A Gifted Man: Not So Gifted!

When I first heard the plot description of A Gifted Man, I grimaced—brilliant neurosurgeon begins seeing his dead ex-wife, who sets him on a new path in life. But I love series star Patrick Wilson, an underappreciated character actor who has done great work in film and theater. And I was hearing positive buzz, even from those who admitted the premise wasn’t all that appealing.

So I gave it a chance, and I say this as someone who was dubious from the get-go: It's not very good. The cast is great, yes—not only Patrick Wilson, but (Emmy Award winner!) Margo Martindale and Julie Benz. The pilot, which aired Friday night on CBS, was definitely well made. Kudos to director Jonathan Demme, who did a solid job with the material. The script is what’s lacking. Well, that, and the basic conceit.

I usually approach pilots with the understanding that they have to incorporate a lot of exposition and set up stories for the next several episodes; they’re often overly dense, and even the dramas I currently enjoy didn’t necessarily start out so hot. But A Gifted Man’s first episode was painted with such broad strokes that it felt more like a Lifetime Movie of the Week than the beginning of a TV series. And the characters, who needed to be strong enough to draw me into the premise, were too flat to merit much interest.

Wilson’s character, Michael Holt, is an accomplished surgeon who sometimes fails to see the bigger picture. We’ve seen this before—a lot. I guess it’s more of a primetime soap standby (Everwood, the also-new-this-season Hart of Dixie), but it’s been done. Everything changes when Michael starts seeing his ex-wife, Anna (Jennifer Ehle), who, as Michael soon learns, died two weeks before her first spectral visit. But his reaction to this ghostly presence is a frustrating reiteration of his pragmatic, scientific take on life. Yes, we get it: We don’t need Michael delivering such painful lines as, “Anna, I’m a doctor. People put their lives in my hands. I can’t be [dramatic pause] irrational.” Later, when his friend Ron dies, Michael cries, “No, there is a logic and there are rules!” I have a harder time believing that anyone really talks like this than I do accepting the ghost wife thing.

The other characters are equally two-dimensional. Michael’s flaky sister Christina (Julie Benz) instantly jumps to the conclusion that Anna’s ghost is visiting Michael—with nary a pause for skepticism. “Maybe her spirit came to you!” she exclaims. “This is a cosmic gift, Michael!” And of course, she knows a shaman who can help him deal with the situation. Then there’s Martindale’s Rita, who huffs and puffs about Michael’s responsibilities and reminds him that they’re not running a free clinic. Isn’t modern medicine so distant and uncaring? Let’s ponder that.

It’s all too obvious, and a series like A Gifted Man could really benefit from some subtlety. The plot is so far-fetched that it needs intriguing characters and good writing to keep it grounded. Instead, it is exactly as maudlin and predictable as you’d expect after reading the network logline—and that’s a real shame. CBS is doing great things to broaden its demographic, and here’s a series that is perhaps the most cliché “Friday-night CBS show” possible. Well, next to Blue Bloods.

Oh, I could go on about the other things that bugged me: the slow-motion surgery sequence, the way the tennis star’s tantrum magically changed Michael’s mind, the idea that this overworked neurosurgeon is supposed to basically do everything for everyone. (I’m not trying to be heartless, but geez, give the guy a break. He can’t perform brain surgery and open his dead wife’s computer files and save his dying friend and help a kid in need all at the same time.) Suffice it to say, A Gifted Man is not a series for me. I do hope it improves for the sake of its cast, but I won’t be tuning in to find out.


What did you think of A Gifted Man's series premiere?

Comments (22)
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Aug 14, 2012
this was one of the best shows i have ever watched , me and my whole family couldn't wait for it to come back on . now we find out it's been canceled that's so wrong . you are probably going to put some kind if stupid reality show on in it's place. so wrong , we absolutely loved this show
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Sep 28, 2011
I loved it but, some people may not get into at first I didn't with Ghost Whisperer and then found it very good and interesting lets all see what happens
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Sep 28, 2011
I felt like the problem was also with the actors as well as the script.. the ex wife was so annoying on so many terms, I wanted to slap her, like 10 times.. as if it is so normal and expectable in one's life that a ghost suddenly appears and starts making demands, from their exes, she is like "what is the problem?", "I have things to be finished so you do it for me", "also talk to me in the middle of everything", "just take me as I am, dont question it".. her "understanding, warm, sympathetic" smiles and everything, god she really is extremely annoying.. the sister seconds the annoying characters list, with the absolute non-questioning of the ghost visit.. the doctor is not only annoying because he is written as a douchebag doctor, but also annoying because he doesnt really act.. the only reasonable character is the secretary-assistant margo martindale, not hard to understand why she got an emmy.. while she made a character out of a couple of lines, the main so-called characters, are floating all together due to emptyness..
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Sep 27, 2011
Baaaad pilot but I HAD to watch for Patrick! I think I'll wait a few more episodes before jumping ship.
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Sep 27, 2011
gonna wait for the next 2 episodes before I give my opinion but the pilot was baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaad
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Sep 27, 2011
Reminded me A LOT of "Eli Stone" (right down to a shaman!) but without the tongue-in-cheek aspect which gave the show charm.
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Sep 27, 2011
Hmm, maybe one of my picks for the Dead Pool won't let me down.
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Sep 27, 2011
I liked Patrick Wilson's character enough to give the show another chance. I'll wait and see how the next 1-2 episodes turn out to be and then decide whether or not to drop it. ;)
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Sep 27, 2011
I agree. I just didn't care for it. I tuned in for Julie Benz basically. She was good as usual but that's not enough. Also, I had just assumed she would be playing his love interest, not his sister. I find that lame.
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Sep 26, 2011
You know what, I loved it. Maybe it was because I watched it not knowing in advance it was a dead ex wife. I thought it reminded me of Eli stone.
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Sep 26, 2011
Good premise (Ghost & Mrs Muir, Topper,etc) gone bad. Not much for redeeming character in the lead, Choppy patch job in the editing, Basically, a band-aid on a sucking chestwound!! 1 episode in and on life support!!
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Sep 26, 2011
I was able to forgive the Ghost Whisperer because she was hot. This I could not forgive because the ghost-seeing douche is a dude. It as boring and preachy, poorly written and lacking purpose.
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Sep 26, 2011
I stopped watching this about 15 minutes in. I usually give new shows at least ONE full episode and usually a few episodes, but I was quite bored of this one. That's not to say I think this is the worst show ever, but it just didn't have anything appealing for me.
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Sep 26, 2011
If you want a ~stunning show, with an impossible ghostly romance. You NEED to watch Spirited. It's a beautiful high concept series about a dentist who leaves her loveless marriage and moves into a penthouse apartment, only to have the ghost of an 80s British Rockstar appear! It's flawless. Check it oooooout. >> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RUknuV1dnsI
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Oct 04, 2011
I just want to say... THANK YOUUUUU for mentioning Spirited!! I've devoured season one and two, hoping for a third season (they cannot end it like that! I'm still depressed hehe). I had to go dig in my history to find out when I started googling Spirited to find the TV.com blog post so I could say thanks. It was really THAT good and I'm super thankful :D
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Oct 13, 2011
You're very welcome =) I just had to share something so good, you know? It needs recognition.
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Sep 28, 2011
never mind found it on youtube and found it on ebay in AU
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Sep 28, 2011
what channel and when is Spirited on?
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Sep 26, 2011
I totally agree!

I try to give most new shows a fair chance, since they usually get better after the first episode, but I couldn't get through this one. All the characters were anoying to the point where I was rooting for the doctor to just tell everyone to piss off. And why do tv characters who see ghosts, always insist on talking to them in public? At least pretend you're on the phone - you'd think a neuro surgeon would be smart enough to figure that out! I hated it and won't be tuning in again
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Sep 26, 2011
Funny thing... Today I watched what is considered to be one of the best baseball movies of all time, Field of Dreams, and wondered some of the same things you are about A Gifted Man. For example, when the family first discovers a lone baseball player on the field none of them thinks to accost him and say, "Just what the heck are you doing on my field?" or "Where did you come from?" or any number of questions which would have been totally reasonable. Instead, you get a broad strokes picture and Ray picks up a bat and practices hitting a few balls with the guy. Is Ray's field heaven? Who the heck knows. While some of this can be a touch frustrating as a viewer, one can't help but be enchanted by the magic of the film. It's nostalgic and wonderful. While A Gifted Man is certainly not a Field of Dreams, it has some qualities which make it quite watchable. Patrick Wilson and Jennifer Ehle's chemistry is very, very believable. Secondly, I would think the premise is that Wilson's character is supposed to appear two-dimensional. Nothing about his life is fulfilling. I assume this will make it easier for Michael to transform before the audience. The person Michael was while hanging out with Anna (before he finds out she is dead) was anything but two-dimensional. We learn a bit about their past. Clearly he still adores her. But, for some reason not entirely known to us he left her and tried to move on. If anything, he's looking at the past and reevaluating his life because of her. You call this the "big picture," I call it the third-dimension. And there's certainly a chance for magic and nostalgia.
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Sep 26, 2011
I loved this series, very interesting i mite add.
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Sep 26, 2011
Wow you guys seem to hate all the new shows so far. While far from perfect, I enjoyed this. The cast are amazing and I'm very keen to see where it goes!
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