Entertainment

Creating a worldwide smash hit: how The Good Doctor became TV's new must-watch show

As executive producer David Shore knew all too well, when you've created a show as successful as House, your follow-up was going to have to be something special.

People the world over have been lapping up The Good Doctor, quickly propelling it to the standing of most-watched drama worldwide. And since its release through Lightbox last week, Kiwi viewers now have the opportunity to see what all the fuss is about.

It's easy to get caught up in the show's runaway success. But fans may be surprised to learn that it almost didn't get made at all.

We have Daniel Dae Kim's dogged determination to thank for bringing the medical drama to our screens. Kim is best-known for playing in Jin-Soo Kwon in six seasons of the wildly popular Lost. He then went on to star in Hawaii Five-O.

Daniel Dae Kim (c) played Jin-Soo Kwon in six seasons of Lost.
Daniel Dae Kim (c) played Jin-Soo Kwon in six seasons of Lost.

The Good Doctor was a hit in his native South Korea. Kim recognised its potential for a Western audience and secured the rights to develop it, taking the concept to CBS, the network he was working with on Hawaii Five-O. After initially ordering a script, CBS ended up passing on the project - not once, but twice.

In the world of TV land, this is where ideas for shows usually quietly go away. But refusing to let the project go, Kim bought the rights back from CBS and set out to develop the show through his own production company, 3AD.

The Good Doctor is based around the character of Dr Shaun Murphy, a young surgeon with autism and savant syndrome who who has just landed his dream role in the paediatric surgical unit at a San Jose hospital.

Freddie Highmore plays Dr Shaun Murphy, a young surgeon with autism and savant syndrome.
Freddie Highmore plays Dr Shaun Murphy, a young surgeon with autism and savant syndrome.

"The primary thing that made me really want to purse this show and bring it to American audiences is the fact that the character of Shaun is someone who was born with a set of obstacles — the obstacles were not put in his own way by his own choices," Kim told the Hollywood Reporter.

"And in so many dramas that we see today, we see people getting in their own way. But Shaun is not one of those people," he explained.

"Shaun is trying to overcome his challenges in a way that I wholeheartedly root for. And that is a really positive message that I think is particularly resonant given these political times."

Kim says the positive message around Shaun's character is resonant in these political times.
Kim says the positive message around Shaun's character is resonant in these political times.

Cue the arrival of David Shore. His executive producing and writing credits are extensive, including Law & Order and Due South, but he is best known as the creator of the Emmy award winning House.

"It was one of those things where I ignored it the first time it was sent to me," Shore tells TV Guide. "And then I ignored it the second time it was sent to me. And by the time a third person sends it to you, you go, 'You know what? Maybe there's something here,'" he says.

"And it moved me. I wanted to do it. Then I found out Daniel was involved and we had a wonderful discussion [where] we saw this [show] the same way and it's been a great collaboration."

David Shore, Freddie Highmore and Daniel Dae Kim.
David Shore, Freddie Highmore and Daniel Dae Kim.

Sony Pictures Television picked up the show and it was developed in America through ABC.

"It's kind of been a labour of love for everybody involved," Lauren Stein, Sony Pictures Television executive vice president of drama development told TV Guide.

"[We] really loved the concept of it and the emotion of it. I think everybody went in with really high expectations and [casting] Freddie really kind of solidified literally everything."

"People really embraced Shaun as a character and the concept because it is such an emotional show," she said.

Sony picked up the show because they loved the concept and the emotion of it.
Sony picked up the show because they loved the concept and the emotion of it.

One of the biggest concerns for the creative team was making sure Shaun's autism was portrayed accurately and sensitively.

"We took on this huge responsibility and incredibly difficult task to be fair and honest in our portrayal of somebody with autism," Shore told TV Guide.

Getting a positive response from the autism community was extremely important for the team. They received the ultimate thumbs up in October when they were awarded with The Awareness Award from Autism Speaks at their annual Into the Blue gala for their "committed effort to increase understanding and acceptance of autism spectrum disorder."

Shore has been buoyed by the reaction the show has received. "It has been positive and I find that incredibly gratifying and rewarding and inspiring," he said.

"It's yet another form of discrimination, another prejudice that we have…I hope we're part of breaking down that barrier a little bit. That is part of the innate optimism on this show."

The Good Doctor is screening on Lightbox with double episodes available every Monday.