By Anthony KaDarrell Thigpen
AUTISM ACADEMY – A new TV series is inspiring more than 19-million viewers and fostering an added sense of optimism to the autism community. During a recent Good Morning America interview, actor Freddie Highmore spoke concerning his thoughts of playing the leading role on ABC’s new sitcom ‘The Good Doctor’.
Television character, Dr. Shaun Murphy has autism and savant syndrome. He relocates from his country life and troubled childhood to join the prestige San Jose St. Bonaventure Hospital as a surgeon.
Twenty-five-year-old actor Highmore says he’s hopeful that the sitcom raises autism awareness.
“At the same time remaining aware of the fact that Shaun will never, nor should we try to make him represent everyone who has autism,” he said. “What I like about (the character) really is his hopeful outlook on life – his optimism.”
September 25th marks the debut season of the new 2017 TV series airing at 9 p.m., Monday nights on ABC. ‘The Good Doctor’ led the crop of new shows that premiered during the same week. In Nielsen’s Live+7 ratings, ABC’s ‘The Good Doctor’ grew by 100 percent amongst adults 18-49. The ratings improved again on Monday night from its already strong premiere performance last week, by 69 percent in total viewers, growing to 19.2 million viewers from its original 11.3 million.
The show comes from the creator of ‘House’. It has some parallels with the show House, according to executive producer David Shore.
“There was speculation as we went along about Dr. House and we certainly didn’t shy away from that,” he said. “The characters though ultimately couldn’t be more different.”
Shore was quick to point out that much research and consultation was done before representing a person living with autism.
“We saw a lot of doctors, we consulted with people, we’ve got people on the spectrum who we’re working with,” he said. “But he is a specific character, he’s not there to represent autism, he’s there to represent Dr. Shaun Murphy.”
Dr. Murphy’s savant traits are a highly unusual aspect of autism. Although Shore assures reporters that the show will work hard not to contribute to stereotyping.
“Savant syndrome is rare, even within the community of people with autism,” he said, “I think it’s a legitimate question, and we want to make sure that we don’t represent him as being representative in any way.”
The show is a hit. With a cast of lead actors like Hill Harper, Richard Schiff, Nicholas Gonzalez, Antonia Thomas, Beau Garrett, and Tamlyn Tomita the show is reaching a rapidly growing audience weekly.