Private Practice: Season 1
There is a certain natural order to things in the universe. Cats have kittens; dogs have puppies and successful television series have sequels. It is a tricky thing to try to capture lightening in a bottle a second time after one show becomes a hit. For one thing the producers find themselves on a tightrope. They have to include enough of the elements that made the original popular but make the sequel original enough to stand on its own. When the ABC network discovered that millions of people were tuning in each week to follow the antics of the sex crazed surgeons at Seattle Grace Hospital over at ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ they realized that the market just might bear another similar drama. Since the original was a bit heavy in beautiful surgeons it was only natural to take one of the ancillary female characters and let her move out on her own. This is the manner in which ‘Private Practice’ was born. The series was created by Shonda Rhimes who gave us ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ so it should be internally consistent. While the new show does have some of the snap and style of the original it hasn’t inherited its spirit. What made ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ so good was the way the ensemble cast interacted. Here the focus is too much on a smaller sub set of over sexed doctors. While this is a good old fashion college try it just hasn’t gelled right; at least in the first season. Most sequels fail because they creators just can’t manage to come up with a good idea to drive the spin off. This is not the case here though. Rhimes is definitely on the right track here but it may take another season to grow up and move out on its own. A big part of the problem here is attributable to the infamous Writer’s Guild strike. This left this initial season with a meager nine episodes to establish itself. Plot lines were cut short and there was a feeling of being incomplete at the end of the season. To be fair this phenomena had much the same effect even on well established series. Hopefully the next season will be a full one and this show will have a shot at reaching its full potential. It has been picked up for the fall line up so there is hope. In the meantime ABC through Buena Vista has released the first season on DVD so you can catch up before season two hits the air waves.
Rhimes certain has range in her writing. Besides creating ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ she also wrote the scripts for ‘The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement’ and the award winning ‘Introducing Dorothy Dandridge’. Okay, in the spirit of full disclosure she also wrote the flick responsible for placing Brittany Spears in the movies, ‘Crossroads’. Everybody has a low point in their career and considering her other accomplishments she can be forgiven. The central character here is Dr. Addison Montgomery once again played by Kate Walsh. Over at ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ she was the third side in the romantic triangle between her ex husband Doctor McDreamy and the titular Meredith Grey. When the fans demanded McDreamy choose the heroine of the show over his ex it was best for her to move on. Walsh is too good an actress and there was just so much potential in her character that a spin off was more than justified. The studio made the wise move of testing the sequel with a pilot aired as a ‘Grey’s’ episode. This not only helps establish a reason for Addison’s departure but made for a smooth transition between the two series. Addison moves away from Seattle to Santa Monica, California. The distance is enough to keep the shows separate but doesn’t preclude some guest visits from the Seattle bunch down the line. Since Addison is a well respected and highly successful Neonatal Surgeon and OB/GYN she would naturally find a place in a high end private practice, hence the name of the show. She joins the lucrative Oceanside Wellness Center and we get to met her various partners. It was a great idea not to have her go to an all female practice. That would have severely limited the story options. As it turns out there is enough diversity in the practice to make for a good medical drama.
With a beautiful and single woman as the lead character you need a handsome doctor in the mix. Peter Wilder (Tim Daly) is the group’s specialist in herbs, acupuncture and alternative medicine. Since ay potential romantic lead has to be on the same playing field as Addison Wilder is a licensed M.D. who studied for years in China after establishing himself in traditional western medicine. The key to a relationship in a drama like this is to create some form of sexual tension between the potential mates. Addison initially sees Wilder as a hippie quack but softens somewhat when he uses acupuncture to help her out. They are also neighbors allowing for a lot of interaction outside of work. Wilder is a widower who has commitment issues due to the trouble the couple had during the marriage. This also gives the pair a point in common; complicated marriages.
Doctor Naomi Bennett (Audra McDonald) is the group’s fertility specialist and endocrinologist. She is divorced from her husband Sam Bennett (Taye Diggs) although the two still work together at the practice. They have a teenaged daughter, Maya (Shavon Kirksey). Sam was friends with Addison back in medical school and was instrumental in bringing her in. Next up is Violet Turner (Amy Brennerman) who works as the group’s psychiatrist. The irony of her life is she helps others to be happy but fails to gain any for herself. Her best friend in the practice is Cooper Freedman (Paul Adelstein) a pediatrician. Due in part to the young age of his patients he finds it difficult to maintain and adult relationship and goes for internet dating; no red flag there. Although Violet is his best friend he is attracted to her and wants a more romantic relationship.
The stories for the episodes range from suspected child abuse to teen pregnancy. They are typical of the standard medical drama genre but they do set the stage for the character driven season arcs. Overall the short season did hurt the show since more time was needed to fully develop the various complicated interrelated relationships the series depends on. The series depends on the chemistry between the characters and in this season the actors show great potential in making this one of the better ensemble cast shows. With a full season more side plots will be available and this will be a great boon. The DVD from Buena Vista is up to there usual excellent standards and over time the show will improve so this is one to get and enjoy.