming up with inventive ways to showcase the drama of what’s unfolding.
That’s the main stumbling block A Gifted Man, and most any pilot nowadays, is going to face. More and more pilots are being helmed by gifted film directors and the shows use that as a way to give them a visual flair that then must be reproduced regularly on the series. That’s a problem though when you have reduced time and budget to do so. Much of what makes A Gifted Man work seems to result from Jonathan Demme’s assured and remarkable presence in the director’s chair, and it’s extremely hard to believe that it’s not going to take a major dip in quality once he’s no longer helming the series and all we’re left with is a CBS procedural about a guy whose a bit of a jerk becoming a better person. There’s a good show there, but while the pilot works, I’m not sure the writing will be up to the task of carrying the show all on its own.
A Gifted Man does have a strong cast though, Wilson is good as previously mentioned, Pablo Schreiber pops up in a role that is aggressively against type as a shaman of sorts, and Margo Martindale’s role is sure to become more and more prominent now that she’s the defending Emmy winner for supporting actress. The actors do a good job of speeding the pilot along gracefully, and while the writing lets them down briefly from time to time they do get a lot of good things to work with. To succeed as a series though they’ll have to be given more to do than just play the same rote notes over and over again, which could very easily become a problem as the series moves forward.
A Gifted Man’s pilot episode is undeniably worth watching, it’s impressive television and there’s a lot to recommend in it. The things that keep it afloat though are hard to replicate for the long term, and that’s very, very worrying. I’d love for it to end up proving me wrong, I’d love nothing more than if every television show were great, but I doubt that’s going to be the case. TV’s a tricky medium to get right, and it’s made even harder when you try to make a great movie and then realize you have to follow that movie up with years, and years of stories.
|Name||A Gifted Man|
|Date of 1st Airing||Sept. 23, 2011|
|Date of Last Airing||March 2, 2012|
|Original Air Day||Friday|
|Original Air Time|
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