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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Private Practice should lose license

Published: October 1, 2007
Section: Arts, Etc.

Apparently ABC has never heard the saying, too much of a good thing. Which is surprising, considering thats what I found myself thinking multiple times this past Wednesday as I watched the series premiere of Greys Anatomy spin-off, Private Practice.

Private Practice follows neonatal surgeon Addison Montgomery from the Greys Anatomy playground of Seattle Grace Hospital to Oceanside Wellness Center, a small Los Angeles practice co-owned by her college friend and fertility specialist, Naomi Bennett.

Sure Greys Anatomy has been a huge success for ABC, garnering ten Emmy nominations this year, but does ABC, a channel that was floundering until it happened upon Desperate Housewives a few years ago, really need another soap opera masquerading as a medical drama?

In spite of the smaller staff and lack of worldwide renown, Oceanside Wellness Center manages to keep up with Seattle Grace in terms of drama. The center includes Sam Bennett, Naomis ex-husband, Cooper Freedman, an unlucky serial internet dater, Pete Wilder, who kissed Addison on her first visit to Oceanside, Violet Turner, who obsesses over her ex-boyfriend and William Dell Parker, a hunky surfer boy who serves as the centers receptionist.

All of these characters have medical credentials I could have listed as well, but why pretend that Private Practice has any other priorities than to hook the viewer via scandal?

So whats the difference between Greys Anatomy and Private Practice, you may be asking. I think the answer lies in the characters. While Greys Anatomy offers up an array of offbeat, but likeable characters, Private Practice doesnt bother to inflate its characters into figures the audience can relate to.

Although each character has the potential to garner the viewers admiration, the first episode tries to do too much in too little time, not allocating enough to adequately flesh out each character.

There is a brief clip in which Addison gives a voice-over of each characters strengths, while the screen shows them doing the opposite. For example, Addison describes Violet as incrediblegrounded, strong, as Violet is shown calling her ex-boyfriend and remaining completely silent as he tells her hes married and she has to stop calling.

However, these clips are hardly enough to foster a bond between the viewer and the characters. Instead, the viewer is left rolling his or her eyes, completely unimpressed by this blatant attempt to secure sympathy for each character.

Even after a few episodes, I suspect that the characters will be as one-dimensional as they were in this past episode. Thus Addison, played by Kate Walsh (Kicking & Screaming) will be left with the burden of carrying the show and, as much as I loved Addison at Seattle Grace, I question whether she has the chutzpah to carry an hour-long show all by herself.

To answer this question, I think we must once again return to Seattle Grace. Even though she first entered our lives unannounced as McDreamys estranged wife, what made Addison grow to become a crowd favorite?

Sure theres the obvious: she, like many a Greys character is strong and independent woman while still struggling with some obvious weaknesses (one being a thing for her ex-husbands former best friend). Perhaps her greatest strength was the way she interacted with the other Greys characters, like Alex Karev, McSteamy and McDreamy, in that twittering, yet confident way of hers.
However on Private Practice, there are no characters to match Addisons energy and give her a context in which to endear herself to viewers. Instead she comes off as some hyper schoolchild and is left hanging there a nervous mess.

So what exactly is the prognosis for Addisons hyperactivity? I predict if ABC wants to keep its stellar record, its going to have to cancel Private Practice and get Addison back to Seattle GraceSTAT!