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Ratings winner: The Good Doctor on call

Good_Doctor_grabABC’s autism-themed medical drama is the biggest new show on US primetime, and buyers are responding in kind, TBI reports.

Every year, TBI travels to the LA Screenings in May to view the latest pilots from the US broadcasters. Picking which will become new season hits is rarely easy, and although The Good Doctor was clearly a strong contender last year, nobody was predicting the success it has achieved since launch on ABC on September 25.

With Freddie Highmore (Bates Motel) and Richard Schiff (The West Wing) on its bill, The Good Doctor isn’t lacking for star power, and they have helped propel the show to the top of the broadcast ratings charts.

Nielsen data shows it is outperforming the evergreen CBS military police procedural NCIS and NBC critical darling This is US to become the number one drama of the fall season with an average of 17.2 million in total viewers and a 3.8 rating in 18-49s.

Further afield, ratings have been good in the Australia, Canada, the UK, South Korea and Spain, and distributor Sony Pictures Television (SPT) has sold it to nearly 200 territories overall.

SPT president of worldwide distribution Keith Le Goy says it has become “the number one drama in the world”, adding: “It’s the must-watch, must-have drama that our partners in the US and around the world have been clamouring for.”

The new ABC drama is also one of the highest profile series, along  with BBC show The A Word,  to shine a light on autism – a condition that makes communication difficult for an affected person, though can gift them with incredible powers of reasoning and intellect.

“It’s broadcast TV, but it’s also one of those rare occasions where you actually have the opportunity to get to do some good with a series,” says David Shore, who helms the series through his Shore Z prodco.

Shore – known for leading another huge medical procedural, House – developed the series with actor and producer Daniel Dae Kim (Lost, Hawaii 5-0) after the scripts were brought into the US from Asia.

The original series debuted on KBS2 in South Korea in 2013, before the concept was packaged for the US and pitched around before Shore took over. Sony is producing through its deal with the showrunner.

Both Shore and Le Goy point to Highmore’s central performance as Dr Shaun Murphy, a Boston surgeon and savant with Asperger’s Syndrome, with the former saying: “It will raise questions about how the public understands the condition”.

Murphy is able to recognise problems and diagnose illness on a level far beyond most regular doctors, but struggles with human interaction, and his superiors clash over his employment.

Over the course of the first season, which is shot in Canada and runs to 18 episodes, viewers learn if he can live up to the show’s title.