Crashing Pilots: The Mob Doctor

By David Mumpower

October 11, 2012

Germophobes do not make for believable television doctors.

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When Tom Houseman created this column, he was emphatic about the need for a follow-up article. A pilot is only the first few pages of a chapter of a book, assuming a series lasts for several seasons. Consider that for a program airing five years on network television, the pilot represents less than 1% (!) of the story arc. Tom is an extraordinarily talented young man who was right as usual in his philosophy. Despite this, I will violate his stated rule by making an exception for an interesting program.

Judging by the ratings, you have never watched The Mob Doctor. Virtually no one has. After four episodes, this series is averaging less than four million viewers per airing. Once the second episode’s ratings were known, there was speculation that The Mob Doctor would be pulled from the Fall schedule. The following two showings have garnered 3.46 million and 3.36 million viewers, respectively. Its rating share is 0.9. BOP fans would recognize this as Dollhouse territory.

Barring a miraculous turnaround, The Mob Doctor will be canceled, possibly by the time you read this. There is unlikely to be a follow-up conversation about the show for this reason. Still, I wanted to take this opportunity to discuss the pilot because I believe there is value in deconstructing the failure of this series.

The creative process in Hollywood has been forced into an awkward marriage with commerce. This shotgun wedding leads to a significant share of failed premises. Largely, the truly Bad Ideas never get filmed. This is why shows such as Homeboys in Outer Space are so memorable. There is that moment of wonder when we pause to consider exactly how someone could come to believe that a concept with that particular title could be selected to air on a major network.


The humorous aspect is imagining exactly which shows were deemed inferior. How would you like to be the would-be producer of a network (well, UPN) program who is told that a decision has been made that Homeboys in Outer Space is better than your idea? Have you ever watched Futurama? Moments like this are why Suicide Booths will be invented in the 30th century.

Pilot season is a maddening period during which agents, producers and actors work non-stop to persuade network executives that their pilot is the next Modern Family. While anyone who believes that Hollywood is a meritocracy is living in denial, most of the shows that are selected are the cream of the crop. I speak not of pure quality of the product but instead with regards to that perfect combination of quality and marketability. As is the case with movies, financial investors always must place their laser focus on the latter, hoping that the former is good enough to satisfy customers.

The concept of The Mob Doctor is marketable. While Francis Ford Coppola, Brian De Palma and Martin Scorsese have the most penetrating impact on mob tales, David Chase gets most of the credit in the field of television. The Sopranos was a groundbreaking program not for its reinvention of the concept but instead due to its humanization of truly awful characters.

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