Practice Isn’t Perfect…..But It’s Doing OK.

TVGuide.com, courtesy Justin Stephens/ABC  

TVGuide.com, courtesy Justin Stephens/ABC

 

Grey’s Anatomy’s maligned little sibling Private Practice has been troubled since day one. Practice was originally introduced to audiences in a 2 episode cross-over within the world of Grey’s. Addison (Kate Walsh), disillusioned with her life in Seattle, visits some old friends in Los Angeles and whilst there, is offered a job at their practice, a holistic family wellness centre. Now, just the mere mention of the term ‘wellness centre’ was enough to send critics sniggering to their keyboards, and admittedly, it does sound pretty new-aged-wanky. Then, after a complete lack of chemistry between Addison and her supposed best friend Naomi Bennett, the role of Naomi was re-cast with the superb Broadway veteran Audra McDonald replacing the talented and likable Merrin Dungey of Alias fame. Personally, I think the blame for this lack of chemistry can’t fall solely to the actors, but also lays somewhat with the writers, who managed to craft a truly woeful set-up, complete with a talking elevator, and a storyline that saw Naomi wary and unconvinced of Addison’s actions and desires. Furthermore, this set-up saw the two best buddies on frosty terms with Addison unaware that Naomi and her husband Sam (Taye Diggs) were now divorced, Addison having ignored her calls and messages for over a year whilst too caught up in her own self pity. These circumstances were certainly not conducive to chummy best friend antics. Moreover, Practice was also hurt by the writers strike, being a first season show having to break for the strike after only nine episodes left the show vulnerable to losing its still building audience, much like other strike casualty Pushing Daisies.

Much has also been made of the cast of Private Practice, with some big names taking up residence in the wellness centre. As mentioned, Audra McDonald is a sensational Broadway actress, having won 4 Tony awards; whilst she has done television before, Practice represents her first substantial regular television role. Television favourite Amy Brenneman also stars as the resident emotionally rattled psychologist, along with television veteran Tim Daly (brother of Tyne Daly, Brenneman’s mother in Judging Amy), the alternative medicine practitioner. Then of course there’s Paul Adelstein, who I personally didn’t know much of before seeing him first on Prison Break as the creepy guy chasing down Sarah and Michael, but apparently he was a cast member on Rob Thomas’ former brainchild (and soon to be re-booted) Cupid. Here, he plays sensitive man-whore paediatrician Cooper, best friend to Brenneman’s Violet. Other notables include the already mentioned Taye Diggs, who it seems can now finally live down his completely unfortunate and unfair ‘show-killer’ status; fellow former Rob Thomas employee Chris Lowell, from the brilliant-but-cancelled Veronica Mars, and of course Kate Walsh herself.

Although critics continue to not take this show seriously, and it is easy to do with some of the kooky plot-lines, I believe the remarkable cast is what makes this show consistently watchable. In the hands of lesser actors, it would have already been relegated to a ghost of series-television’s past. A few weeks ago in the US, Private Practice enjoyed a crossover experience with its sibling Grey’s Anatomy, a medical emergency with Addison’s brother (Grant Show) requiring the expertise of the best neurologist around, whom is of course, Addison’s ex-husband; awkward. This little promotional stunt only highlighted for me the strength of Practice and cemented in my mind that Grey’s is officially struggling. The little school-yard squabbles and childish antics can only take a show so far, and for Grey’s I think their number is nearly up. Private Practice and Grey’s Anatomy are currently airing here in Australia on Channel Seven, back-to-back Thursday nights from 8:30pm.

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Channel Nine: One step forward, Two steps back

TVGuide.Com, courtesy Andrew Eccles/The CW

TVGuide.Com, courtesy Andrew Eccles/The CW

 

Hey upper-east siders, Gossip Girl here, your one and only source into the scandalous lives of Manhattan’s elite world of television in Australia.

So, this was going to be a post about how happy I was that channel Nine in Australia had started to air Gossip Girl, albeit at 10:30pm on a Wednesday during summer non-ratings period, but instead, it’s just going to be an angry rant. Channel Nine originally bought the rights to Gossip Girl back in mid-2007, but on-sold them to FOXTEL’s Fox8 because it didn’t feel the show fit its demographic. Clearly channel Nine is committed to its whole crime procedural/reality vibe, because I honestly couldn’t tell you anything else that they screen. Listen up Nine, you’re not ‘the one’ anymore, it isn’t working, move on. You need to take a chance on some original programming that doesn’t involve a blue light and evidence bags. Gossip Girl was your chance to begin to attract a younger audience. OK, let’s not kid ourselves, this show isn’t going to win any Emmys, but it’s deliciously fun, and bitingly funny, and never fails to entertain. However, it was probably never going to work out, because you wouldn’t have invested anything in promoting it (anyone remember Nine airing three episodes of The O.C before giving up on it? Probably not, because it was barely promoted; Channel Ten bought the rights from Nine, promoted the hell out of it and it became a ratings staple for the underdog.) 

Anyway, I will try and get back to the original point of this article, before I digress again at the end. Gossip Girl has been airing on pay-TV network FOXTEL, with the second season premier set to air tonight. But of course, not everyone can afford, or even wants FOXTEL. Channel Nine, after the show’s now proven success, has picked up the second-run rights (or perhaps these were part of the original sale agreement) to air the first season. Although all the cool kids have already seen it, this is a step forward for free-to-air television and the Australian television industry. Pay-TV has not been the success story here in Australia that it is the U.S. People are not willing to part with their hard earned money for a boatload of garden design and cooking shows speckled with biographies of washed up stars. However, increasingly, FOXTEL is gaining the rights to more and more first run original programming from the U.S, and is producing more quality Australian shows such as Love My Way. This is making it harder for the average Australian to get access to these original and quality shows. The fact that Nine has finally decided to screen Gossip Girl, despite its ridiculous time-slot, means that more people can have access to this exceedingly addictive show. It is a trend that has been occurring increasingly, most notably with Channel Ten’s brilliant pick up of Showtime’s Dexter, which brought quality, original programming to Ten’s Sunday night line-up. Season 2 of Dexter will screen on Channel Ten early 2009, while Showtime will be screening season 3 on its Showcase channel at the same time. I hope Ten continues to acquire such quality programming – even if it is second-run, still, the majority of the country has not seen it – and I can only hope that Nine and Seven follow suit.

Now, on to the continuation of my rant. In my post about Pushing Daisies a few weeks ago, I mentioned that channel Nine would most likely air the brilliant but cancelled series over summer beginning in December, well, while doing some research for this post, I have discovered that this is no longer the case. Channel Nine has sold the rights to its swag of Warner Bros. shows which includes Pushing Daisies, as well as the successful and delightfully funny NBC spy comedy Chuck (incidentally also from Josh Schwartz, the creator of Gossip Girl and The O.C), and the action thrill ride and highly-acclaimed Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. FOXTEL really is becoming a force in the quality TV stakes, and if Nine keeps selling its original content to them, it’s only going to get harder for people to access quality television programs in this country. In this regard, Nine really has taken one step forward, and two steps back in terms of providing Australian’s access to great, entertaining, and well written television programming. I really hope they see the error of their ways, stat, and stop bulking up their schedule with more crime and legal shows.