There have been dozens of medical dramas. There have been plenty of shows about the mob. Fox’s “The Mob Doctor” is the first series that combines the two genres. It centers around Grace (Jordana Spiro), a surgical resident who agrees to secretly provide medical care to the mob in order to pay off her brother’s gambling debts. Her ties to organized crime go deeper; her ex-boyfriend Franco (James Carpinello) is a member of the mob. Grace becomes a woman with a double life. As a doctor, she is supposed to do no harm. but her work for the mob often has the potential to hurt others. Below, the cast offers five things you need to know about the new drama.
There Really Are Mob Doctors: Though the premise may seen far fetched, there are doctors who do treat criminals off the books, just as there are lawyers who represent them. Co-creator Josh Berman explains: “We went to do some research, and we found a book called Il Dottore which this whole series is loosely inspired by. Sony bought the rights for us based on a real mob doctor. And the more we dug, we found out how most mob doctors are motivated when you look into it, the doctors to the mob are more motivated by greed. They get seduced by the mob world.”
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It’s the Rare Network Drama that Features a Morally Ambiguous Female Protagonist: Though cable has “Weeds‘” Nancy Botwin, Jackie on “Nurse Jackie,” and even Jennifer Love Hewitt’s accidental prostitute on “The Client List,” women leads on network shows tend to be purely heroic. In contrast, the conflicted character of Grace has evoked comparisons to “Breaking Bad’s” Walter White. Says co-creator Rob Wright, “She [Grace] has a moral compass, but… the mob can be seductive, and I think it’s going to be fun to see how far we can push her.” Though Grace refuses a mob order to kill a patient in the pilot, as the season progresses she will become more compromised. Berman explains, “We’ve really mapped out the whole first season, and there is an event in Grace’s personal life that will push her over that line, and she will do an action that she would not have done in the pilot. And we’re excited to watch her character grow and watch what we assume her morality would be change over the course of a season.”
Keep Your Eye on Grace’s Family: Though it’s not apparent in the pilot, Grace’s mother and brother will be as much of a source of conflict for her as the mob. Berman hints, “Grace’s mom Daniella, played by Wendy [McKenna]…There are so many layers to this character. She’s a cancer survivor. She’s a woman who lives in denial. She wants things to be a certain way and she will embrace that no matter how it got there. And it’s she has a very complicated dynamic with her daughter which is explored as early as the [second] episode. But that is leading to an event in their personal relationship that could change the way Grace approaches her job as a mob doctor… by the end of the first episode, [her brother Nate] will also find a place within the organization, to Grace’s chagrin. So we’ve got family conflict within the family, so to speak.”
It’s a Chance to See Some of Your Favorite Actors in Completely Different Roles: Spiro is best known for playing a tomboy sports writer on “My Boys.” She welcomes the opportunity to take on a dramatic lead. “I fell into comedy and I really love doing comedy, but I never sought out to be a comedic actress… Role like this — especially for women — don’t exist that often, so it really is a chance of a lifetime.” The cast also includes Zach Gilford, who was so memorable as working class high school football player Matt Scaracen on “Friday Night Lights,” as Grace’s patrician doctor boyfriend, Brett. Gilford describes how Brett is different from Matt, “He’s very driven. He wants to do what he wants to do.” Zeljko Ivanek, known for playing bad guys, plays the Chief of Surgery. “One of the reasons I was attracted to it was because it seems so far that I’m not the bad guy. Someone else has that job this time around.”
It’s Not Heavily Serialized: Though there are ongoing storylines, according to Gilford, the medical plots in each episode will be self-contained, so viewers will be able to follow the show even if they miss an episode. “The whole medical thing is great. It’s really compelling. You know that you can just tune in for an episode and kind of know what’s going on because there’s going to be some case that week. You don’t have to be like, ‘Who are these people? What’s going on?’ You’ll get it.”
“The Mob Doctor” premieres on Monday, Sept. 17 at 9/8c on Fox.