January 6, 2012


More articles by »
Written by: Mitch Salem
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,


Thursday night brought a mother lode of returning serialized dramas to broadcast TV, with both ABC and CW returning to duty.  Let’s start by looking at ABC’s 10PM PRIVATE PRACTICE, airing a fresh episode for the first time since a 2-hour special on November 17.
WHERE WE LEFT OFF:  As usual, there was all manner of trouble for the Santa Monica doctors.  Pete and Violet (Tim Daly and Amy Brenneman) were in the midst of a marital break-up; Amelia (Caterina Scorsone) had just emerged from a brutalizing bout with drug addiction and rehab, which included her breaking the heart of Sheldon (Brian Benben); Cooper (Paul Adelstein) had just discovered that he had a son with a one-night stand that he never knew about, somewhat to his wife Charlotte (KaDee Strickland)’s chagrin,;and Addison (Kate Walsh)’s continued determination to have a baby, now by adoption, was widening the cracks in her relationship with Sam (Taye Diggs).

WHERE WE AREPrivate Practice has always been the weak sister to Grey’s Anatomy, which of course is also produced by Shonda Rhimes.  The show lacks the narrative engine of the young doctors’ ambition on Grey’s, and it has a tendency to punch its metaphors, and the analogies between its patients’ predicaments and those of their doctors, with a clumsy unsubtlety, as in this episode where the “rules” that govern a menage a trois trying to have a mutual baby (one woman’s egg implanted in the other) fall apart, all too squarely echoing the rules Violet and Pete are trying to set in their separation, and the rules Cooper has to start enforcing with his new son–and in case the parallels weren’t clear enough, we got a scene where all the doctors talked about how the menage’s issues reminded them of their own.
Nevertheless, the show wisely didn’t try to push the suds further than usual for its midseason debut, instead providing a fairly typical episode.  There was some big news, notably the episode-ending conclusion (or so it seems) of Addison and Sam, but mostly the developments were incremental.  Enough unspecified time had gone by since the last episode that Charlotte, the show’s Bitch With A Heart Of Gold, was ready to let Amelia perform surgeries again, and Pete and Violet had officially broken up, but there was no special melodrama.
The trouble with Private Practice this season is the same one that afflicts many soaps when they get to their 5th season:  after a while, all the show can do is rotate its romantically-involved characters and relationships.  (Now that Addison and Sam are done, presumably the show will play the card of putting her with Benjamin Bratt’s Jake, as has been inevitable since he joined the cast.)  Storylines like Cooper’s newly-discovered son feel awfully close to shark-jumping, and how many times can Addison be bitterly disappointed in her drive to have a baby? (In this episode, a birth mother so admired and respected Addison that she gave her baby to a church couple instead.)   It would be best for all concerned if the series could start pointing its way to a definite finale, the way cable shows have increasingly been able to do–but Private Practice‘s rating, hovering around 2.5 in a fairly stable way that’s down only about 10% from last season, as opposed to the 25% nosedive Grey has taken (although Grey’s average rating is still almost a point higher than Practice‘s) makes it a valuable performer for the network, and likely to keep spinning its wheels for a while to come.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."