In The Mix

Now You See It

Diagnoses go graphic in The Good Doctor.

Maria Neuman
  • Freddie Highmore

    Courtesy ABC

Everybody loves a pull-at-your-heartstrings drama series, especially when it’s set against the life-or-death backdrop of a busy hospital.

The challenge for creators fond of the genre is not whether to do a medical drama (they’ve been popular since Doctor Kildare), but how to do it differently.

As creator of Fox’s House, M.D., David Shore had already proved he could find a new way in. He faced the challenge again when conceiving ABC’s The Good Doctor, which premiered September 25. The series is based on a Korean format of the same name that was optioned by Daniel Dae Kim and his production company, 3AD (Dae Kim is executive-producing with Shore, who is showrunner, and Seth Gordon, who directed the pilot).

The series stars Freddie Highmore (Bates Motel) as Shaun Murphy, a young pediatric surgeon with autism and savant syndrome. Murphy struggles with traditional social interaction, but is brilliantly intuitive when it comes to medical diagnosis.

To show the inner workings of his mind, Shore and his colleagues took inspiration from the Korean original, using on-screen medical illustrations  and diagrams to convey challenging information.

“It meant I didn’t have to put in all the strained exposition you often have in medical shows,” says Shore, who wrote the pilot and also created a lot of the initial graphics himself, working into the wee hours in After Effects.

“My intention was for it to seem like a photographic memory he had from textbooks, but it also  illustrates how some people see the world differently. This character doesn’t wear his emotions on his sleeve, so it allows the viewer to see inside his head.”

Executives at Sony Pictures Television, which is producing the series, and ABC were immediately excited. “When the people at Sony first saw the cut, they were like, ‘More cowbell!’” Gordon says, laughing. “And when ABC saw it, they just told us to do as many graphics as we possibly can.”

To accommodate, a team of eight works on the graphics, while Shore and his writers and medical consultants are scouring everything from vintage medical books to bus routes for inspiration. Says Shore: “We’re counting on the creativity of everyone.” 

This article originally appeared in emmy magazine, Issue No. 8, 2017