On Monday, ABC announced it renewed its popular medical TV series “The Good Doctor” for a fourth season.
“The Good Doctor” follows Dr. Shaun Murphy (Freddie Highmore) as he joins the esteemed surgical unit at St. Bonaventure Hospital. Murphy, who is on the spectrum, is now well established with his colleagues and, like any good medical drama, finds himself navigating romantic relationships while balancing his professional life. According to a press release, “The Good Doctor” is ABC’s most-watched show this season.
“’The Good Doctor’ has been a cornerstone on Monday nights and is one of those special heartfelt series that fearlessly tackles inclusivity,” Karey Burke, president of ABC Entertainment, said in a press release. “David Shore’s thoughtful storytelling, combined with an incredible cast led by Freddie Highmore’s nuanced performance as Dr. Shaun Murphy, are what have made this series a breakout hit over the past three seasons, and I’m excited to see where they take us next.”
— The Good Doctor (@GoodDoctorABC) February 10, 2020
While the show is certainly popular among viewers, it has garnered criticism for casting Highmore, who is not autistic, in the lead role. Only 3% of TV series regular characters have a disability, and, according to the Ruderman Family Foundation, only 22% of those characters are authentically portrayed by actors with a disability. Too often, as “The Good Doctor” actor Coby Bird said, filmmakers fail to recognize people with disabilities are capable of telling their own stories.
“My entire life I’ve been wanting to [act], but the problem is, people with autism, it’s difficult for us because at the end of the day, they don’t think we have what it takes to act,” Bird previously told The Mighty. “We have to really spread the word that just because we are disabled, this doesn’t mean we can’t do what we want to do.”
Despite mixed reviews from the autism community, self-advocates such as Kerry Magro praised the show’s portrayal of autism as well as how it has dismantled some misconceptions about people on the spectrum. Margo wrote in his article, “Why I’m Giving ‘The Good Doctor’ a Shot as Someone on the Autism Spectrum“:
What really stood out to me, though, was the discussion during one scene where they are deciding Dr. Murphy’s fate and someone says people with autism lack empathy, so how can they be sympathetic to patients and their families? It was refreshing to see Dr. Murphy disprove that harmful myth and have the opportunity to show his ability to care for others. When asked point blank ‘Why do you want to be a surgeon?’ he shared a traumatic event in his history. I had to pause the show because I was sobbing like a baby.
“The Good Doctor” airs Mondays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.