“Private Practice”: The first proper visit

PrivpracticeabkwThe screener for the first proper seg of “Grey’s Anatomy” spinoff “Private Practice” arrived in the mail on Thursday. I’ll leave the reviewing to the professionals (Brian Lowry, coming soon). But for my broad-strokes reaction (remember that the Season Pass ratings for this show were based on the two-hour backdoor pilot “Grey’s Anatomy” seg that ran in May), I’ll say that I can definitely see why creator/exec producer Shonda Rhimes made the call to recast Audra McDonald in the key role of Naomi Bennett (originally played by Merrin Dungey), best friend to Kate Walsh’s Addison Montgomery (and her excuse for heading down the Pacific coastline from Seattle to Santa Monica) and recently divorced wife of Taye Diggs’ brilliant-internist character, Sam Bennett.

This seg overall is watchable, and beautifully shot, but there’s still something that feels a bit amiss here. I can’t quite put my finger on it but I keep coming back to the thought: Do we really need this spinoff? But I digress….

Opening moments deal of the seg deal effectively with Addison’s resignation from Seattle Grace hospital Privpracticetdam and set up the new ensemble of doctor characters that she’ll work with at the Oceanside Wellness Group, a touchy-feely non-hospital facility with touchy-feely Westide L.A./BevHills/Santa Monica clients. There’s a nice inside-TV reference early on in the seg to Addison feeling the need to sally forth and “throw my hat all the way up in the air.” (Think classic TV opening sequence for a show with a femme lead and killer theme song.)

Of the supporting ensemble, the most intriguing to me (as an actor and as a character continues to be Amy Brenneman, who plays the mixed-up shrink Violet Turner. (Is there any other kind on TV?) So all in all, I don’t love it as much as I did the first batch of “Grey’s Anatomy” segs, but it stays on my Season Pass list.

–Cynthia Littleton

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