First of all, I've gotten a couple of e-mail complaints from people who don't like the grab-bag approach of discussing multiple shows in the same post, largely because the comments then go in multiple directions at once. However, as I've written, I'm only one man, and it's not feasible for me to do individual posts for every show, especially on a busy night like this one. Besides, even when I do single-show posts, the discussion often travels along several forks, and in the past I've found people are pretty good at identifying which show they're talking about in a multi-show thread.
Once we're another week or two into the season, I won't be writing about as many shows, both because some will have been canceled or pulled and because others will have ceased to interest me past the point where I have screener episodes. (See "K-Ville," for instance.) And given that I'll be seeing fewer shows in advance moving forward and can only watch a limited number of shows each night, the grab-bag posts won't be quite as busy.
That long pre-amble out of the way, I'm going to break up tonight's nearly all-rookie line-up into a few posts. "Private Practice" gets the solo treatment, because something about Shonda Rhimes shows always brings out my long-winded side. Then I'll hit the other shows I've seen in advance -- "Bionic Woman," "Dirty Sexy Money," "Life" and "Back to You" -- in a grab-bag post, and hopefully come back on "Kid Nation" and "Gossip Girl" sometime tomorrow.
So, spoilers for "Private Practice" coming up just as soon as I make sure I've lowered all my blinds...
I'm in a bit of a rush here, as I had this post all written and ready to go when Mo Ryan told me ABC sent her a slightly revised version of the pilot on Monday. She told me which two scenes had been changed, so at least I didn't have to watch the whole thing again, and it's instructive and even a little promising to see the new version.
So, the two changes: First, the opening scene where Addison resigns from Seattle Grace was originally a casual little chat over coffee with Chief Weber, instead of the more heated confrontation you saw. Second, Addison's big speech to the other doctors originally ended with her admitting that she didn't have a big finish, followed by much mockery from the other docs. Here, they added the big finish, including the whole "world-class surgeon" bit that left the others practically kneeling in her presence.
Small changes, but what they have in common is that Addison seems far more confident and aggressive and in control of her own destiny -- in other words, like the Addison everybody liked enough to make her deserving of a spin-off. And those changes suggest that someone finally got through to Shonda to stop making Addison act like such a wimp. Baby steps, but at least they're in the right direction.
But there still be plenty of problems here, mostly centering around all these borderline middle-aged characters acting -- as all Shonda characters do -- like they're still in high school. The fascination over Pete having kissed Addision, Sam seeing Addison naked, the giggling over the geezer giving the sperm sample... I could just barely tolerate that coming from George and Izzie (season one and two versions), but what's the point of doing a show with more mature actors if you're going to write them the same way you do your twentysomethings? And the custody fight for the dead guy's sperm was so quintessentially David E. Kelley that I'm stunned it hasn't already been a five-episode "Boston Legal" arc. (Or maybe it has, you tell me.)
That said, there's a reason I stick with "Grey's" even when it makes me throw things at the TV: that Shonda, when she's not reliving her own wonder years, developing unhealthy crushes on fictional people or letting these same fictional people tell her how they should behave, can be an exceptional, moving writer.
There wasn't a whole lot of the Good Shonda on display here, but there were traces of her in the subplot where Violet (the Amy Brenneman shrink) tries to diagnose the crawling woman in the department store. Specifically, I liked the device of Paul the store manager as the gauge of how seriously we were supposed to take the plot at any given moment. At first, he's comic relief, complaining about the woman's presence, offering Violet stuff but insisting she pay for it, etc., but when the (admittedly not that surprising) truth came out about her dead son, his mood completely shifted, and there was something oddly powerful about the way he said, "Yeah, I can do that for Jenny" in response to Violet's request to clear the area for a few minutes. (I'm not exaggerating when I say I actually misted up just looking at that line in my notes from the episode.) And then, at the end, he's back to asking Violet to pay for the flip-flops, but they have an understanding now. It's those small, human moments that Shonda's so good at when she's not busy doing all that other stuff that drives me up a wall.
So I'm around for a little while, but throwaway characters like Paul and the amazing likability of Kate Walsh -- even playing a flakier version of Addison -- will only keep me around for a little while. Get better, fast.
What did everybody else think?