Every fall, broadcast networks hope that they've secured the next big hit, one captivating enough to draw viewers' attention away from the latest bingeable releases on streaming platforms. In the fall of 2017, that show was The Good Doctor, which rose in the ratings high above its fellow freshman competition, including Fox's Marvel drama The Gifted, the Will & Grace revival, and a Law & Order spin-off starring Emmy winner Edie Falco.
Despite the stiff competition, The Good Doctor became the most-watched show of the fall, taking people along for the feel-good ride of watching Shaun Murphy (Freddie Highmore) become a surgeon. But along with that success comes the pressure to maintain it, and that pressure often leads to shows jumping the shark in desperate reaches for ratings. Once Upon a Time went off the rails after a stellar first season on ABC, and The CW's Riverdale decided to make a teenager become an FBI informant in Season 2.
While The Good Doctor did drop in ratings in Season 2 — a full rating point, in fact — the show has maintained its creative steam without resorting to Shaun doing complex surgeries in a helicopter during a windstorm or having him miraculously catapulted to being president of St. Bonaventure. Instead, the series decided to dig deeper into who Shaun is as a character and his relationships. In doing so, it found enthralling drama by exploring the grounded complexities unique to someone in Shaun's position. The Good Doctor remained great by playing to its strengths rather than swinging for the fences, and while the latter option will often generate more buzz, we want to honor the ABC drama for its ability to deliver consistent, quality television without ever having to compromise.
Shaun's major obstacle in Season 2 was fighting for his place at the hospital in a different way than he had to in Season 1. The new interim president, Dr. Han (Daniel Dae Kim), decided on his first day that Shaun's lacking bedside manner made him unfit to be a surgeon. A good chunk of the season forced Shaun to grapple with whether he truly belonged in the surgical residency program and then fight for this dream once he realized it was the right path for him. That journey led to Emmy-worthy moments like Shaun's meltdown in Dr. Han's office and Shaun figuring out for himself what he really wants in his life — and that he is capable of getting it.
Looking at all 18 episodes of the second season, no outing of The Good Doctor felt like filler or a case of the week that was just spinning its wheels to buy time until the show reached its climactic finale. Every episode felt like a purposeful step toward an earned conclusion that saw Shaun rehired to the surgical staff thanks to his previous naysayer, Dr. Andrews (Hill Harper), coming to his defense. The moment solidified the impact that Shaun has had on the hospital staff and everyone around him. He's as beloved by them as he is by the audience that continues to tune in every week.
If you're someone who prefers to revel in how crappy the human race can be, there are plenty of dramas like Game of Thrones, The Handmaid's Tale, or Westworld for you to sink your teeth into. But the beauty of The Good Doctor is that at the end of the day, every character on the show is trying their best. It's not easy to make an all-around good season of television, and it's rarer to see one that emphasizes people's goodness, but The Good Doctor is a show you can count on to deliver every week -- and that means everything in the age of Peak TV.
Because this is such a competitive category, TV Guide wanted to take this opportunity to shout-out all the runners-up who just barely missed out on the honor of Most Consistent: It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, which hasn't missed a beat in 13 seasons; Veep, which reminded us week after week why Julia Louis-Dreyfus has a record number of Emmys; and The Big Bang Theory, which will never be cool but always knew exactly what kind of show it wanted to be, right until the very end.