Private Practice: "In Which We Meet Addison, A Nice Girl From Somewhere Else"

Private Practice: "In Which We Meet Addison, A Nice Girl From Somewhere Else"



I stuck with Grey's Anatomy long after it had become the butt of late-night jokes, a chickfest drowning in emo-scored montages and voiceovers that improbably connect every single character to some treacly moral. The last episode I watched was mid-season three, somewhere around the big sweeps two-parter. And I would have kept tuning in every week, then scrolling through my blog subscriptions and not paying any attention for an hour, if my husband hadn't mercifully cancelled the recording.

But the reason I stayed on the Grey train so long was the few actors in the ensemble that I found compelling. Katherine Heigl, Sandra Oh, and Chandra Wilson were worth watching even when I didn't give a toss about what they were doing.

So it's too bad ABC's spinoff series Private Practice features Kate Walsh instead. Her Grey surgeon, the polysyllabic Dr. Addison Montgomery-Shepherd, has decamped from the drama in Seattle. Unfortunately for her (but fortunately for viewers looking for romantic and professional entanglements like those on, say, Grey's Anatomy), she trades ex-husband McDreamy and ex-lover McSteamy for ex-med school classmate Naomi, her ex-husband and self-help guru Sam, and Don Juan Tim Daly ("McDaly").

It's all happening at a "wellness group" in L.A., a touchy-feely medical co-op where a steady stream of infertile women, precocious tots, and charity cases are likely to show up week to week. But even before we can get to the patient drama, there are almost too many familiar faces to place. Judging Amy plays the shrink, that Secret Service agent from Prison Break plays the clownish pediatrician, Piz is the receptionist who fancies himself a midwife, and Taye Diggs of stage, screen, and expensive personal trainer is the dude with the Kevin Trudeau-esque book deal.

The standard-issue post-Ally McBeal comedy routines start before the credit sequence. Addison dances naked in her new L.A. bungalow, then hits the floor when Sam stares at her from the next house over. When the co-op's staff argues about Addison's surprise hire, they yell "Focus!" at each other in unison. And crazy medico-sociological hijinx (accompanied by mournful piano music) proliferate like cockroaches: unmarried teen has baby over father's wishes, mistress tries to collect dead sugar-daddy's sperm, psychiatric patient crawls all over the floor of a small-appliance store.

If I didn't have actual good television to watch, I'd be willing to show up for a few weeks to see Taye and Piz (easy on the eyes, easy on the funnybone). But this is the standard issue David Kelley-lite with a garnish of John Wells. I care more about the catalyst-of-the-week on Scrubs than I do any of these patients. And all the staff brouhaha into the middle of which we're dropped feels like it was made out of cardboard thinner than the temporary sets. If Private Practice is going to last beyond mid-season, it needs a new angle to go with its star power.

Grade: C-

Stray observations:

- As usual, this show is set in the worst-lit doctor's office in America. The AMA needs to investigate, because somebody's going to lose a speculum up in there for lack of task lighting.

- Hey, the psychiatrist is neurotic! That's a new one!

- Cooper, the fun-loving pediatrician, is clealry Private Practice's George O'Malley -- he even has the squared-off forehead. One eagerly waits a public dust-up over the actor's sexual orientation.

- The older guy arriving to jerk off in a cup in the first act clutches his chest and winces as he talks to the doctors. If this were House, he'd end up diagnosed with plantar fasciitis, but since it's not, he dies from cardiac arrest in the next scene.