If nothing else, "The Mob Doctor" will not run afoul of any truth-in-advertising laws.
The new Fox drama chronicles the hectic life of — wait for it — a doctor who is also working for the mob. And we do not mean "flash mob" because, really, what injuries will people sustain singing "Hallelujah" in a shopping-mall food court?
Instead, the set-and-filmed-in-Chicago show (premiering at 8 p.m. Monday, WFLD-Ch. 32) is the hybrid of two hearty dramatic genres, medicine and mafia, each of them apparently so dated that they now need to be combined to have any shot at relevance, like when members of Yes and Emerson, Lake & Palmer got together to form the supergroup Asia — or, come to think of it, like that Asia reference itself.
Grace Devlin (Jordana Spiro) is the title character, a "plucky South Side girl who became a big-city doctor," as a rival M.D. calls her, ignoring the fact that the South Side is part of the big city.
Devlin, a surgical resident, wants to do good, from healing 8-year-old gunshot victims to keeping the daddies of teenage girls from finding out their little angels are pregnant. She charges around her fictional hospital, curing all the people with interesting illnesses, clashing with some superiors and getting mentored by others.
She somehow manages to find time for a boyfriend (Zach Gilford) who is also a doctor, and let's just say that you do not want to be treated in the room where she manages to squeeze him into her busy calendar.
But back in her neighborhood, which we are told is Bridgeport, she's also got this emotionally fragile mother, and then this brother, see, and this brother had this problem with the mob and so Dr. Devlin made the deal that her last name is maybe supposed to hint at: She'd take care of mob medical problems if they'd let her brother continue to draw breath.
If you're thinking this is similar to the adult-life-vs.-neighborhood-obligation issues faced by the state's attorney lead character in last season's set-in-Chicago "The Playboy Club," then you are one of the very few people who actually saw "The Playboy Club" and part of the smaller subset of viewers who remember anything about it. Congratulations, sort of.
Handling mob medicine isn't so bad when it involves taking a screwdriver, literally, out of the head of a small-timer. (In "Playboy Club," coincidentally — and this will be the last reference — the unusual puncture was from a stiletto heel.)
But when a made guy in witness protection comes into the hospital, Dr. Devlin gets asked to set aside the Hippocratic oath, big-time, by hindering his ability to testify. And that is the crux of Monday's pilot: Will she, or won't she?
It's really too bad only one episode was available for preview, because the pilot shows promise but leaves questions.
On the one hand, Spiro ("Harry's Law") is an appealing lead. She projects strength, from her husky voice to her unemotional manner to the steely walk we see in the very many times she is shown moving from one theater of her complicated life into another.
Almost in the more traditional, CBS style, it's a well-made show, in everything from the fully nourished cinematography to some good, crisp dialogue, the line about "plucky South Side girl" notwithstanding. Executive producers Josh Berman and Rob Wright drive things from event to event like an express bus (not at rush hour).
The Chicago work, involving a local soundstage complex and real city exteriors is, all in all, promising. It's not yet "Boss" or the late "The Chicago Code" in their relentless poking around the city, but it jumps way ahead of all 15 seasons of "ER" in just the first episode, which was made before "Mob Doctor" had a full operation here. The neighborhood at least feels like a Chicago neighborhood (though not quite Bridgeport), and there are some interesting locations, including the South Side field where Grace Devlin, as a little girl, sees her first dead body.
On the other hand, these producers, like so many who have come to this city before them, are unable to shoot a vehicle without having it underneath the "L" tracks. Their character movements from one place to another in the city don't always add up.
And the only two baseball references in this show about a Bridgeport girl and the neighborhood hoodlums are to the Cubs. The thugs even have a guard dog named "Wrigley," which surely was "Comiskey" in the original script but got changed because the network felt more of America would get "Wrigley."
There are moments, too, when the show's desire to make strong images overtakes common sense. Devlin's sort of glamour walk through a stolen-car chop shop plays almost like "Flashdance" parody. The water flowing in slow motion in a pre-surgical scrub is just showy.
And, bigger picture, it is preposterous to think that a doctor would have this organized-crime bargain and be openly driving to mobster's homes and workplaces, plus taking calls from one of them on her cellphone under his own name. A law enforcement agency of even moderate competence would have her busted by, like, episode three.
Which brings things back to the question of what is next and why it would have been good to see more episodes. The writers may surprise us, but this is one of those shows where the premise's most dramatic implications happen right away, in the pilot, and you wonder where it can go. Maybe a crossover episode with "Mob Wives Chicago"?