TV Review: 'Private Practice'
'Grey's Anatomy' spinoff needs to grow up
Dr. Addison Montgomery (Kate Walsh), having just arrived in Los Angeles from Seattle, dances around her new beachfront home in a towel. Understand that I have no beef with the notion of Kate Walsh dancing in a towel. But it's such a trite way to show us the character's excitement at starting a new life -- how many movies have featured exactly that scene? The show rights itself somewhat later in the episode, but you have to wonder if sending Addison away from Seattle Grace was such a good idea.
On paper, this "Grey's Anatomy" spinoff looks like a sure thing. In her former life, Addison was a well-liked character in a no-win situation as regarded her personal life, having burned bridges with the various McDoctors at Seattle Grace. She moves to Los Angeles for a stake in a medical co-op with a group of other grown-ups and nary a drama-seeking intern in sight.
There's rich material to be mined there, be it Addison adapting to her new surroundings and perhaps questioning her decision, or the somewhat unconventional practice clashing with the medical establishment. Bits and pieces of the premiere deal with just those issues; there's a solid scene where Addison, faced with an emergency while delivering a child, realizes that she has no surgical team at hand.
Too often, though, creator Shonda Rhimes lapses into the worst tendencies "Grey's" sometimes displays, where characters ping from plot thread to plot thread with little thought to consistency. One of the reasons viewers like Addison so much is that, problems with choosing men aside, she was smart, decisive and unafraid to assert herself when it was necessary. That decisiveness has abandoned her in the move south. Upending your life can unnerve the steeliest of souls, sure, but it shouldn't change who you are.
Addison's new colleagues have similarly messy lives. Her med-school friend Naomi (Audra McDonald) has failed to inform the other partners in the practice that she'd hired Addison, possibly because she's angry with her business partner/ex-husband Sam (Taye Diggs). The staff psychiatrist (Amy Brenneman) is very possibly stalking (non-threateningly, mind you) an ex-boyfriend, the alternative-medicine practitioner (Tim Daly) wonders whether Addison moved for him -- on account of their kiss in last May's spinoff episode -- and the pediatrician (Paul Adelstein) just can't stop with the weird online hookups. Oh, and the receptionist (Chris Lowell) keeps bugging Addison to help in her deliveries, as he's studying to become a midwife.
The good news, and there is some, lies within that uniformly strong cast. They're all capable of elevating whatever material they're given; Brenneman ("Judging Amy") and Adelstein ("Prison Break") play exceptionally well off one another, and Daly is as reliably good as he usually is. And as much as I like Merrin Dungey, who played Naomi in the May episode, recasting her part with Tony winner McDonald seems like a good decision. McDonald brings a somewhat sharper edge to the character that has potential.
And, towel-dancing scene aside, Walsh has a number of nice moments where Addison gets to act like an adult. Would that they come more frequently in the future.