October 3, 2007

Private Suck-less?

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I am a Grey’s Anatomy addict. As embarrassing as it is to admit, I’ve seen every episode several times, and when I heard in the news that a spin-off was in the works, I was admittedly concerned. Like every Grey’s addict, I am very attached to the cast and dislike changes. A year later, I still haven’t warmed up to Callie’s presence on the show because she destroyed any possibility of a (non-adulterous) George/Izzie relationship. You can image my reaction when I learned that not one, but two, regular cast members would disappear at the end of Season 3.
Always optimistic, I had high hopes for the spin-off, Private Practice. Shonda Rhimes, the same woman who created my beloved Grey’s, was developing the new show as well. My expectations were shattered during episodes 22 and 23 of the third season of Grey’s Anatomy, which doubled as the pilot for Private Practice. The premise for the spin-off is this: Addison moves to Los Angeles to work at her friend’s medical co-op. Honestly, to me, this sounds like a perfectly acceptable television show. I am a sucker for the medical drama. However, I still can’t figure out why it was necessary to take Addison away from Seattle Grace. Clearly, ABC is trying to make even more money off of the Grey’s Anatomy franchise, but why risk the quality of one show to make a second?
Private Practice has a lot of problems, none of which are particularly significant but all were frustrating to me. On Grey’s, Addison is a fairly normal woman. She has relationship problems (in case you don’t follow the show, Addison slept with her husband’s best friend, her husband (aka Derek/McDreamy) left her and moved to Seattle, and Addison followed him shortly after, only to find him dating an intern). Despite this, she is a respectable, highly skilled neonatal surgeon. On Private Practice, however, Addison is presented as a nutcase.
Sure, Addison is still a doctor on the spin-off, and as seen in the season premiere, she is clearly good at what she does (she saves a mother and her unborn baby after serious complications during delivery). However, during the pilot and the season premiere, Addison thinks that the elevator can talk to her, dances naked around her living room, and reveals an absurd amount of personal information to a complete stranger. To a new viewer, Addison simply seems like an eccentric woman, but as a Grey’s fan, I find this shift in character extremely annoying. This is not the same Addison I have been watching on Grey’s for the last few years.
There is one other (albeit extremely trivial) problem with the show. They recast one of the main characters of Private Practice between the pilot and the season premiere. Addison’s best friend, Dr. Naomi Bennett, was originally played by Merrin Dungey and is now played by Audra McDonald. Seeing as Dungey was only in one episode, this shouldn’t be an issue, but ABC didn’t even try to hide this change. McDonald looks and sounds completely different than Dungey. Watching the season premiere, I was reminded of when they used to randomly recast characters on old sitcoms; do television producers really think that people won’t notice?
Otherwise, Private Practice has promise. It is a medical drama, but the setting makes this show slightly different than shows like House, MD, ER, and of course, Grey’s Anatomy. Private Practice does not take place in the hospital and instead is set in a medical co-op, which simply has fewer patients than a hospital. Because of this, the pilot and premiere of the show have focused considerably more on relationships than medical issues.
All of my complaints about Private Practice stem from the fact that I am a compulsive tv-watcher: I watch and re-watch episodes of Grey’s when I want a break from my never-ending schoolwork. While Private Practice has the potential to be a quality medical drama, it will never reach its full potential because it simply is not Grey’s Anatomy.