Fox's new drama "The Mob Doctor" is about an up and coming surgeon named Grace Devlin (Jordana Spiro) who becomes the pawn of a group of Chicago gangsters by making a deal to pay off her brother's gambling debt.
Fox's new drama "The Mob Doctor" is about an up and coming surgeon named Grace Devlin (Jordana Spiro) who becomes the pawn of a group of Chicago gangsters by making a deal to pay off her brother's gambling debt. In the final scene of the pilot episode, Grace makes a choice. After a scary confrontation with a mob boss, the former head of the Southside Chicago mafia, Constantine Alexander (William Forsythe), tells her that she can walk away from her debt to the criminal organization, but she must leave Chicago or she can stay but her debt stays, too. Grace thinks it over for a few seconds and tells Alexander that Chicago is her home. She's staying. Alexander cryptically warns her to remember that it was her choice. So to recap: The lead character in a show called "The Mob Doctor" makes the decision to be the mob's doctor. In other I-never-would-have-guessed-it news: I write this column on a computer. To be fair to this new medical/gangster show, if it had a different, less obvious title, the final scene of Grace choosing to freely use her exceptional surgical skills to serve the criminal underworld would have had more impact. It is after all, a doctor agreeing to potentially go against her Hippocratic oath to "do no harm." But the scene also packs a not-so-surprising punch because we know two things: 1) It's clearly a "double life" storyline, and we know from other versions of this plot device that Grace is going to have trouble balancing her two worlds and keeping her secret life secret, and 2) This is a show on Fox during primetime, not cable, so we can be fairly certain that she's not going to go to the dark side and kill people off on the operating table every week. So where's the suspense? It certainly isn't in watching Grace try to live her dual life. One minute she's operating on a hit man in a backroom somewhere and the next she's trying to save the life of a heart transplant patient. The transition between scenes usually involves her saying: "I gotta go." It doesn't take long before you can guess that she's going to do something medical and then she's "gotta go." In a scene from the first episode she is faced with the choice to either sabotage an operation so that an informant dies or to perform the routine surgery successfully so that he lives to testify. The problem is that it feels less like a compelling moral dilemma and more like a mash-up of a mob movie and "Grey's Anatomy." Jordana Spiro plays Grace with a believable toughness and makes her loyalty to her family likeable. But to make her unlikely choice feel realistic (because really, no one would make it), the pilot alludes to a dark flaw in her character that grew from the death of her father when she was a child. The problem is, it's not quite dark enough to ever really threaten her moral center or save this new drama from predictability. "The Mob Doctor" is on Mondays at 9 p.m. EDT on Fox. Melissa Crawley is the author of "Mr. Sorkin Goes to Washington: Shaping the President on Television's 'The West Wing.'" She has a PhD in media studies and is a member of the Television Critics Association. To comment on Stay Tuned, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter at @MelissaCrawley.