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MOB DOCTOR Diagnosis: Not Good
Probably the biggest challenge Mob Doctor presents is the urge to make a bad medical joke in the title of any articles about it. As you can see, I’ve already failed in that minor task, but the way I rationalize it is that the show itself fails on so many levels, I can be given a pass on something like this.
Allow me to begin by trying to focus on the positive, in this case, Kevin Corrigan. Earlier this summer, I upgraded Mob Doctor from so-what to must-see on the basis of Corrigan being added to the cast alone, and I stand by that even now. So far he’s only been in one episode, as has Oz‘s Terry Kinney, but it’s hoped they will return soon in their supporting roles as the Amato brothers. So far, their characters don’t quite match up to early reports, but such is the nature of the beast. Corrigan brings to his part that same easy intensity that he brings to every part, where he can be scary and still somehow vulnerable. His character’s not as cuddly as his role in, say, Buffalo ’66, but there is something playful in Corrigan’s work on Mob Doctor so far that will likely keep me tuning in just to see him again.
In fact, most of the acting in the show so far has been pretty grand. With a couple major exceptions, all of the principals do good work with the often meager material they’re given. William Forsythe, another brilliant character actor, plays the goofily-named mob boss Constantine Alexander, and though he occasionally over-Sicilianizes things, he remains as solid a player as ever. Jordana Spiro as the title character has the biggest challenge of delivering this awful dialogue with a straight face, but so far, she has met and even exceeded that challenge. David Pasquesi, who had a minor but important role as a smarmy asshole in the first season of Boss, has here a minor but important role as a smarmy asshole, and he delivers with a great aplomb as he did in that other, far superior show.
But then there’s the bad news: Michael Rapaport. Rapaport is one of those guys who I really want to like, and generally speaking, I do. But holy poop, does he suck really hard on this show. Rapaport is a capable enough actor, but he’s also pretty limited in his range, and should be kept to likeable supporting characters, like the protagonist’s irritating but well-meaning best friend. I don’t think playing an organized criminal is completely out of his scope in every case, but in this particularly two-dimensional case, it definitely is. He plays mob boss Paul Moretti, who’s moved in on Connie Alexander’s territory while the latter was in the slam. If Forsythe has a tendency to notch up the Italianness of his character here and there, Rapaport just goes ahead and ratchets it up to 11 from the get-go, even though he’s about as convincing an Italian as I am. After the first episode, I thought we weren’t gonna have to worry about him anymore, but by episode 3, that no longer appears to be the case.
But really, I can’t even blame Rapaport for his poorly fleshed-out character. In fact, all of this show’s major flaws I shall being laying directly at the feet of the writers and producers. It’s a lot harder to single them out, of course; I can point to Rapaport, but I can’t point to the lady or gentleman who put the words in his mouth. And that’s lucky for them.
Remember in Ed Wood when someone points out to ol’ Ed that little details like tombstones tipping over, etc., was going to lower the quality of his films? And he responds with a heartfelt speech about how audiences only care about the big picture, the broad strokes. That was cute back in the ’50s, but the creators of Mob Doctor are no Edward D. Wood, Jr. Mob Doctor has taken the widest, broadest brush it could find and smeared it all over my TV screen until I can’t see why I should keep DVRing this garbage.
Take the medical drama set-up. Even as an avowed crime fanatic, I can get behind the idea of introducing a criminal element to your television program in kind of a backdoor way. You needn’t come out swinging with a highway robbery like Boardwalk Empire. But if you’re going to sacrifice the immediacy of crime action to focus on character, you’d better fucking focus on character rather than render me a 12-year-old’s idea of how doctors (or even just people, for that matter) act.
Watching the medical scenes in Mob Doctor is like watching a broadcast from some alternate Earth where Childrens Hospital is actually a medical drama. Everyone who works there is, at worst, beautiful; even the stately head of surgery has got the whole noble elder thing going on, to where even I’d let him get to second base after a couple drinks. The requisite shouted medical chatter is immediately crammed down your throat (thanks, ER, your legacy lives on), which would probably be fine if the rest of the dialogue wasn’t so unbelievably horrid. When it’s discovered that a kidney illness is causing a young woman’s adrenalin to skyrocket, her doctor explains that this is what’s causing her to “literally Hulk out.” Look, you motherfuckers, I’ve just about given up on the word “literally” at this point, but such an egregious misuse of that once-fine word is tantamount to pissing in my face (not to mention that of Dr. Bruce Banner). Literally. Another golden nugget is when Dr. Grace is being scolded for not wanting to help a drunk-driving cop and she’s told he’s the head of the gang task force. To which she’s heard to retort, “I don’t care if he’s the head of the frickin’ universe!” Ouch. I realize that these people aren’t the Marx brothers, but I find it exceedingly hard to swallow that these people can go through years of medical school training and pop out sounding like Selena Gomez is feeding them their lines. If I ever heard my doctor say anything along these lines in even casual conversation, I would immediately begin action on a malpractice suit.
As my beloved Maude Lebowski would say, the story is ludicrous. Grace is into Moretti for the debts of her degenerate gambler brother. I don’t recall a specific amount being named, but why would it be? All you need to know, right? So, again, this otherwise extremely intelligent doctor isn’t smart enough to exact a specific amount she needs to work off before she can consider being above water? I could buy the mob never letting her go, but you’d think she’d at least have a contingency plan. Then, when Alexander, who seemingly has Grace’s best interests at heart, manipulates her debt over to his ledger, we’re supposed to just accept that? She’s not gonna put up any fight at all? What a strong female protagonist you’ve presented us with, Mob Doctor. Aaron Spelling smiles down on you from heaven above.
Now I’m all angry. Like I said, I’m gonna give the show a couple more episodes, and again, that is all thanks to Kevin Corrigan. There’s also some promising father-figure play between Forsythe’s and Spiro’s characters, but that meager sprout between the cracks in the sidewalk is already getting stomped on by the big clunky shoes of the plotting and dialogue. I know that shows often need a few episodes to get their heart-rate up, but Mob Doctor had best roll out the crash-cart, uber-stat, lest it slip deeper into this moron coma.
Or just pull the plug and let it die with a shred of dignity. Either way.