Every fall, broadcast networks hope that they’ve secured the next big hit, one captivating enough to draw viewers’ attention away from the latest bingeable releases on streaming platforms. In the fall of 2017, that show was The Good Doctor, which rose in the ratings high above its fellow freshman competition, including Fox’s Marvel drama The Gifted, the Will & Grace revival, and a Law & Order spin-off starring Emmy winner Edie Falco.
Despite the stiff competition, The Good Doctor became the most-watched show of the fall, taking people along for the feel-good ride of watching Shaun Murphy (Freddie Highmore) become a surgeon. But along with that success comes the pressure to maintain it, and that pressure often leads to shows jumping the shark in desperate reaches for ratings. Once Upon a Time went off the rails after a stellar first season on ABC, and The CW’s Riverdale decided to make a teenager become an FBI informant in Season 2.
While The Good Doctor did drop in ratings in Season 2 — a full rating point, in fact — the show has maintained its creative steam without resorting to Shaun doing complex surgeries in a helicopter during a windstorm or having him miraculously catapulted to being president of St. Bonaventure. Instead, the series decided to dig deeper into who Shaun is as a character and his relationships. In doing so, it found enthralling drama by exploring the grounded complexities unique to someone in Shaun’s position. The Good Doctor remained great by playing to its strengths rather than swinging for the fences, and while the latter option will often generate more buzz, we want to honor the ABC drama for its ability to deliver consistent, quality television without ever having to compromise.