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I was not looking forward to “A Gifted Man.” Early buzz was not great and its promos reeked of CBS’ “Ghost Whisperer,” a soft, listless series I hated from the get-go.
“A Gifted Man” has a ghost but it, but it’s no “Ghost Whisperer.” The pilot, at least, is sharp and careful and full of details that lend it a veneer of authenticity. It is not the cookie-cutter broadcast hospital ensemble swill we’ve come to expect from over the last several years. It’s not “Three Rivers.” It’s not “Trauma.” It’s not “Off The Map.”
Like “Person Of Interest,” “A Gifted Man” is a CBS hourlongfrom individuals who have done stellar work on the big screen, namely director Jonathan Demme (“The Silence of the Lambs,” “Philadelphia”) and screenwriter Susannah Grant (“Erin Brockovich,” “In Her Shoes”).
If you’re a fan of Demme’s work, particular his later stuff like “Rachel Getting Married,” you owe yourself a look at this pilot. While “Person of Interest” feels much more like a CBS pilot than a Nolan Bros. movie, “A Gifted Man” feels much more like the first half of a Demme movie than a CBS pilot.
“Gifted” follows a successful, narcissistic, hard-charging New York neurosurgeon who unexpectly begins getting advice from the ghost of the newly dead ex-wife he divorced a decade ago. Patrick Wilson (“Little Children”) plays the doc, Jennifer Ehle (“Contagion”) the beguiling spook.
What the writer gets right is how a man of science would react to all this. When the doctor learns (via a phone call to his ex-wife’s place of business) he just had dinner with a woman who’s been dead two weeks, the neurosurgeon wisely assumes he’s the victim of a neurological disorder.
But while MRIs reveal no evidence of brain dysfunction, he does find is loads of real-world evidence that the ghost is more than a figment of his imagination.
The ghost keeps pushing him toward uncharacteristically selfless acts and because he obviously still loves his ex-wife (who thanks to Ehle IS pretty sunny and adorable) he allows himself to be pushed.
Ultimately, there’s something quite moving about the relationship these two exes share.
Grant will not be showrunner on the series and I’m not certain how involved Demme will be beyond the pilot, but I’ll say the pilot is well worth an hour of your time.
... The best thing about the very good drama 'A Gifted Man' (8PM ET Friday, CBS) might be the fact that it's every bit as skeptical about ghosts as you are. ... treats the ghost, the person she appears to and the whole concept of working things out after death with an intelligent mixture of curiosity, confusion and compassion. There's no contempt, but neither is there any cliched, sentimental blather. …
... the writers of the series have left themselves plenty of possibilities to explore, and Mr. Wilson seems more than capable of carrying the show anyplace they choose to take it. ...
... why on Earth isn't it better? ... With just a few tiny modifications, "A Gifted Man" could be a smart satiric comedy, but I don't think that is what Grant is shooting for. …
... In the wrong hands, this premise could turn laughable and mawkish. But series writer/creator Susannah Grant and director Jonathan Demme ("The Silence of the Lambs") manage to ground the show in a way that makes it both believable and heartfelt. "A Gifted Man" is the most romantic, emotionally resonant fall TV series pilot. …
... It's painful watching an actor as skilled as Wilson trying to force-feed credibility to a horrifically unbelievable moment and sadly failing. Things only get worse from here on. There's a whole thing with a New Age shaman, for example, but since that happens late in the first show, viewers may have moved onto another sphere by then anyway. ... viewer patience and goodwill are tested pretty strenuously in the pilot episode.
... meant to be a moving allegory for our troubled approach to health care reform: If the rich, snooty doctor had a moral conscience, he could do brain surgery and set bones for free. The earnestness comes in pretty strong doses, but it might be good for what ails you. ...
… Am I hooked? No. I want to be, because the actors are so charismatic. Remember Ehle with Colin Firth in PBS’s 1995 “Pride & Prejudice’’? But the New Agey ghost-as-conscience thing - done better with so much crazy verve in the hallucinatory “Eli Stone’’ - is strained by the end of the first episode. Where can the story go? …
... a show that, while better than most, isn't yet what its stellar cast could easily deliver, given material a shade sharper. ...
... Post-sale tinkering also improved the pilot, with Anna becoming Holt's conscience in a way that better explains her presence, while extracting some humor from their only-he-sees-her encounters. …
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