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Creators: Shonda Rhimes
Starring: Kate Walsh, Amy Brenneman, Tim Daly, Taye Diggs, Audra McDonald, Paul Adelstein, KaDee Strickland, Chris Lowell
Airs: Wednesdays, 9pm on ABC
I should preface this by saying that I like Grey’s Anatomy. I wasn’t thrilled with the way the third season ended but I have every intention of tuning in when the fourth season premieres this week. Also, for the record, I loved Addison when she was on Grey’s Anatomy. This is probably why I was more disappointed with Private Practice than I might have been had the pilot episode been the introduction to an entirely new series.
The premise of Private Practice seems simple enough. A group of doctors run a “Wellness Centre” in Los Angeles and Addison (Kate Walsh), having left Seattle Grace and all of that McDrama behind, learns to adapt to this new medical environment. Everyone on the staff at Oceanside Wellness Centre is just as good-looking and relationship-challenged as the gang at Seattle Grace so Addison will surely fit right in among this crew. Most of this was already introduced to us last spring when Addison visited the practice during the special 2-part episode of Grey’s Anatomy.
In the official pilot, it’s mostly more of the same. Aside from Merrin Dungey being dropped from the role as Naomi and replaced by Audra McDonald, the rest of the cast remains the same. This includes the dreamy Taye Diggs, who plays Sam, Naomi’s ex-husband. While Naomi and Sam’s marriage is over, its clear that there’s still feelings there, plus the fact that they work together certainly adds to the tension.
Amy Brenneman plays Violet, the psychiatrist with as much personal baggage as her patients. Violet is close friends with Cooper, played by Paul Adelstein, a pediatrician who prefers internet dating to actual socializing. Then of course there’s Pete (Tim Daly), the resident McDreamy of the crew and also the alternative medicine specialist. He and Addison shared a steamy stairwell kiss in the unofficial pilot and as expected, they spent the bulk of the recent pilot episode shamelessly flirting and then denying that there was anything “going on” between them.
Last but not least there’s Dell (whom I will probably end up referring to as Piz since that was the silly name of Chris Lowell’s character on Veronica Mars). He’s the staff receptionist who likes to surf and walk around with no shirt on. He’s also studying to be a midwife and has an interest in Naomi despite the fact that she’s much older than he is.
I think that about covers all of the characters. In terms of the acting, given what they had to work with, I thought all of them did an admirable job. Of the cast, the two that stood out as being especially interesting on screen were Brenneman and Adelstein. In a show that seems to rely almost entirely on chemistry, I didn’t really see much of it in this first episode but what was there seemed to stand out most when Cooper and Violet were on screen together.
Based on the pilot, I’ve determined that this is a series about good-looking established doctors with relationship problems. How original. At least with Grey’s Anatomy, the whole story of seeing young doctors trudge through their internship and learn how to be grown-ups serves to add a much-needed distraction from all of the sex, elevator flirting and clever dialogue. Practice doesn’t seem to have a side story. The focus of the show is almost entirely on the soapy lives of these doctors and occasionally, their patients. There really isn’t anything we haven’t seen already in other quirky dramedies about a group of people flirting and working together.
From the way the characters interacted to the un-interesting build-up throughout the episode, I felt like the writers were taking the easy route at every turn and banking on the fact that Grey’s fans would eat it all up without questioning it. What was worse was that I actually found the tears welling up during the big “montage” scene towards the end of the episode. I’m sure that was their intention. Grey’s does this a lot and its often quite effective. All of the tension and chaos comes to a head about 47 minutes into the episode and, like in a music video, an intensely emotional song plays as we watch all of the characters dealing with whatever disaster is currently at hand. We sit on the edge of our seats wondering if everything is going to turn out ok or if this is going to be an episode that doesn’t have a happy ending.
It’s a gimmicky tactic but it works for the format of Grey’s. The fact that they tried to do that in Private Practice irritated me despite the fact that it nearly worked. It was almost an immediate reaction to go into tear-mode when the song came on. I went from completely not caring about anyone on the show to feeling worried about the characters and the fate of their patients. They almost had me. Almost. Then I remembered the lady who came in with her dead lover’s body, demanding the doctors retrieve his sperm.
At the end of the episode, Addison gives a little speech to the other doctors, who were set to vote to decide if she should stay on with them full time. Seeing as it’s their practice, that seemed reasonable to me. Instead, Addison cuts them off and talks about how she likes it here and she’s putting her foot down and staying. Then she gives another brief speech about how she saved a patient’s life today and they need her. She promptly walks out after this without letting any of them object. This was supposed to be funny but again, I thought it came off as silly and childish (and not in a cute way which I’m assuming that’s what they were going for). They cap all of this off with Addison at her new home, waving to Sam (who lives next door) from her window, closing the curtains and dancing around naked. Insert "groan" here.
While I recognize that spin-offs are a good way to really develop a character, I’m not sure I like the direction that Addison is headed in. When she showed up on Grey’s we all hated her because she was the opposition between Meredith and Derek. Then, slowly but surely she grew on us and proved to be a strong female character who, while not being perfect, was confident and not entirely without direction. Now it seems that in order to make her story interesting, the writers have stripped her confidence down, turning the character into a woman who reminds me of a recent college graduate just starting out and facing a whole new world rather than what she really is (a successful OBGYN specialist in her mid/late-thirties who has some emotional baggage that needs to be dealt with). It’s not the starting-over part that I don’t like. I’m just not sure this type of story is going to work for Addison.
My final complaint lies in the fact that they laid on the supposed sexual tension between Addison and Pete so thick that it was beyond corny. The whole “I didn’t move down here because you kissed me” bit was just ridiculous. This kind of back and forth banter isn’t the kind of thing that makes our hearts swoon. It’s obvious that these two are supposed to get together at some point. Do we really have to watch this dance when we’ve seen it so many times before in other shows? Where’s the build-up? The intrigue? Why not try the old “they hate each other then they’re put in a situation that becomes so heightened, they end up making out” situation, the way that Izzie and Alex first got together? Do something that’s not so formulaic and cliché.
So as you can see, I was very unimpressed with the first episode of this new series. I recognize that there are going to be die-hard Grey’s fans that are going to love this show as well as drama-junkies who will enjoy it also. If you found something redeemable about it, I urge you to comment below and convince people as to why they should tune in next week. I would also love to hear feedback from any non-Grey’s fans who happened to catch it. I’m wondering if having been a fan of Grey’s has had a drastic effect on my opinion of Private Practice.
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