Neurosurgeon Dr. Michael Holt (Patrick Wilson) looks pretty darn perfect. He’s got the blue eyes, gleaming white teeth, a jogger’s physique, a sleek office and all the attitude of a giant pain in the butt.
Yes, Dr. Holt is a vanilla version of Dr. House.
He works in a swanky New York clinic with wealthy patients, plays grand piano in his apartment loft and snaps at all his clinic staff. You can do that when you’re as grossly successful as this.
One day in the middle of his autopilot, bachelor life he bumps into his ex-wife Anna (Jennifer Ehle) who he hasn’t seen in years. She surprises him by telling him she has moved to New York. They share a drink and remember the good times. He almost has a warm side.
Michael’s flighty sister Christina (Julie Benz) has a wayward teenage son Milo (Liam Aiken), the sum total of which is seemingly to complicate his life.
The key shift in A Gifted Man happens when Michael learns that Anna actually died two weeks before their chance meeting. The woman he thought he shared a drink with was either an hallucination or a visit from beyond. The rational doctor is thrown a curve ball. Literally in fact…
Christina, sometimes bordering on hysteria, is thrilled by the spiritual possibilities but when Michael has his second visitation his control on his life begins to unravel.
The ghostly Anna compels him to visit the public clinic where she used to work (yep, she worked in medicine too). Administering medical advice to single mothers with sick kids is worlds apart from Michael’s affluent office. By now it’s pretty obvious the arrogant doc is going to realise there is more to life, or death, than making money.
On screen, Anna has the same, full-bodied appearance as the other characters. Only Michael sees and talks to her, a fairly common convention in TV and movies. For a ghost series, I found it all a bit deja-vu.
As a leading man Wilson lacks character, swimming in earnest scenes and a plot-driven script. Benz is wasted in her supporting role (will she ever get a role as good as Dexter?). At least Margo Martindale as Michael’s motherly assistant Rita adds a bit of zest.
It’s somewhat surprising that Jonathan Demme (Silence of the Lambs, Philadelphia) is Producer of this drama, and Director of the first episode.
A Gifted Man is a mix of medical and supernatural drama but without enough of either to give it distinction. House was a wonderfully cranky doctor, Medium was a spooky spirit series, Spirited was an offbeat ghost tale. And Ghost was a downright hoot.
By the end of the episode I didn’t particularly care whether Dr. Michael found purpose to his single life or whether Anna crossed over to the other side (I’m tipping the premise requires her to hang around a bit longer).
But I think I would need at least one of those boxes ticked to come back for more.
A Gifted Man premieres 8pm Thursday on TEN.