Is Mamie Gummer enough to make up for a weak title and predictable plotting?
[In case you've Forgotten, and as I will continue to mention each and every one of these posts that I do: This is *not* a review. Pilots change. Sometimes a lot. Often for the better. Sometimes for the worse. But they change. Actual reviews will be coming in September and perhaps October (and maybe midseason in some cases). This is, however, a brief gut reaction to not-for-air pilots. I know some people will be all "These are reviews." If you've read me, you've read my reviews and you know this isn't what they look like.]
Show:"Emily Owens, MD" (The CW)
The Pitch: "We need a medical drama that we can pair with 'Hart of Dixie,' but one that people won't mock because the central doctor wears formal shorts!"
Quick Response: Part of a gut reaction to a show is the reaction to its title and "Emily Owens, MD" has one of the worst titles on TV. It's a name that's evocative of literally nothing other than the main character's name and profession. "House" was briefly "House, MD," but the name/word "House" is immediately evocative. It's a word with ingrained value. "Doogie Howser, MD" has an immediate hook because the name "Doogie" juxtaposed with the profession tells you almost everything you need to know about a show focusing on a diminutive doctor. "Emily Owens, MD" is the combination of a generic name and a profession. The CW might as well just call the show "Pretty Lady Doctor," which is a crappy title, but at least contains narrative information [FOX's "Mob Doctor" has basically taken this naming approach]. And it's not like "Emily Owens, MD" doesn't have a workable hook. Mamie Gummer's eponymous character is a fresh-faced doctor who thinks she'll be able to reinvent herself in her new workplace, only to discover that the medical world is just like high school. Oh and she's at the same hospital as her med school crush Will. So the hook is something like "Undeclared" meets "Felicity" by way of "Grey's Anatomy." You won't find a second of "Emily Owens, MD" that isn't familiar, but shows of this type, shows so completely and utterly centered around a single character, can rise or fall beyond their pedestrian roots if the lead actor is good enough. Mamie Gummer -- still not quite entrenched enough in her own identity not to be best-known as Meryl Streep's eerily similar daughter -- is a good enough lead actor that I'm probably willing to give "Emily Owens" a couple episodes not instantly warranted by the awful title, the corny voice-over, the perfunctory love triangle and the rehashed medical procedure. She's funny and vulnerable when she needs to be and when she's supposed to display that the character is actually a good doctor, she's properly assertive. I sense that Gummer may be playing a slightly funnier version of the main character than the script required, but as Gummer showed on "The Good Wife," she's able to play characters who function semi-comedically within a drama. Such as the show is, Gummer makes it semi-watchable and occasionally she even makes it enjoyable, though it's going to take more than one episode before Justin Hartley, Michael Rady and Jack Coleman make impressions that go beyond "Tall," "Guy from 'Greek'" and "Guy from 'Heroes.'" None of the female supporting players make impressions that are even that concrete.
Desire To Watch Again: Not huge, but I certainly won't actively avoid it. I watched every episode of "Hart of Dixie" and likely will continue to watch and I don't know if I'd be able to give you an empirical, objective reason why "Hart of Dixie" is markedly better than "Emily Owens, MD." It just happens that "Hart of Dixie" has more people I like in it and it also seems less hung up on its medical trappings. So OK. There's my answer for why "Hart of Dixie" is better. It's a portrait of a fantastical, imaginary Southern town that happens to have a generic medical procedural occasionally dancing around the edges. "Emily Owens, MD" is a generic medical procedural that just happens to have an interesting lead performance. I can still imagine watching "Emily Owens, MD" again at some point.
Take Me To The Pilots '12: FOX's 'Mob Doctor'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'Animal Practice'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's 'Last Resort'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: CBS' 'Vegas'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: The CW's 'Beauty & The Beast'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's '666 Park Avenue'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'Chicago Fire'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: FOX's 'Ben and Kate'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: CBS' 'Elementary'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: The CW's 'Arrow'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's 'The Neighbors'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'Revolution'
All of last year's Take Me To The Pilots entries