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Saturday, October 1, 2011

"God Laughs" at Private Practice

     ABC's Private Practice premiere, "God Laughs," finds Addison (Kate Walsh) talking to a therapist about her life, especially the fact that her new fertility doctor turns out to be Jake (new series regular Benjamin Bratt, Law & Order, The Cleaner), whom she recently flirted with. But that's just the framework. The real action involves Pete's (Tim Daly) heart attack, Violet's (Amy Brenneman) encounter with an abused wife and her decision to return to Pete, and Amelia's (Caterina Scorsone) fall off the wagon into booze.

     The title is excellent, even if you do not believe in a deity, a valid conclusion. That's because it does seem like every time plans are made, reality will step in to mess with them. Life is messy, and some people, including many of the characters on Private Practice, tend to forget this. Love the reminder.

     Many will be happy to learn that Pete comes through his medical emergency more or less intact. It's touch and go for awhile, and with Private Practice's willingness to kill off main characters, there is some real drama built up. Even worse, a still inebriated Amelia operates on him, so anything could really happen. But Pete lives to doctor another day, and saves the series from having to replace another main character. This is great, because all the Pete / Violet drama deserves a happy ending, and not more turmoil.

     Violet's story in "God Laughs" is a little less enticing, but still interesting. Stuck at the airport, phone battery dead, ignorant to what is happening with Pete, Violet strikes up a conversation with a stranger (Breaking Bad's Betsy Brandt). Some of what they talk about it just patient of the week stuff, a little unexpected, since Violet's license is suspended. But she's not officially counseling, so she isn't technically breaking any rules, I think. However, there are also things in the conversation that remind Violet that she has it good with Pete, and she shouldn't leave him. Even if she's doing towards something instead of running away this time, that is no excuse to leave her still-fragile family. In the end, Violet makes the right choice.

     Addison takes care of a strangely silent Lucas the entire episode, sparking her to seek motherhood once more. This is the least effective story in the hour, not because of Addison's desire, a long running theme that does not resolution, but because it just doesn't fit with everything else. Pete might die, and Addison is thinking of having a child? There are other concerns going on. Yes, death can make one rethink priorities, but save it for next week. Private Practice is strongest when it is a true ensemble show, and now when Addison finds a way to draw focus constantly.

     Finally, Amelia's addiction arc is actually rather well done. Amelia has a tendency to fade into the background since joining the cast, and any story that gives her some focus is welcome, as Scorsone is a good actress that can hold her own with her co-stars, and deserves to. Charlotte (KaDee Strickland) has been through enough, and doesn't need a relapse, so it's cool that she is the tough cop trying to give Amelia a gut check about what she is doing, rather than the center to this story. Sheldon (Brian Benben) might be even more vital, providing help, but not enabling. Maybe a genuine romance could spring up between the pair after he finishes helping her get better? God knows Sheldon really deserves true love, but then again, "God Laughs."

     Private Practice also stars the excellent Paul Adelstein and Taye Diggs. It airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. ET on ABC.

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     To purchase Private Practice DVDs and streaming episode, please click here.

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