Friday, May 04, 2007

About that "Grey's Anatomy" spin-off

As everybody knows, "Grey's Anatomy" went into spin-off mode on Thursday (May 3) night, wedging the back-door pilot for "The Dr. Addison Montgomery Show" (tentatively titled "Private Practice," more amusingly titled in some circles "Montgomery's Ward") into an otherwise subpar "Grey's Anatomy" episode (the killing off of one guest star seemed almost inexcusably rushed).

Since ABC is almost certain to find a home for "Montgomery's Ward" somewhere in its fall schedule, it's worth glancing at what, exactly, the show appears to be.

In short: More of the same, only sunnier. If "Grey's Anatomy" is fundamentally about young doctors trying to balance their professional aspirations with their personal desires, "Montgomery's Ward" pushes the same agenda only to a slightly older age group (kudos to ABC, I guess, for aiming to raise its average viewership age). The characters here -- played by one recognizable TV veteran after another -- are already professionally successful in every way. But wouldn't you know it? Their personal lives are all in shambles. The women are great doctors, but they're in trouble as wives, mothers or girlfriends. The men are great doctors, but they aren't so good with their wives and girlfriends. Part of what keeps "Grey's" from getting too soapy is that the weekly cases are part of a work-based learning curve. I get the feeling that "Montgomery's Ward" wouldn't have as much learning, so more time could be spent on wacky clients and on a daisy chain of hook-ups. Whee.

The writers tried to make sure that you'd know you weren't watching a totally identical show by tossing in meta jokes about elevator fetishes and "Mc"-everything, but doesn't "Grey's Anatomy" already do that to itself?

I know myself too well to pretend that I won't watch, at least at first. I will. The cavalcade of familiar faces is nice and there's little doubt in my mind that Kate Walsh can carry her own show. She's equally capable with comedy and drama, she's easy on the eyes and we all know she can sell Shonda Rhimes and company's cutesy dialogue.

How much more of Shonda's mewlingly self-absorbed characters do viewers crave?

Lest this post get too long and take over the entire screen, more specific comments on the spin-off continue after the bump...

1)Taye Diggs is an attractive man and, if his work in "Rent" is to be trusted, not an untalented man. One thing that Taye Diggs isn't, however, is a TV star. He wasn't a star in "Kevin Hill" and he wasn't a star in "Daybreak" and he's not going to be a TV star here, even if some early ratings indicate that he is. Nothing is compelling about him and he seems to have a maximum of three facial expressions.

2)I don't know if Tim Daly has more than three facial expressions and he's gotten to the point where he delivers every single line (on-screen and off) with the exact same tone of withering scorn. That being said, whatever Diggs doesn't have, Daly certainly has. But that incredibly watchable quality Daly has, it hasn't prompted anybody to watch "Eyes" or "The Nine," both better shows that "Private Practice" will likely turn out to be. Rather than transplanting Addison to Santa Monica, is there any chance we can move Daly's character up to Seattle? He would have very little patience for the soapy doings at Seattle Grace and he'd probably be funny.

3) I'm fundamentally opposed to any show that thinks it's clever by having a slightly withdrawn and socially awkward shrink character named Violet. GET IT?!?!? SHRINKING VIOLET? Ugh. But I like Amy Brenneman just fine.

4)I also like Paul Adelstein, better known as Evil Agent Kellerman from "Prison Break." Now he'll be known as "that guy on the 'Grey's Anatomy' spin-off who likes picking up skanky young women on the Internet." But to those of us who follow such things, he'll always be the guy who was supposed to play Dr. Burke on "Grey's Anatomy." So I spent a good part of the two hours wondering how all of our lives would be different in Isaiah Washington had never been on "Grey's."

5) Actually, there are too many people in "Montgomery's Ward" who I already like. There's almost no potential for discovery. While there were many of the "Grey's" leads were recognizable (P-Demps, Katherine Heigl, Sandra Oh), the show was built around a leading lady who very few people knew and several of its other breakouts (your T.R. Knights and Chandra Wilsons) were similarly obscure. The reason why it was a breakout cast was because they had somewhere to break out from. The cast of "Montgomery's Ward" is already out and that's no fun. Shonda and company, though, must feel like they've found their Ellen Pompeo in...

6) PIZ?!?!?!? Chris Lowell is a perfectly likeable seeming guy and since nobody watches "Veronica Mars" and nobody watched "life as we know it" he's an unknown to most "Grey's Anatomy" viewers. But I'm just not prepared to buy Stosh Piznarski: Super Stud, no matter how diligently he seems to have been performing his abdominal crunches. As my co-worked Hanh observed this morning, it's obvious that if Piz wanted to hook up with Veronica, he should have just whipped off his shirt and flexed in the season's first episode.

7) The cast was so glutted with recognizable faces on Thursday that it was finally painfully meta. All of the stars of "Mongomery's Ward" were guest-starring on "Grey's Anatomy," but the guest stars on "Mongomery's Ward" included former "Everwood" regular Stephanie Niznik, former "Alias" baddie David Anders and was that "Joan of Arcadia" regular Becky Wahlstrom? Too much!

8) What vintage "L.A. Law" repeat did they steal all of those Los Angeles establishing shots from? Did they not have a big enough budget to do better second unit work? Did they think that viewers wouldn't recognize that the show had a slightly different (i.e. warmer) color scheme? Did they think that a few weird shots of Tim Daly and Taye Diggs walking a dog on the cliffs overlooking the beach wouldn't sell the new locations?

9)I was comfortable with the idea that Addison is vaguely insane and that she was actually hearing voices in the elevator. The revelation that it was just Tilly the Security Guard didn't improve matters.


  1. Anonymous4:37 PM

    I quite liked the spin-off. It felt comfortable, like old shoes, and considering the mess that Grey's has become this was a good thing.

    I love all of your specific points and wanted to respond to them:

    1. Taye Diggs is super hot, but he is BORING. He was boring on Kevin Hill and Daybreak, but I obviously forgot or was blinded by the prettiness. I was excited to see him on the cast list, and now that I've seen the show I have no idea why. I'd much rather see Blair Underwood in that part.

    2. Tim Daly. I love him. I wouldn't want to see him on Grey's because he would just hook up with Meredith and get called McSnarky or something and I would weep for him. One thing -- why was he wearing those strange teenybopper clothes? Isn't he, like, 50? No 50 year old I know wears those tennis shoes and belts from Hot Topic.

    3. I am obviously slow, because I didn't get the "Violet" thing at all. I'm glad I didn't. I liked Amy Brenneman much more that I expected to, which was nice.

    4. I wish Paul Adelstein was playing an asshole. He can give some good asshole. (That doesn't sound right, but you know what I mean.) I still thought his character had potential, though. However, what is up with his hair? Is that a hairpiece? Ick.

    5. I got nothin'.

    6. Piz has the most gigantic nipples I have ever seen on a man, and it freaked me out. I really hope he's not shirtless every episode. Why would someone parade shirtless and shoeless through their place of employment, unless they worked in a juice bar?

    7. SARK! GRACE! NINA! I was having bad TV flashbacks, and it sort of just made me miss those shows they used to be on.

    8. A "Santa Monica Blvd." sign! They must not be in Seattle anymore! Ugh. I did like the warmer tone, though.

    9. I thought the elevator reveal came way too early. They should have saved that for the actual show. I just hope now she keeps talking to Tilly when she's in there. Also, what is Shonda's obsession with elevators?

  2. Anonymous9:07 AM

    I remember when James Spader was going to be spun off from The Practice thinking that he was such a great character that a great way to explore him would be to send him to open up his own office in a small town and only surrouned him with a couple of supporting actors. Instead, they kept him in Boston and had him working at a large firm with a large, recognizable ensemble and whacky clients and hijinks every week. Well, ABC did it again. Because instead of taking a great character like Addison and making her the centerpiece of the show and putting her in a unique location, they've sent her to a big city, with a large, recognizable ensemble, and whacky patients and hijinks. Sigh.

    I guess I'm glad the spin-off doesn't seem quite as dour as Grey's, but I was hoping that the older cast would result in more mature characters. Instead, they all seem like a bunch of overgrown children. Even Addison, who has mostly been above the BS at Seattle Grace, suddenly developed heretofore unseen quirks. The talking elevator? Uh, no.

    As for the cast, I also kept wondering how Grey's would have been had Adelstein played Burke. But I also kept wondering how Violet would have been had Lisa Kudrow accepted the role. And whenever Tim Daly and Kate Walsh were on screen together I kept thinking back to Eyes and how funny I thought it was at the time that Kate Walsh played the ex-wife of the male lead on 2 of ABC's midseason shows that year. And now they're paired together again. Also, Daly's sister played Amy Brenneman's mother on Judging Amy. If Daly and Brenneman ever hookup on this show it will be a little creepy. Then, of course, there were Sark and Francie appearing together too. Does ABC have some sort of recycling program we don't know about?

    The only person I really think was miscast was Chris Lowell as Dell. First of all, I agree if Piz wanted Veronica he should have just taken off his shirt. When he was on Life As We Know It I remembering laughing when he took his shirt off in one scene. He was supposed to be playing a shy, slightly nerdy character, but had a better body than some models. In this show, though, he's just way too young and way too pretty for these women to be swooning over. When Lucky Vanous did those Diet Coke commercials in the '90s I believed those women would gather around to watch him. But I just don't buy that they're gathering around to watch someone who, frankly, looks like a child. And I also agree with the above poster that it's ridiculous for him to be parading through his place of employment half naked. But I also thought his flirting with Merrin Dungey was not believable at all and it was stupid for them to have her rejecting him in one scene and then drooling over him shirtless the next.

    I'd like to think I won't tune into the spin-off next season, but since I'm unable to tune out of Grey's (a show I've never thought was as good as its hype) then I should probably just accept defeat now.