So Friday's premiere of CBS' supernatural medical romance A Gifted Man left me speechless. Well, not entirely speechless. I did have one thing to say — "This is easily some of the most aggressively boring shit I've ever seen on the tee-vee" — but you really can't spin an entire television recap out of one sentence.
No, A Gifted Man left me aggrieved because its entire damn series premise was done before in an 83-minute horror film. I am, of course, referring to Sidney Poitier's 1990 tour de force Ghost Dad.
Now, nobody in their right mind would greenlight a television series based on Ghost Dad. Why? Because that film was too scary. For those of you who have never watched Ghost Dad, feel deprived. You're an outsider to a very specific sect of moviegoers. Once you see Ghost Dad, you cannot unsee Ghost Dad.
I imagine this all sounds rather quizzical to some readers. Wasn't Ghost Dad a family comedy? In theory, yes. But there was that one scene in which Bill Cosby screams that he's Satan. Let's go the clip.
Do you know how it irresolvably mind-melting it is to see Cliff Huxtable declare he's the Prince of Darkness? When I first saw this, I thought he was going to draw a Picture Page of a pentagram. The only flavor of Jell-O in Hell is cow bones (they're truthful with their advertising down there).
But where was I? Oh yeah, A Gifted Man. Man, was that dull. I imagine that a CBS suit — who for the purposes of my fantasy is named "Fenris Paragon III" — one day got out of bed (after a hard evening of blowing rails of bufo toad extract) and openly monologued, "Hey, wouldn't it be great if we mashed up Touched By An Angel with Grey's Anatomy and got the guy who made Stop Making Sense to direct the pilot? Also, Dexter's wife needs a role."
Here's the plot — Patrick Wilson plays Michael Holt, a douchebag millionaire neurosurgeon who sprints when he jogs to hide an inner sadness. He also has the proclivity to yell medical drama stock dialogue like, "Prep the oxyboronmegazine. The neurocombobulator's gone flapdoodle." Anyway, Michael's dead bleeding-heart ex-wife Anna (Jennifer Ehle) returns from beyond to haunt him into becoming less of a bastard.
The trailer above condenses the 43-minute, paint-by-numbers pilot into a spare five minutes. I honestly can't see how A Gifted Man could improve when stretched out into a full-length series. All of the major plot points are already telegraphed. Michael's inevitable dejerkifying? Check. Anna and Michael's rekindled, ectoplasmic romance? Check. His increasing unsuitability for work because everyone thinks he's crazy? Oh yeah.
Also, we learn from some New Age shaman dude that Michael can exorcise Anna whenever he wants, thereby gutting any tension about her harassing him à la Swayze and Whoopi. None of this makes for a watchable series in the long-term. A watched series perhaps, as it's on CBS and people zone out to all sorts of deranged pap over there.
So yeah, why didn't CBS just produce a Ghost Dad series? That movie had most of the same story beats (workaholic family member, ghosts, redemption, camera shots of buildings and automobiles) and the brand-name recognition audiences crave. Future recaps of A Gifted Man may include tag-team reviews with Fenris Paragon III in which I ask him to explain the show. Life has handed me lemons, and I may as well build a horrific citrus golem out of them.