Be careful who you owe. This healthy advice, however, comes too late for the promising young surgeon Dr Grace Devlin who, because of her brother's debt to the Chicago underworld, finds herself forced to make a deal with the devil in The Mob Doctor, a new one-hour medical drama from Fox.
Like an irresistible sucking undertow, family complications and her own family's Southside roots only drag Grace deeper into a morally grey area where she finds herself living a tense double-life, caught between two worlds.
In her public life, she's a top resident at Chicago's Roosevelt Medical Center, a smart and self-assured woman heralded as one of the country's most talented young surgeons. In her hidden life, she agrees to work "off book" for the mafia men she once despised, to pay off her brother's gambling debt and save his life.
"It's ER and Doctor Faustus meets The Sopranos," says Rob Wright, co-creator of the series with writing partner Josh Berman. This duo previously created and executive-produced Drop Dead Diva (2009-2012), the successful Lifetime network comedy-fantasy about a plus-size lawyer whose body is inhabited by the soul of a fashion model.
"On Drop Dead Diva, it's two women living one life and I thought it would be fun if we reversed it — one woman living two lives," says Berman.
The casting of Jordana Spiro as the medically gifted, deep-thinking, morally compromised Grace would appear to fly in the face of her already well-established comedy career for roles such as the ditsy Sherri in the movie Must Love Dogs (2005) and as the lovelorn female sports columnist PJ Franklin in the TBS sitcom My Boys (2006-2010).
"I fell into comedy and I really loved doing comedy but I never sought out to be a comedic actress," says Spiro. "I fancied myself really a dramatic actress, so [the role of Grace] was just a really extraordinary opportunity for me."
At the hospital, Grace is confronted by emotionally gripping cases — a young woman in need of a heart transplant, a family shattered by a hit-and-run driver, the mass chaos in the aftermath of an L-train crash.
But in the underworld, she's forced to run a deadly gauntlet of mob demands as she operates in back rooms, patches up hit men on the lam from the law, performs emergency surgery on a high-end hooker and, in one outlandishly weird and comic storyline, saves a racehorse from the attentions of a DNA thief.
Among her mob connections, one very familiar face stands out, that of veteran actor William Forsythe as the charming but diabolical Constantine Alexander, a kindly killer whose relationship with Grace is more than it seems, as he manoeuvres to reclaim his job as the Windy City's kingpin of crime.
Known for playing hoodlums, over the years Forsythe has been celebrated for his hilarious performance as a bumbling jail escapee alongside John Goodman in Raising Arizona, as the comic book villain Flattop in Dick Tracy, and as Al Capone in The Untouchables TV series. More recently, he garnered critical acclaim for playing the real-life butcher Manny Horowitz in Boardwalk Empire.
For those who wonder if "mob doctors" do indeed exist, Berman swears they do - but the real-life versions do it willingly for the money, without all the family baggage and moral ambiguity that binds the fictional Grace to her bizarre predicament.
"Most mob doctors are motivated by greed," adds Berman. "They get seduced by the mob world; it's not because of the reasons we have in our pilot - we flipped that and, hopefully, we're a more idealised version of that."
The Mob Doctor is on at 4pm today on OSN First