Help, my kid's doctor is autistic

Joo Won (above) is an autistic houseman in Good Doctor.

SINGAPORE - A high-functioning autistic houseman (Joo Won) in Good Doctor has neither angel wings nor a superhero cape - so imagine one or the other flapping behind him, okay?

In this South Korean paediatric surgery drama, there is nothing more challenging than operating on young children, who have tiny organs and their whole lives ahead of them. It is a field which calls for extraordinary perception, precision and imagination - and which needs a medical savant, obviously.

Once you accept this preposterous premise and if you have a strong stomach, the excitement will start.

The show so frequently puts boys and girls in the path of danger - an enormous pane of glass, a negligent surgeon, a busy road, an abusive aunt - that even when it doesn't, you expect a hazard just around the corner.

A singing boy wonder is introduced when chattering young patients watch a clip of his performance in hospital, and alarm bells should start to ring in your head. Sure enough, when he next appears, it is to collapse near a piano in a coughing fit.

Over and over, the stage is set for the misunderstood houseman and his doubting colleagues at the paediatric surgery department to rescue the children.

Different episodes play up different aspects of his ability, from his amazing memory for obscure symptoms to his gift for communicating with children and animals, including a grimy, fierce girl who was kept in a kennel and raised like a dog.

She snarls at doctors who try to help her, but he gets down on all fours, reaches his hand out slowly and gets through to her.

In the mythology of the drama, it takes a child to cure a child. The houseman is special not only because he is a genius, but also because he has a childlike imagination and he acts on it, unimpeded by social expectations and groupthink.

Inevitably, there are parents who have a problem with his awkward bedside manner and doctors who are plotting to throw him out along with his mentor.

Then there are converts such as a second-year resident (Moon Chae Won), who takes the houseman under her wing and advises him not to talk like a mad encyclopaedia.

Medical horror, comedy, geek fantasy and whimsy mix in the show, not always comfortably.

But some weird scenes, such as when the houseman insists on sitting outside the mortuary to keep a dead child company, somehow become wonderful.

The grieving parents turn up and take comfort in the fact that their child hasn't been entirely abandoned and suddenly, the drama is filled with fellow feeling.

Moon And Stars For You is the kind of Korean family drama that brims with inevitability.

It begins typically, with a father bragging about his children at a gathering as they - a surgeon (Jo Dong Hyeok), a contractor and a student - are floundering at work and in school.

The surgeon has a serious girlfriend, but she seems exhausted by the idea of his family, which is extremely ominous in an opening episode.

However, he does run into a baker (Seo Ji Hye) at a train station. He cuts his hand on her brooch but she looks like an angel, so it can only mean one thing.

And the beauty of the show is that it will end just as typically, with the father and children happy, the surgeon and baker together, and at least one newborn around.

In between, you get to know the family (the grumbling grandmother, the discontented daughter-in- law and so on) much better than you know your own neighbours.

Such easy access to other people's daily lives makes the drama hard to stay away from, even when it is not that exciting.

woeiwan@sph.com.sg

View it

GOOD DOCTOR

KBS World (StarHub Channel 115 or mio TV Channel 606), Mondays and Tuesdays, 9pm

MOON AND STARS FOR YOU

Channel U, Mondays to Fridays, 7pm

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