San Jose lawmaker floats ‘Good Doctor’ tax
Surrey City Hall in Surrey, British Columbia, which is used for exterior shots of the fictional San Jose St. Bonaventure Hospital in "The Good Doctor." Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

ABC medical drama “The Good Doctor” is set in San Jose, but doesn’t actually film here. One city official jokingly said City Hall should capitalize on that.

The television show stars an autistic savant aspiring surgeon played by English actor Freddie Highmore who does his residency at the prestigious—but fictional—San Jose St. Bonaventure Hospital.

The show is fictional, and so are its ties to San Jose—the drama hasn’t ever filmed in the city, and most of the filming isn’t even done in the U.S. So all the shots of the city that viewers see are mostly fancy tech-manipulated stand-ins. Fitting for the heart of Silicon Valley.

“I love to see San Jose on TV or in the movies,” said Councilmember Pam Foley during Tuesday’s budget meeting. “Can we get a fee every time they say the name San Jose and they don’t take a picture of us, of San Jose? ‘The Good Doctor’ or something, doesn’t that say they film in San Jose and they really don’t? It’s a new profit center I think.”

Highmore’s character, Dr. Shaun Murphy, moves from Casper, Wyoming to San Jose in order to complete his residency. In one scene, Murphy takes the bus to work and passes through what appears to be South San Jose on “Santa Clara Metro,” an agency that doesn’t exist. A downtown market now replaced by a Walgreens is mentioned in one episode, and in another, viewers watch a helicopter ride where two doctors fly to San Francisco to pick up a liver.

Nearly all filming is done in Vancouver, British Columbia. What stands in for St. Bonaventure Hospital is actually Surrey City Hall, about 40 minutes southeast of Vancouver.

“The Good Doctor” certainly isn’t the first recent show to be set in the area. HBO’s “Silicon Valley,” although mostly set in Mountain View and Palo Alto, made a few references to San Jose. Mayor Sam Liccardo even made a cameo in 2019 for the comedy’s final season. While the mayor received a bit of cash for his appearance, he decided to donate it to a local charity.

The idea of taxing film studios to use San Jose is something a few officials say they would consider—even if they’re not entirely sure how fining a studio would actually work, or even if they’re entirely serious.

“I’m a yay on @PamFoleyD9’s proposal to tax the ‘Good Doctor’ for claiming to be in San Jose and not taping here,” tweeted Luther Burbank School District Trustee Jeffrey Buchanan, who also works for Working Partnerships USA. “Not sure CA public finance laws agree, but they should!”

Maybe ABC can throw in a stipend-donation too.

Contact Lloyd Alaban at [email protected] or follow @lloydalaban on Twitter.

Editor’s Note: Derecka Mehrens, executive director of Working Partnerships USA, serves on San José Spotlight’s Board of Directors.

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