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Archive for Friday, September 23, 2011

‘Gifted Man’ newest show to repackage old ideas

September 23, 2011

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Much like Frankenstein’s monster or killer robots, mediocre new shows are often cobbled together from spare parts lying around the laboratory. Or the garage. Or the TV graveyard. “A Gifted Man” (7 p.m., CBS) appears in the old “Medium” and “Ghost Whisperer” time slot and reanimates any number of ancient cliches.

On a very basic level, “Gifted” is about a hotshot surgeon, Dr. Michael Holt (Patrick Wilson), who begins seeing and chatting with his recently deceased ex-wife, Anna (Jennifer Ehle). She doesn’t show up to help him with the pottery, as in the 1990 tearjerker “Ghost,” but to make sure that he takes time from his busy schedule of serving only rich people to make sure that her clinic on the poor side of town keeps running.

‘‘Gifted” echoes any number of shows about insensitive jerks who get a cosmic kick in the pants. It’s a story at least as old as Ebenezer Scrooge in Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” Careful CBS viewers may recall that before he was “The Mentalist,” Simon Baker was “The Guardian,” an arrogant yuppie lawyer sentenced to community service who turned into something resembling a human being.

‘‘Gifted” unfolds in much the same way. At first Michael is a mean guy when he’s not being a vain guy. Then one of his playboy pals goes the way of all flesh, his dead ex shows up, and before you know it, he’s inviting sick, impoverished youth to his shiny, expensive clinic.

The good news is that “Gifted” is endowed with Margo Martindale as Rita, the busy doctor’s dutiful assistant. Folks may recall Martindale all but stealing the past season of “Justified.” And if they didn’t see that, they might have caught her moving speech at last Sunday’s Emmys while accepting her best supporting actress award for that FX series. The bad news is that Rita is not given much to do or say. But the show is young. As the right-hand woman to a man who has just started speaking to the dead, Rita may have some interesting adjustments to make.

And the reason Rita’s character can develop is that she’s alive. Ghosts tend to come in only two flavors: nice and terrifying. Anna is perfectly nice, and that’s too bad. Not to speak ill of the imaginary dead, but she’s kind of boring. Give me a malevolent haunting any day.

• The fate of Peter Bishop hangs in the balance, or somewhere, on the season premiere of “Fringe” (8 p.m., Fox).

Tonight’s season premieres

• Problems in the Garden State on “Kitchen Nightmares” (7 p.m., Fox).

• New alliances on “Nikita” (7 p.m., CW).

• Mac recalls 9/11 on “CSI: NY” (8 p.m., CBS).

• Questions of God and death and stuff on “Supernatural” (8 p.m., CW).

• Tony Bennett and Carrie Underwood guest-star on “Blue Bloods” (9 p.m., CBS).

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