Hospitals are “totally like high school,” we’re told near the start of “Emily Owens M.D.,” with their own caste system and pecking order. While that might very well be true, watching medical residents behave like 10th graders grows tedious quickly, and the title character — played by Mamie Gummer — is forced to narrate her story, which, for youth-oriented dramas, has become its own kind of orthopedic crutch. “You can do this,” Emily reassures herself. Not without some emergency script surgery, stat.
Looking more like mom Meryl Streep with every role, Gummer does possess genuine charm, and we’re supposed to side with her quirky upstart against the hospital mean girls, while rooting for her to hook up with the super-dreamy guy (Justin Hartley) she’s been crushing on since school.
Yet Emily’s hope of a fresh beginning from her brainy nerd days quickly evaporates, as a former high-school tormentor, Cassandra (Aja Naomi King), turns out to be another member of her rookie class. Moreover, Cassandra revives an unwelcome nickname, Pits, which Emily earned thanks to a public bout of perspiration years before.
The temptation is to compare “Emily Owens” to “Grey’s Anatomy,” but with its precious posturing, ceaseless narration and accomplished protagonist who can’t get out of her own way, the more apt description would be “Ally McDoctor,” with Emily as the young professional preoccupied by boy troubles — concerns that parallel questions like whether she’ll be allowed to scrub in on a young girl’s surgery.
Fox’s “The Mindy Project” is plowing similar ground, and it’s OK for accomplished women to be personally needy. But do they have to be, you know, this needy?
If only the show erected a more compelling supporting cast, or at least a less cliched one — from the ruthless chief of surgery (Necar Zadegan); to the lesbian (Kelly McCreary) who hasn’t come out to her dad; to the other staff dreamboat (Michael Rady)
As is, there’s nary a beat in “Emily Owens'” pitter-pattering heart we haven’t seen elsewhere, as if the whole thing was stitched together from pieces of medical- and young-adult series past.
Granted, CW’s “Hart of Dixie” improbably whistled its way to a second season, and in terms of tone and subject matter, the two are certainly cut from the same gauze. Still, one has to wonder how much time viewers will be willing to spend with a heroine like Emily — someone so wrapped up in her own head it’s easy to get her out of yours.