Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Private Practice: Focus!

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?


Anonymous said...

This show is as aggressively annoying as Grey's, only stupider becuase as you have mentioned, these are supposed to be 40 year old adults not 20 year old interns. The only redeeming quality of the show is the chemistry between Brenneman and Adelstein. And this is coming from someone who has watched every episode of every series Tim Daly has ever been in. Otherwise, blech.

marnesandnoble said...

I'm a big fan of Shonda, Addison and Amy Brenneman, but I honestly found myself bored throughout most of the show. I didn't care about the old man story line at all, or the Naomi-Sam situation. The only thing that kept my remotely gripped was Addison delivering the baby, but considering she will only be delivering one a day I can't imagine that will remain interesting. I kept thinking the show missed any real sense of snark.

Unknown said...

The only thing I really don't care for about the grab-bag posts is that, in some cases, I've gotten to some shows, have left the others for later. So it becomes a choice between not participating and Spoilerville.

Which is not a big problem at all, really (and I didn't e-mail! Not me!), because the world can go on safely without me screaming, "Pie!" at the bottom of every entry... and because time-shifting takes you away from the watercooler anyhow. But I thought I'd mention it, as it's a factor.

The constraints (not to mention the urge to tie things together thematically) are totally understandable. You're still superhuman, handling 10 hours of television/night (really, I've no idea how you do it). Me, I'm not going to get to Gossip Girl for a couple days. Le Tragique!

Also: Kate Walsh said "literally" 17 times on Letterman, the other night, so I'm never ever going to watch her show.

Anonymous said...

I find "Grey's Anatomy" to be enjoyable and annoying in equal measures. This show, I just couldn't stand. How bad was it? So bad that I kept switching over to "Gossip Girl." If you're going to watch privileged characters act like squabbling teenagers, you may as well go all the way.

Tigerpants said...

My feeling is that without that stellar cast Shonda's rounded up, this show wouldn't even be treading water. The script was patchy, the characters were teetering into caricature, and even the costumes were a bit distracting. Lots of purple! It seems a waste to give such strong actors so little to do besides giggle and snicker. We've been given no reason that these people would set up shop together, have we? They all seem to bug each other.

It's a great cast, though. I'm not sure they're working together yet, but I'm curious to see what each brings to the table.

Anonymous said...

I was a big Grey's fan for seasons 1 and 2, and made it (barely) through S3, barely. But now I'm out. AND I FEEL SO FREE! So I feel no desire to watch Private Practice. I do not miss it, not one bit. But I'm glad to hear they got rid of the talking elevator (I did watch that 2-hour fiasco).

Alan Sepinwall said...

The only thing I really don't care for about the grab-bag posts is that, in some cases, I've gotten to some shows, have left the others for later. So it becomes a choice between not participating and Spoilerville.

And I've always been aware of that, and try to compromise by giving any show with major spoiler-y developments its own post.

You're still superhuman, handling 10 hours of television/night (really, I've no idea how you do it).

It helps when you get a whole bunch of the shows in advance. :)

But I'm definitely going to have to start cutting some of the fat within the next week or two to keep the blog manageable.

Anonymous said...

I was intrigued by three things: 1) Weber in the first shot. But then that turned to disgust because the chemistry these two have on Grey's won't be there this year; 2) Addison dancing naked in the beginning; and 3) Addison shadow dancing naked at the end.

Everyone is so dang pretty to look at that I lost focus and switched back to The Wire's first season while waiting for Dirty Sexy Money.

If the pretty people aren't enough distraction, when a viewer is too distracted by thoughts of the writer and producer, the show probably won't work, right?

That SHONDALAND plug at the end just makes me roll my eyes now.

I just hope Grey's is good and a show worth staying with.

Anonymous said...

Alan --

Why did Merrin Dungey get replaced/fired/left? Audra McDonald is certainly serviceable, but she lacks a certain warmth I think, that Dungey has. (Though maybe they have a big musical episode coming up.)

Other than Kate Walsh is great as always, and Tim Daly, and all the actors, really...but that dialogue seems awfully mealy-mouthed sometimes coming out of 40+ year old actors, especially some of TV's best.

Matt said...

I've only watched half the episode, and I think McDonald (and Kadee Stickland) were ads/changes to give the show a little more grounding and weight. Dungey is warmer than McDonald, but McDonald has much more gravitas.

Anonymous said...

Nope, dead guys sperm is an ER arc.
Although they did try to get a prison inmate married, on Ally McBeal, by trying to impregnate the wife to be, which involved Ally and Billy's wife getting some sperm from the prison surreptitiously (I can remember surreptitiously and I can't remember Georgia??) and then driving around with it in a car and getting stopped by the police.



Anonymous said...

I couldn't make it through the entire episode. It was the worst of Grey's Anatomy and the worst of Ally McBeal. Unfortunately, I can only waste one hour a week watching Sonda's drivel, and that will have to be wasted on Thursdays rather than Wednesdays.

Anonymous said...

I had to spray my television with Glade after this was over.

Anonymous said...

I actually like Private Practice. I liked Greys also. but, they do have some really annoying episodes where i just want to skip to the end and see what happened.

khushi said...

hi everyone....I'm a big fan of Shonda, Addison and Amy Brenneman,This Private Practice TV Show, I just couldn't stand. How bad was it? So bad that I kept switching over to "Gossip Girl."I actually like Private Practice. I liked Greys also. but, they do have some really annoying episodes