Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Private Practice: This is What They Call Hero Worship

Perhaps my favorite part of having three part-time jobs is having three watercoolers. Although only one of my offices has an actual device, that doesn’t stop me from having light TV conversation with any colleague who seems particularly interested. Oftentimes, it’s frustrating because I’m a pretty serious TV watcher (hello, I have a blog) and I have to try not to come across as an asshole when I, for instance, talk about the Grey’s chronology with my work friends. (Look here for my recent take on the Seattle Grace calendar.)

However, sometimes they bring up really excellent points. My friend and I were discussing the Private Practice premiere, and she said she was blown away by how much she cried while watching last week’s episode. “Pilots shouldn’t make you cry. It was unnatural,” she said.

It’s true. In that same bitchy Grey's blog, I also talked about pilot magic, and Private Practice, at least in my opinion, definitely had it. (Dirty Sexy Money, meanwhile, did not. But that’s a story for another post.) The episode had humor, likeable male characters, and a hero who I am totally ashamed to have hated.

I liked that it didn’t rely too heavily upon the spinning-off episodes of Grey’s, which had that whole elevator-as-conscience storyline and, oh yeah, a different Naomi. Speaking of which, Audra McDonald is way better than Merrin Dungey in that part. First of all, she fits the age better; Merrin seemed a little too young for the role. She also has a much more versatile range of facial expressions, a warmth that I can connect to, and the poise of a brilliant fertility specialist.

Plus, she’s an AMAZING singer. Her rendition of “Stars and the Moon” from Jason Robert Brown’s “Songs for a New World” is beautiful. I love when my favorite Broadway actors get Hollywood jobs; I can’t wait to see Norbert Leo Butz (“Wicked,” “The Last Five Years,” “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels”) play Steve Carell’s brother in “Dan in Real Life.”

Seriously, Private Practice, figure out how to get Audra and Taye Diggs to sing a duet. Stat.

Anyway, this is not supposed to be about my love of musical theatre (which is unflinchingly rigid), but I digress.

I love Tim Daly’s character, too. He’s sweet but not all up in Addison’s business, and even though his medicine is weird, he himself is the polar opposite of weird. I think it’s funny how similar Tim Daly’s return to TV is to Patrick Dempsey’s. Both were big a dozen or so years ago, disappeared, and when Shonda Rhimes rediscovered them, there was a definitely “Oh! You!” moment. There’s so hot, I have no idea why they weren’t getting jobs for so long. (Ooh, good job being superficial, Caroline.)

Competing for preciousness is Cooper. He’s a little more rough around the edges than Pete, but oh-so-sweet (especially to Violet). As they highlighted in tonight’s episode, he’s such a brilliant contradiction between stripper-hirer and kid doctor. (Doug Ross, anyone?)

And then there’s Addison.

She is such a beautifully multifaceted character. She’s not so good at relationships (but a great friend), a team player, a strong voice, a vulnerable lady, a brilliant doctor, a confident and proud professional, a sympathetic listener with a comforting bedside manner, and a truly gorgeous woman. What’s not to love?

At the end of the first episode, I really felt like she had emerged as this show’s hero. She’s someone we can rally around, who’s got flaws for sure but, let’s face it, is a hell of a lot more generally likeable than Meredith Grey’s ever been. (I still think McDreamy chose correctly, don’t get me wrong.) Fascinated as I am with her, I’m not clamoring to grow up like Meredith, whose character traits include a near-pathetic inability to commit (unless the guy’s seriously about to leave her for aforementioned hero), a horrible attitude toward family, and a strong affinity for tequila. (For more on Meg’s lack of role model skills, read this.)

Centering a show around Addison was risky, sure, as she’d previously been known as simply a member of the ensemble, and a relatively late-joining one at that. Executives have no real way of knowing if an ensemble player can function on their own. However, Private Practice is great because it was so quickly built around a new ensemble, one that I am just as drawn to as the doctors of Seattle Grace. And, again, Addison is just plain awesome.

And rather than competing with Grey’s, Private Practice offers a completely different approach to the medical drama. It still combines patient and doctor storylines, but the pace is decidedly different and the characters don’t seem like mere counterparts of Grey’s doctors.

Overall, it’s been getting pretty mixed reviews, but I’m quite enamored by the Oceanside staff. I don’t even have a problem with the fact that I cried at the first episode.

2 Responses to “Private Practice: This is What They Call Hero Worship”

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Anonymous said...

I hate Meredith with a vengenance on Greys & she's always regarded as the weakest link on that show, rightly so. Derek ain't no McDreamy either, more like McDouchebag, so I never cared about the whole Mer/Der thing. In fact, I think it has only contributed to Greys decline.

Kate Walsh as Addison was an excellent choice for the spin-off. She has a huge fanbase already (everyone I know would take Addie over whiny Meredith anyday !) & the storyline potential is endless. I'm glad she was given the chance as a leading lady as she carries Private Practice easily & ably - far more than any character on Greys.

I look forward to the 2nd season in the Fall. And how great to see two grown men in Pete & HotCop! fight for Addison, rather than the teenage idols that frequent Greys.