Private Practice: Season 5
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Private Practice: Season 5

In biology when a one cell organism locates a successful environment it prepares to expand, eventually dividing it to a pair of organisms with nearly identical lineage. Pretty much the same methodology is employed in the macrocosmic world of television programming. A hit show is considered as a prime source for the creation of another series, hopefully just as viable as its progenitor. Similar to the ameba there is typically a continuation of situations and frequently a popular character that provides continuity with the parent series. There is nothing new about this method of programming reproduction has been going on for some sixty years. When show creator Shonda Rhimes scores a major success with ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ the network was predisposed to offer her an opportunity to expand the franchise. The result was the spinoff, ‘Private Practice’. It actually received its breath of life as a result of an ancillary character inserted to generate sexual tension dividing the happy couple at the heart of ‘Grey’s Anatomy. The first season finale provided a glimpse at Addison Montgomery-Shepherd (Kate Walsh), the ex-wife of Dr. Derek Shepherd (Patrick Dempsey), the Doctor McDreamy to the series titular lead, Dr. Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo). Rhimes became cornered by her own talent and success. Addison had to be written out eventually in order to allow the love birds get back together and the romance continues. The thing is Addison was too good a character so well crafted and beautifully portrayed by Ms Walsh that it was not feasible to let her fade into the night. The solution was to move her down the coast from Seattle to Los Angles and establish her own life and medical practice there. This gave rise to ‘Private Practice’ a spin off that quickly developed a fan base and its oven identity. Now, five seasons later the series is showing some signs of its age but it is still a consistently strong series. The factors contributing to this longevity it inherited from its predecessor. As a show runner Rhimes is not at all hesitant to shake up the cast to reinvigorate the show. Unfortunately for this creative woman the economy has cast a shadow over the production and some of the original cast will not return for the sixth season. It is very possible that the fifth season reviewed here might turn out to be the penultimate one for ‘Private Practice’.

The change in the lineup had already started when at the end of season four one of the founding partners in the Oceanside Wellness practice, Dr. Naomi Bennett (Audra McDonald) left for personal reasons. She had been best friends with Addison since medical school and invited Addison down to Los Angles. Together they made their practice into a world renowned fertility and neonatal care facility. Taking her place in the staff is Dr. Jake Reilly (Benjamin Bratt), an OB-GYN with acumen in cutting edge technology. Starting with this season Brat was promoted from special guest star billing to a series regular. In keeping with Rhimes’ perchance for soap opera motifs employed a tradition means of stirring up the relationships and adding to the cast; the long lost child. Dr. Cooper Freedman (Paul Adelstein), the pediatrics member of the original cast, discovers that a one night stand nine years ago produced a son, Mason (Griffin Gluck). The touch of irony here is Freedman was defined by his inability to maintain relationships with women.

Resorting to procedures not usually found in the repertoire of reproductive practices Addison decides to help a young woman born without a uterus. Addison undergoes fertility treatments with Jake’s assistance so she can be a surrogate for her patient. In another story line calculated to insight some controversy Amelia Sheppard, youngest sister of Addison’s former husband and group neurosurgeon is the recipient of an extremely unorthodox request. Her friend, Michelle, who is terminally ill, wants Amelia to help her end her own life. This becomes an emotional tipping point undermining her precarious psychological state. Amelia spirals out of control with drug and alcohol abuse. This leads to overtly illegal acts including feeding her addiction by prescribing narcotics. After a run in with the law the staff decides Amelia is in need of an immediate intervention. Continuing the well established methodology of wrangling plot devices from the headlines and other popular television series, polygamy. The group winds up with patients in a polyamorous threesome. Pushing the soap opera play book even further Mason’s mother, Erica Warner (AJ Langer) is faced with an aggressively metastatic cancer and prepares herself to say good bye to her son. Rhimes is no stranger to the heart tug cancer can provide having used it to help realign the cast in ‘Grey’s Anatomy’.

At a time when it seemed so called reality shows were poised to take over television programming Shonda Rhimes stepped up to revive scripted dramas. She has always been known for excellence in writing teleplays. It is what propelled ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ to its award winning status and how this spin-off was able to stand on its own so well. Rhimes intuitively knows how to balance the serialized nature of a soap opera with the traditional episodic medical show. The emotional impact of the multi episode story lines is punctuated by the requisite unusual diseases and unconventional yet exciting treatment plans. This is ability assisted by the considerable talent of the cast, there was a lot more to do with the character of Addison and Kate Walsh was able to bring greater depth to her signature role than was possible under the constraints of the originating series. Although the sixth season is locked in at the moment this season did give the feeling of a concerted effort to begin wrapping up the loose ends in preparation for the inevitable series conclusion.

Posted 09/05/12

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