[In case you've Forgotten, and as I will continue to mention each and every one of these posts that I do: This is *not* a review. Pilots change. Sometimes a lot. Often for the better. Sometimes for the worse. But they change. Actual reviews will be coming in September and perhaps October (and maybe midseason in some cases). This is, however, a brief gut reaction to not-for-air pilots.]

 

Show:"A Gifted Man" (CBS)
The Pitch: It's "3 Lbs" meets "Ghost" meets "The Doctor" meets "The Ghost Whisperer." Or maybe it's "Eli Stone, MD"? "A Gifted Man" is a lot like a lot of things.
Quick Response: Patrick Wilson channels a young William Hurt as a self-obsessed doctor who begins seeing ghosts or, more specifically, the ghost of his ex-wife (Jennifer Ehle). "A Gifted Man" has the potential to be excruciatingly treacle-y stuff, but for the pilot, it gets a huge boost from director Jonathan Demme, who makes terrific use of New York City locations and gives the entire episode a jittery immediacy -- lots of tight close-ups, lots of natural light -- that cuts through what easily could have been overbearing, New Age-y and hyper-emotional. Can I guarantee that any subsequent director will have the same touch? No. Almost the opposite, in fact. I like Patrick Wilson and have always thought he's been limited by casting directors stuck on his unavoidable WASPy-ness. He's good and Ehle is properly ethereal and empathetic. It's a great supporting cast as well, led by Margo Martindale. Six months ago, you wouldn't have thought this role was a waste of Martindale's talent, but now having seen "Justified," there's no double she could be doing more and hopefully the writers will realize this. You've also got a very cute and flighty Julie Benz and an interestingly balanced Paolo Schreiber, thankfully not hamming it up as the Whoopi Goldberg equivalent in this scenario. There are some moments where the theme is way over-articulated as Wilson's character lets us know that he's chosen his job over his happiness and everybody else lets him know that he's chosen his job over his happiness. There's also an astoundingly idiotic sequence in which New York's Most Successful Neurosurgeon has to *Google* potential causes for hallucinations.
Desire To Watch Again: I'm definitely curious. I want to see what happens when Demme isn't directing anymore. I want to see if there's an alternative direction the series can take other than having the ghost just be a bleeding heart catalyst in our hero's transformation from "A Gifted Man" to "A Good Man." Because if "A Gifted Man" goes down the predictable direction, I'll be tuning out fast.

 

All of last year's Take Me To The Pilots installments.