While there was some stuff about Cristina’s wedding, and about Meredith and her father, let’s face it: we were watching tonight’s episode of Grey’s Anatomy, “The Other Side of This Life,” for a preview of Addison (Kate Walsh) and her spinoff (Tentatively titled ‘Private Practice’) which currently has a really good shot of making ABC’s lineup in the Fall (Although the Grey’s stuff got REALLY heavy at the end, I’m still choosing to ignore it). But, the thing is…is it any good? Is the show really worth a spot on ABC’s schedule? Let’s evaluate and find out.
Addison takes a trip down to Santa Monica to visit some old med school friends who are running a doctor’s cooperative on the sunnier part of the West Coast. She arrives at Oceanside Wellness Group with one thing in mind: having a baby (which proves to be a difficult goal). The clinic is also currently lacking an OBGYN, after theirs had a little run-in with one of the partners, so there’s an empty office just asking for Addison to step in to fill the void.
The show basically operates like Grey’s Anatomy with a greater focus on different medical conditions. It’s got its procedural structure of cases of the week, in this case a surrogate situation gone wrong and a man with low sex drive. To what extent this would develop differently once picked can only be speculated upon. For now, it’s Grey’s Anatomy dealing with psychiatric cases and more OBGYN aspects.
Any good spinoff, really, has to be able to create memorable characters that we’re willing to accept as part of the show’s universe. This means establishing archetypes that are different from what we see on the original series, and creating performances that are distinct and memorable. And, in my view, I’d say that this particular spinoff has done a fairly good job of this.
The Best Friend – Naomi (Merrin Dungey)
Where you’ve seen her before: She played Francie on “Alias”.
She’s the friend for Addison, an old Med School buddy who is going through some problems on her own. She brings a nice parallel to the table in terms of Addison’s goal of having a child and her past relationship issues, and as the clinic’s fertility doctor she clearly factors directly into Addison’s plan to have a baby. On the whole, I’d say she’s a successful addition to the show’s universe, and she doesn’t come across as similar to any existing characters.
The Male Divorcee Struggling with Singlehood – Sam (Taye Diggs)
Where you’ve seen him before: He played the titular character on UPN’s “Kevin Hill” and ABC’s “Daybreak”
On the surface, Jackson is a little bit like McDreamy, but in reality he’s more of the anti-McDreamy. Although he was recently divorced, he is certainly not reacting by sleeping with random interns; instead, he’s remaining single and owns a small little dog and working alongside his ex-wife (Naomi). He’s got a successful book (Dr. Feelgood is his other name, apparently), but you have the feeling that he could snap at any moment and just go wild. It’s a complex character, and it’s kind of interesting.
Where you’ve seen them before: Adelstein played the awesome Kellerman on “Prison Break,” while Daly starred in the defunct “The Nine”
Two very different people, each with some qualities of characters we know and love but yet with their own idiosyncrasies. Cooper has a bit of a problem with internet hookers stealing his things, including his shiny bachelor’s Porsche 911. The thing is that he isn’t really successful at it, like Sloane is for instance. He’s actually a bit of a goofball, which is kind of refreshing (And represents great material for Adelstein). He’s so mixed up in love, it’s basically endearing in every possible way.
Pete, meanwhile, is definitely the closest the show has to character deserving of his own “Mc” prefix. While he isn’t an object of pure sexual lust (I’ll get to that in a second), he’s the most romantic, even if he’s a serial misogynist who refuses to commit in relationships. He’s the best kind of womanizer, in the short-term, but the worst kind in the long term. Again: complex character, lots of room for dramatic movement. Plus, he’s the charmer, as evidenced by his acupuncture treatment of Addison. Or when he basically ordered Addison to make out with him. And then they did. Intensely. In a stairwell. And his wife died, so he’s even endearing.
The (Semi-)Neurotic Female – Violet (Amy Brenneman)
Where you’ve seen her before: She was the lead on “Judging Amy” for six seasons.
Violet is the closest thing that this spinoff has to Meredith Grey; she has relationship drama out the ying yang, and broke down fairly substantially at the beginning of the episode. However, unlike Meredith, I don’t find Violet annoying in her neuroticism. She seems to be fairly together, considering she’s a shrink and all, and displayed a rather capable ability to pull things together. She struggles with the reality of her treatments, and her inability to get over her ex Alan. It’s all kind of…real, in this little bubble.
The Boy Toy – Dell (Chris Lowell)
Where you’ve seen him before: He’s currently Piz on “Veronica Mars”
He’s basically the sex object, so I figure he’s closer to Karev than anyone else in this perspective. He basically became a purely sexual being the second he decided to head off surfing, and basically just looks at people seductively. He isn’t much of a character, but this makes sense: if Veronica Mars returns through some sort of miracle, I believe that would have to be his first commitment. Still, considering its future, I’d say that the boy toy receptionist might be sticking around, especially considering his attraction to Naomi (Cuckoo Cuchoo Mrs. Robinson indeed, Dell).
Other Familiar Faces:
They’re just supporting guest stars, really, but let’s consider who else was present. I immediately noticed David Anders’ name in the credit, and sure enough there he was as the surrogate’s husband. He was reuniting with Dungey, as both played on Alias (Where Anders played the awesome conflicted villain Sark). The surrogate, however, was driving me crazy for about eighty minutes of the episode. I finally figured it out: Lisa was played by Becky Wahlstrom (Pictured), who was Grace on “Joan of Arcadia.”
Addison Montgomery (Kate Walsh)
Okay, this is all fine and good. There’s a good supporting cast here…but what about the most important person of all, our star, Addison Montgomery? Well, basically, Kate Walsh proves herself capable of carrying a show on her shoulders with a strong performance fitting of a leading lady. She has always been a strong presence, and the fact that her character became human after being introduced as the heartless wife getting in the way of the show’s main love story was a feat in itself. Now, she transfer deftly into her role as the true star of the show.
She gets talked to by a voice in an elevator, and is in a fairly damaged state which serves well for transitioning into a new part of her life within the spinoff. She was instant chemistry with Dungey, with Daly, with…well, everyone. She just seems to fit within this environment, even coming into this universe for the first time. It helps that the cast around her is adept at this type of drama, and the type of comedy that Shonda Rhimes writes so well. Basically, Kate Walsh is strong enough to pull this off when it comes down to it.
The Bottom Line
On the whole, there lies within this show a great deal of potential. No matter what they wish to call the show, no matter where they end up scheduling it, the show has a large assortment of characters who are complex, maintain complex relationships, and provide a healthy format for the type of medical drama that we’re used to on Grey’s Anatomy. The only concern I could have is that it will be too similar to its predecessor, but I think it has the ability to deal with more adult situations as opposed to the lives of interns. I think it has potential within its characters, their professions, and with the humour seen within this episode. She left in that elevator with Pete heading home to Seattle, her emotional instability of the elevator voice is removed, and we understand where she’s headed professionally.
In the end, for me personally, I’m on board with “Private Practice” or whatever we want to call this thing. We’ll see with the ratings tomorrow whether or not we’ll all be signing up as patients come September.