Good Doctor (2013)
I started watching this one after Doctors and did come to love it. The story is centered around an autistic savant who is trying to gain acceptance as a pediatrician. He is ridiculously endearing and soon everyone... even his toughest critics... fall under his child-like spell.
Said pediatrician, Park Si On, is played by Joo Won, who was in the poor excuse of a spy comedy, "Level 7 Civil Servant" -- a cringeworthy shemozzle. Joo Won is good here, going for simplicity and understatement... a relief really when the temptation to ham things up is ever present.
The story begins with a bang as we catch glimpses of Si On's childhood and watch the young doctor perform an emergency procedure in the hustle and bustle of a train station. Si On, we find out, was horribly abused as a child by his father because of his disability but thankfully the show doesn't feel the need to expend multiple episodes sledgehammering us with the horrors.
Not surprisingly, the hospital where Si On is attached to, is a hotbed of infighting among those who support the Director and those who don't. If one doesn't think the stakes are high enough, the facility is also on a verge of a financial crisis.
It has all the classic kdrama elements except that the writing takes characterization seriously and the supporting cast especially the kiddies are very likeable. Yes, there are villains, potential villains and frustrated good guys. In the middle of the storm is Si On, whose presence challenges them to be kinder, gentler human beings.
It wouldn't be a kdrama without some kind of romance. In this case, the woman in question (Dr Cha) is something of a mentor, friend and neighbour. It's the sort of romance I have mixed feelings about... it's sweet and courageous but I'm not sure what the motivations are. I'm not convinced by the 11th hour I feel it in my heart scenario, however, I'm not going to lose sleep over it. Frankly, I didn't think the show needed it.
More importantly, the growth and maturity of Park Si On as he faces the big bad world is really the driving force of this drama. There is something admirable about someone not quite fitting the mould making his mark in a demanding occupation. What I found more admirable is the character's determination to not position himself as a victim or to make excuses but to strive to find his niche in the hospital.
My favourite moment in the series was the Peter Pan play that the doctors put together for their pediatric patients. It's probably no coincidence that Park Si On would take on the titular role of the Boy Who Never Grows Up with his ladylove playing Wendy. Incidentally, most of my favourite parts in the film involved children... surprise, surprise... and how they interact with the doctors. Perhaps it's a K-Dramaland thing or perhaps ailing kids are smarter than most when they have so much time to reflect but there seemed to be no end of wisdom dripping out of the mouth of babes in this show.
Unabashedly I like my medical dramas to have lots of medical procedures and alas this is where Good Doctor falls short. First and foremost it's a heartwarming tale of an individual overcoming obstacles so there's not a lot of emphasis on actual medical stuff. I am such a sucker for medical jargon and it did feel odd from time to time that there wasn't more Latin or Greek being thrown around.
All in all it was a heartwarming piece of drama and the cast as a whole was a good fit.