Could The Good Lawyer be the cure for the heartbreak that Nancy Drew‘s end will bring? After watching the backdoor pilot in this season of The Good Doctor, I’m convinced it is just the answer I’ve been looking for. Kennedy McMann is a TV talent for the ages, and I look forward to seeing her on my TV screen week after week.
There are very few shows on TV right now that I am insanely bullish about, but Nancy Drew is one of them. And while there are a couple dozen reasons that this supernatural CW drama is well worth everyone’s time, its fourth season debuts at the end of the month, and there’s little hope of it getting a renewal with all the changes going on at the CW. So, upon hearing that the lead actress, Kennedy McMann, has a backdoor pilot during this season of The Good Doctor, I soon realized that this new show may be the only balm to sooth my aching heart.
One of the things that will keep my sanity rocking in the absence of more Nancy Drew is seeing the cast continue to make great TV elsewhere going forward. And I’m so glad that Kennedy McMann is the first to land another great role. She is an absolutely incredible talent, and her new role as Joni DeGroot allows her to show her skills in a totally different type of way.
Her take on the girl detective in Nancy Drew showed us she could lead a cast, handle even the most difficult of exposition, and make a beloved literary character feel brand new again. I was an avid Nancy Drew series reader back in my day, and while the CW’s take is modern and fresh, there’s enough of that classic heroine to keep fans of all generations eager to tune in week after week.
Now, this new role, as Joni DeGroot, is a different type of leading lady, and I could not be more excited to see what Kennedy McMann has in store for her if we get more episodes of The Good Lawyer this fall. This The Good Doctor spinoff gives audiences a look behind the veil of obsessive compulsive disorder, which is much more than just being a neat freak with a manic desire to keep things clean.
If you’ve never watched an episode of The Good Doctor, the show tells the story of Dr. Shaun Murphy, a young surgeon with autism and Savant syndrome who works hard to hone his skills. In the current season, Dr. Murphy has risen to the role of attending physician, and finds himself the subject of a lawsuit after a roadside amputation victim decides to sue. In walks Felicity Huffman’s Janet Stewart to represent him in court. But before she can get him to take the settlement, Joni steps in, and her OCD allows Dr. Murphy to see her as a kindred spirit who understands his plight and insistence that the included supervisory period in the settlement is simply unacceptable.
Throughout the episode, we learn more about Joni and her disorder, including how her rituals can become intrusive to her daily activities. We see her fail. We see her struggle to appear “normal” in order to please the neurotypicals that surround her. This is most clearly demonstrated in the court scenes, but also in the reaction her boss has to her completing rituals as a balm to her intrusive thoughts.
In one such scene, Stewart claims that Joni lacks control over herself, but as we watch, that’s hardly the case at all. Joni’s issues don’t stem from a lack of control, but from the need to complete ritual sets to keep her mind on task. Kennedy manages to bring this portrayal to the screen in an honest, unbridled way, and the moments we spend hearing how her brain experiences the world are, at the very least, eye-opening to an audience full of people who might not truly understand this condition.
We also get to see why Joni’s skills give her an advantage in her chosen profession. Her ability to remember even the most minute details from a crime scene photo allows her to strengthen her defensive strategy. She uses her unique perspective to challenge those around her, forcing them to up their game to meet her standards. I sincerely hope we get to see this character develop over a complete first season (and hopefully many more to come after that as well), because what was introduced in the backdoor pilot has me desperate to experience more of The Good Lawyer.
There is one thing I think is particularly noteworthy in her performance. I am not well versed in what makes OCD such a neurologically complicated disorder to live with, but after watching this single episode of the (hopefully) new show The Good Lawyer, I already can see myself understanding why individuals that need to complete rituals like Joni should be met with compassion instead of irritation. And the show may not get everything right. It definitely cannot represent every single person afflicted with OCD accurately, as every person’s situation is different. But my heart believes this show could do a lot of good to help people understand what it’s like living with OCD, and in ways that haven’t been seen in similar characters before. Take Monk, for example. While Monk is definitely entertaining, it mostly plays its titular character’s fears, neatness, and affinity for certain numbers for laughs. It’s already clear that in The Good Lawyer, this would not be the case.
Kennedy McMann’s skills are unmatched amongst her peers, and I am hoping with everything in me that this new show will be a springboard for her career. Nancy Drew has built her a solid following of dedicated fans, but moving to a network like ABC could propel her career to new heights, reaching audiences that would never tune into a supernatural drama. So, if you get a chance to check out The Good Doctor season 6, episode 16 to see Kennedy McMann as the incomparable Joni DeGroot, I firmly believe you will agree with me that this The Good Doctor spinoff has the potential to be an incredible addition to the pantheon of gold standard television.
Watch the backdoor pilot for ‘The Good Lawyer’ on Hulu and ABC.com now.
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