In CBS' new medical drama A Gifted Man, Patrick Wilson stars as a hotshot neurosurgeon whose dead ex-wife (Jennifer Ehle) suddenly appears, asking for his help at the free clinic she left in her wake.
Executive producer Neal Baer, who recently ran Law & Order: SVU and also worked on ER, said that, like other medical dramas, A Gifted Man would feature the "really intimate" case stories of patients. The "twist," he said, comes in Wilson's character, Dr. Michael Holt, who will be uncomfortably reminded of his previous life as a family doctor by the spirit of his ex.
"Just blocks away, his ex wife was running a clinic that provided care for [many] people who are not insured." Baer said during CBS' fall TV previews on Wednesday. "This the first show of its kind to show the upstairs-downstairs of medicine... Michael is at a real crossroads in his life... and he's now caught between worlds."
But it's not as sentimental as all that either. While the late Anna wants Michael to help her less fortunate clientele, she's not a conventional angel. "She doesn't necessarily want to be there," Ehle says. "She doesn't have the luxury of being gone." Instead, Anna remains privy to the sorry state of her clinic and her uninsured patients. "The only way she could possibly do anything is through him, and he's resistant."
She's also not without flaws. "She's complicated like everyone else is," executive producer Sarah Timberman said. In future episodes, Michael will learn Anna was involved in a long-term relationship at the time of her death, as well as the fact that "she didn't leave [the clinic] in the best financial position," Baer said. "She's not perfect."
As for the cases that anchor the weekly episodes, Baer said they'd be "incredibly tough medical stories," much like those that marked his previous hospital drama ER. They'll test Michael's character in questions of "ethics, faith, what to do, how to do it," Baer said. "He saw himself as a person who just operated, and now [Anna] is forcing him to deal with things, as well as why he has shut himself away from other people."
A Gifted Man is set to air on Fridays at 8, far from a coveted timeslot. Wilson said, on the other hand, being on a less-scrutinized night has given the writers a sense that they have "room to play." "I felt a lot of creative freedom... to find our feet and get the tone right," he said.
A Gifted Man premieres Friday, Sept. 23 at 8/7c.