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Saturday, October 20, 2012

Check out Emily Owens

Don't let the goofy poster fool you. The CW's new drama Emily Owens M.D. is good. It's very good. In fact, it's so good, that it feels like it belongs on another network. No offense to the CW, as I do enjoy much of their programming, but it's target viewing audience skews young, and Emily Owens could easily be enjoyed by people of all ages.

I understand why it's on the CW. The concept is that a hospital is just like high school, with the various cliques filling in various departments, and peers treating one another just as meanly as teenagers. This is definitely a pitch that belongs on this network, and would feel right at home among their other shows.

But the fact of the matter is, this idea plays very little into what Emily Owens M.D. actually is, and it would not be surprising if it's pushed to the back burner or abandoned as the series plays out. Instead, we get a Grey's Anatomy style series, with a main narrator, story for all of the doctors closest around her, and a focus on their interactions and relationships. Patients pass through quick enough to avoid being a procedural, and instead, it is a mature series, overall.

It also helps that Emily Owens M.D. stars Mamie Gummer (Off the Map) in the title role. Gummer channels her mother, Meryl Streep, beautifully in so many scenes. She is clearly a very good, very experienced actress who could be doing roles far more demanding than this. By bringing her serious gravitas, incredibly impressive to see in one so young, she raises the level of the entire project. Can you imagine if Meryl Street had starred in a medical drama a couple of decades ago? That's what you're getting in Emily Owens M.D.

If this seems to clash with what I laid out as the main idea of the series, that's because it does. Gummer's internal monologue is sometimes great, but at other times, usually when she feels awkward, it becomes out of place. Scenes at the high school across from the hospital aren't great. Emily should be confident and brave, like Gummer. The opposite of most shows, I think the character will have to grow into the actress.

And the thing is, the rest of the cast is also really good. Justin Hartley plays Will, Emily's best friend whom she has an unrequited crush on. But he does so while proving that he can do better than running around in a hood and tights, as he formerly did on Smallville. Emily's new pal Tyra (Kelly McCreary, White Collar), who happens to be the chief's (Harry Lennix, Dollhouse) closeted lesbian daughter, is a complex character of the type that you might see on a network series. And even the villain, Cassandra (Aja Naomi King) already has depth after only one episode! This is done with making Emily look foolish in a moment where she actually deserves to look foolish.

With a solid cast, which also includes Michael Rady (The Mentalist) as a superior and real love interest for Emily and Necar Zadegan (24) as a gruff boss, and well developed characters, it's up to the writing to sell it. If the patients in the first episode are indication, challenging Emily and the other characters, and teaching them lessons, this will work out, too.

There isn't much to complain about in the "Pilot" of Emily Owens M.D. It's a great hour of television, highly enjoyable and engaging. Gummer is meant to be a star, and while this may not be the absolute best showcase for her to shine in, being a standard medical drama, it's a not a bad package, and she is definitely going to make the best of it.

 Emily Owens M.D. airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET on the CW.

If you like my reviews, please follow me on Twitter! Check out my website, JeromeWetzel.com! First posted on TheTVKing

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