Like “Snakes on a Plane,” “Wife Swap,” or the Dave Matthews Band, the new Fox drama “The Mob Doctor,” premiering Monday at 9 p.m., is about exactly what the title says it is: a doctor, who works for the mob. (Theoretically, it could be about a roving band of rioters and their trusty medic, but it’s not. It’s about a doctor, who works for the mob.)
It turns out the reason Chicago physician Grace Devlin (Jordana Spiro) has been forced into indentured servitude to hotheaded gangster Paul Moretti — played with typically fabulous hotheadedness by Michael Rapaport — is not all that interesting. Basically, she’s paying off her brother’s gambling debts. (“I had a foolproof system,” he squawks.) Unfortunately, that “so what?” sensibility extends to the rest of the pilot.
None of this is the fault of the mob doctor herself. The flinty Spiro, last seen displaying her winning sparkle on the underrated sitcom “My Boys,” summons the requisite spunk and angst to play the three roles required of her here.
She sighs with convincing world-weariness as the family martyr, saving both her hapless brother and meddling-but-kindhearted mother from harm’s way. She persuasively shoots from the hip as the hotshot surgeon with attitude and skills to back it up at the hospital, where she’s also, naturally, over-invested in her patients. And she summons the grit of her scrappy childhood on the South Side to become the moxie-filled mob medic who gives almost as good as she gets with the thug set, removing unfortunately placed ice picks with aplomb.
That Grace isn’t particularly likable in any of these roles makes you sympathize with her exasperated love interest, fellow doctor Brett Robinson. (Poor Zach Gilford, between this and the insufferable “Off the Map,” he is getting depressingly further from the magic of Matt Saracen on “Friday Night Lights.” Someone get this actor a good TV show, stat.)
At its heart, “The Mob Doctor” feels more like a by-the-numbers CBS procedural than an “edgy” Fox drama.
Judging by the pilot, each week we’ll get a hospital story line in which Grace will break some rule, solve the problem, and suffer little to no consequences driving her haughty superiors — including a so-far underutilized Zeljko Ivanek — supportive colleagues, and irritated boyfriend just a little bit crazier. She will then be called upon, at the most inopportune moment — preferably during sex or a touching family moment — to handle a medical case for the mob: stitching up an enforcer or prescribing something for the boss. She will then have some sort of argument with her family and her boyfriend.
Near the pilot’s conclusion Grace’s debt is tranferred from Moretti to recently paroled mob boss Constantine Alexander, who has history with the family and an implied romantic interest in Grace’s mother. He is underplayed nicely — with that specific brand of benevolent malevolence so common to fictional gangsters — by William Forsythe.
Alexander gives Grace an option: hit the road and start a new life helping people somewhere else, or stay and work off her brother’s debt with no guarantee of total protection. You owe no such debt to Fox, feel free to refuse this offer.