Good Sam

2 out of 5

Created by: Katie Wech

covers season 1

A medical-maladay-of-the-week hospital drama in which the weekly malady seems to be an afterthought; a series in which Lakeshore Hospital interim chief cardiac surgeon Sam (Sophia Bush) has to combat warring bids from her father, Rob (Jason Isaacs), for his returning placement to the position – an interesting setup that potentially supports a movie, but not a TV show; and with the flagging concept squashing the former standby conceits to the sidelines, Good Sam tries to fall back on the TV tactic of romantic and intrapersonal squabble subplots, which fall flat due to a cast of well-intentioned actors but thinly defined characters.

Dr. Rob, the former chief, was injured on the job and has since been in a coma. On the eve of Sam’s graduation from interim to full-on Chief, he awakens; his first desire is to get his position back.

The stern teacher / submissive student relationship between father and daughter could make for an interesting character study, throwing Sam’s confidence in her role into a blender, especially as further complicated by her mother (Wendy Crewson) – Rob’s ex-wife at this point – being the hospital’s Chief Medical Officer, but Good Sam adds another wiggle, with Sam now having to approve Rob’s reinstatement as a surgeon after a required trial period post his coma.

True, good TV shows have been structured around less, but by pitching Sam as rather flighty and indecisive even before Rob’s return, the series doesn’t give the character much room to grow, not to mention not providing us proof as to her competence as a surgeon. And the random hospital issues and strange cases that pop up are, as mentioned, often underwhelming – the staff is actually good at their jobs (unlike shows like, say New Amsterdam, where it’s not clear how anyone is employed – though there’s fun to be had in how trashy that can be), meaning things get resolved without much incident; trying to give them affairs and crushes to fill the space doesn’t, since no one is particularly interesting on their own. There is the sense that both of these B-plots struggle due to the writers having to force them to align with whatever lesson is learned between Sam and her dad that week.

…And this central relationship, though strained to stretch across even the initial few episodes, does provide the show’s few bright spots. Rob is a manipulative sort, which we know Isaacs plays well, and so he tries to go around the system (and his daughter) to get reinstated as Chief; these machinations can be downright evil, i.e. fun. On the flipside, during those moments the two occasionally work together, it’s satisfying – the show earns those beats, getting to them through equal reluctance on both Sam’s and Rob’s behalves. Sam’s best friend, Lex (Skye P. Marshall) is also a worthwhile inclusion here, as she ends up as an interesting counterpoint for both father and daughter. The nature of that is pure TV nonsense, causing her character to also be written rather thinly, but Marshall is at least given more screentime to fill out her role, and she does it well.

Once about 8 or 9 episodes in, the show starts to smooth out its beats a bit more, but it’s smoothing over well-established cracks, and its generally weakly applied premise keeps requiring dumb additions to attempt to bolster things along.

Sometimes it works, but mostly the show hits below average on its various medical / family drama fronts.