Grey's Anatomy (2005- )
Private Practice (2007- )
Type: Spin Off
Wow. This had to be one of the most hyped spin offs ever. I mean, the hyped didn't even build around the spin off premiering but around the Grey's Anatomy episode that would serve as the pilot. Days after the "pilot" aired ABC announced the show had been picked up as a series. As if they had been hemming and hawing and really didn't know until that moment. Oh come on! Such audience tumult over the pilot even being created, before it even aired, so much free press. Like they wouldn't pick it up. I guess ABC would say, "Yeah but we had to wait and see how the audience would respond." But come on! Unless they utterly and entirely botched it – "It takes place in Finland! None of it's in English! All the characters speak in monotone!" – that much hype that early on would equal an audience for the show.
Anyway, here's the dirt. Grey's Anatomy was a soap opera-ish drama about a bunch of Seattle, Washington doctors working at Seattle Grace Hospital. The central character was Meredith Grey. See, ye get it? Medical show, a doctor named Grey, it's a soap so there's gonna be sex and nekkidness so Grey's Anatomy. Huh, huh... say no more say no more.
I'm not going to get into the ins and outs of the plot because, for one thing, being a form of soap opera that could get pretty involved. For another thing... um, I honestly haven't watched the show enough to know the ins and outs of the plot. I know there are at least two hot guys on the show who the female doctors nicknamed McDreamy and McSteamy. I also know that despite the description "soap", the show wasn't an over the top crazy-fest some folks associate with that term. No Melrose Place here. Well, not quite. I mean the show does have it's over the top moments but they try to play them with some reality and gravity. It's like... 60% soap, 40% medical drama. Romance and personal life stories play more than the actual medical drama/treating patients stuff. ER would be the opposite percentage; they have personal drama all the time but every week they have to have two or three patient intensive stories. Although Grey's was such a big hit it actually impacted ER's writing style. At the start of 2006 ER's percentages got a little, well, grey. Say 55% medical drama, 45% soapy.
Anyway, Grey's was doing so well, ABC decided to strike while the show was hot and create a spin off called... bleh... Private Practice (As I type, the pilot episode has just aired and the series has not yet debuted. I'd lay even odds on a title change happening before the show premieres). So at the end of the 2007 season, Grey's Anatomy aired a two hour episode titled "The Other Side Of This Life" which set up the new show.
This was actually kind of interesting to watch. Often when a series tries to sneak a pilot for a new show in as a regular episode, it's a bit obvious. A character from the show goes off to meet new people for some reason and then for the rest of the episode you see none of the regular cast except that one character. Sometimes it's worse! Sometimes the plot is about a friend of a regular character who you've never even seen before. Then the whole story becomes about this new person in a new situation and all you see of the regular cast are quick cameos. Then if the pilot doesn't go you're stuck with this oddball annoying episode as a permanent part of the original series. But Grey's was actually pretty smart. The episode is two hours long with about 50% of the show being about the new spin off and 50% being about the normal goings on at the hospital. It was all well enough done that if the pilot hadn't sold it could air in syndication and not be annoying. But because of how they set it up, if the pilot element really just stunk up the joint, I think they could easily have cut that stuff out and still had a solid one hour episode for syndication.
Anyway, onto the actual facts of the case. The lucky winner of a spin off all her own was Dr. Addison Montgomery Shepherd, one of the female docs. Feeling her life was not going exactly how she wanted it to, she decided to head off on a trip that was one part vacation, one part mission to fix things. She traveled down to Los Angeles where she had a friend in private medical practice. Feeling she had screwed up her love life and sacrificed having a family for her career, she was heading down to have her friend test out her baby making potential and, hopefully, get the ball rolling on some artificial insemination. Beyond that she wanted fun and sun. Of course she ended up meeting all her friend's partners in the practice and playing an active roll in one of their medical dramas. In the end she sadly found out her chances of getting a spin off were much higher than her chances of having a baby. At one point she actually says she only has two eggs left and I think she got those at Denny's.
Like Grey's, this show is also a bit Soapy. Everyone is angst-filled and on the verge of sleeping with almost everyone else but in a properly dramatic and not exploitive way. I was almost tricked into thinking it wasn't soapy at all but, hey, it is. Consider one of the main plots of the pilot. Now this played less soapy than it sounds but still... A woman wants a baby and hires a surrogate. The surrogate is supposed to carry an egg fertilized by this woman and her husband. Only... I guess the husband went all gay and left the woman for another man. Then the surrogate gets freaked out about the responsibility of carrying the baby and in a crazy act of hedonism sleeps with apparently most of Southern California including the husband and his gay lover. So, first, with everyone changing partners there is concern over who gets the baby. But on top of that, if the baby the surrogate is carrying is from the affairs and not the pre-fertilized egg then it gets crazier. Who is the dad? If it's the surrogate's baby, who gets custody then??? Wow, it can't get any worse. Wait! It can! The surrogate has a dangerous condition arise and goes into labor months early! The baby might not make it! The surrogate is bleeding out! Everyone else is more concerned with custody matters than this poor girl's health and well being! But in the end, the surrogate survives and gives the "mom" custody on the condition they all get to be part of the child's life. Dawwww. See, in the end it's sweet, not soapy.
I must admit I think Private Practice starts out with a strong cast playing solid characters. The cast is literally a list of really solid actors and actresses who either were just between TV gigs or who really have deserved a hit show and just haven't gotten one. Let's run the list. First off, Tim Daly as Pete Cooper, the practice's alternative medicine guy. Tim Daly has just been bouncing from one great-but-cancelled-quickly show to the next. His show The Nine premiered at the start of the same season to much hype before it, uh, went away and made him available for Private Practice. And only about a week before the spin off pilot aired he was killed off as a supporting player on The Sopranos. Tim Daly normally plays pretty solid nice guys. Pete Cooper was a little different. He's a nice guy but, like, a bad boy nice guy. Widowed years before he is a serial monogamist who never will truly get close to the women he dates. And when Addison was despairing over her current situation he helped this woman he hardly knew by jamming his tongue down her throat. See, that's the bad boy part. The good guy part is he actually told her what he was going to do and asked if it was okay ("I'm going to kiss you with tongue and it is going to make you alllll better. Okay?") AND it actually helped Addison.
Someone else was also became "available" just in time for Private Practice was Paul Adelstein. Again, the same season as the pilot aired, Paul had been starring on the Fox hit show Prison Break. Luckily, a month before the pilot aired, he got killed off. He plays Cooper, another member of the practice whose specialty I didn't quite catch. His gimmick is that everyone kinda thinks he's maybe a wee bit sleazy for constantly hooking up with women online who are too young and with slutty screen names. But he is a nice guy! The women he works with want him to meet someone age appropriate and not slutty. My only problem with him was on Prsion Break he played a bad dude. I think of all the characters killed on that show, he killed half of them. And he tried to kill most of the others too. Hard to switch gears to him being a big puppy dog. But then again I'd guess Prison Break and Private Practice will have very different audiences so this probably won't be a problem for anyone besides, well, me.
Addison's best friend Naomi is played by Merrin Dungey. She is well qualified to play the cool best friend having played the best friend of Sydney Bristow on Alias before she was... well... before she was killed off. Actually she was killed off on Alias twice. Maybe it was three times. I'm sensing a weird pattern here. Anyway Naomi's big issue is that she works at the practice with her ex-husband. But they're still good friends.
And who would that ex-husband be? How about Taye Diggs? Kick ass. Like others, he is a great actor who has just needed a show to work for him. He was available for the pilot because his highly hyped show Day Break also didn't survive the 2006-2007 season. But I think he at least didn't get killed. Then again, I'm not sure. Day Break was about a guy who keeps living the same day over and over. I didn't see it and with that Groundhog's Day setup it is possible some of his days could have ended with him dying. Anyway, Taye plays Naomi's ex, Jackson. Did they break up because he cheated? No. One morning he apparently woke up and for some reason that baffles even him just decided to blow up his marriage.
That brings us to Amy Brenneman as Violet, the practice's resident shrink. This marked Amy B's return to TV after the cancellation of her show Judging Amy. In this case though, Judging Amy left the air after a long and healthy run with Amy taking a brief break from TV. So... no failed show and I know for a fact she was never killed on her show. However, she did go from starring on Judging Amy with Tyne Daly playing her mom to starring in Private Practice alongside Tim Daly, Tyne Daly's brother. So apparently Amy's got a clause in all her contracts that on all TV shows she must work with a Daly. I would ask that she keeps to working with Tim and/or Tyne. Because God help me, if she expands out to work with Carson Daly... well I could not take that. The character of violet is much like the other characters in that she too is looking for some meaning and purpose in her life. .The pilot had her doubting her value as a doctor when the sexual problem she was counseling a patient for turned out to have a physical rather than a psychological cause.
Finally there is Chris Lowell as the practice's surfer boy receptionist Dell. Chris jumped ship from Veronica Mars for Private Practice. Again, he did not die either. Chris is the young hottie who all the female docs love to ogle (they have a daily ogling appointment before and after he surfs) but who is too young for them to actually date. That said, he is on the make for Naomi.
The pilot ends with Addison heading home but with an offer to join the practice. Whether she will return is left up in the air. Yeah, right. Like it or not, Addison, you're moving to L.A. ABC sez so!
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