Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Pilot Review: Emily Owens, M.D.

Emily Owens, M.D. (Tuesdays at 9:00 on The CW; Premieres October 16)

What would happen if you tried to set Grey's Anatomy in high school? That seems to be the question first-time creator Jennie Snyder Urman (formerly a writer on 90210) tried to answer with The CW's first foray into medical procedural territory, Emily Owens, M.D. Well, the answer is exactly what you'd expect: nothing good would happen.

It's the first day as a doctor at Denver Memorial Hospital for Emily Owens (Mamie Gummer, Off the Map) and a host of other recent med school graduates. Among her new colleagues are Emily's crush Will Collins (Justin Hartley, Smallville); her high school tormentor Cassandra (Aja Naomi King); kindhearted senior doctor Micah (Michael Rady, Melrose Place); and her new mentor, a goddess in the medical field, Gina Beckett (Necar Zadegan, 24), among many others. It's lot long before Emily learns that working in a hospital is a lot like being back in high school: the doctors form cliques, she must deal with her unrequited emotions, help her friends get dates... the only difference being now things really are a matter of life and death.

As far as an introduction for The CW into the world of medical shows, Emily Owens could have been much worse. The concept of "hospitals are just like high school" is cute, and it's a good jumping off point for the youthful network. It makes the characters a bit more relatable for the young audience the network attracts. But it also trivializes the entire concept of medical shows as well. The writing is so immature, the situations so childish, that Emily Owens plays more like a parody of Grey's Anatomy than anything else. There's a scene in the pilot directly lifted from Mean Girls, where seemingly the only kind female other than Emily, a hospital bigwig's daughter named Tyra (Kelly McCreary), introduces her to the different cliques: The Jocks (podiatrists), The Plastics (plastic surgeons), The Stoners (anestheseologists), The Geeks (neurologists), etc. It's cute, in concept, but to see it played out makes it all seem really, really silly. And from there on out it's hard to take the rest of the show seriously.

Not that theyr'e trying very hard to be serious. The medical cases in the pilot are so standard that it's laughable. Emily relates to a young pre-teen who faints when her crush walks by, only to learn she has a heart condition; an old woman with Alzheimer's goes missing; a man and his brother are in a drunken car accident, with the golden boy being the one who ends up seriously injured. Nothing at all interesting happening there. And the way Snyder relates her doctor characters to the patients is lowest-denominator. Emily convinces her young patient to tell her crush how she feels, just as she realizes that she must do the same with Will; Cassandra turns out to be such a bitch because her home life was so awful in high school; etc. It's all very basic and immature. There's even a scene where Twilight is used as an example of how to live one's life, and I swear I'm not making that up.... it happened. The dialogue is pretty bad, but it's the structure that is truly terrible. Snyder Urman uses far too much unnecessary voice-over for Emily, again recalling Mean Girls, and she treats everything going on in the hospital with deadly seriousness. Every few seconds (much like the other awful medical drama of the season, The Mob Doctor) all the doctors are receiving emergency calls on their beepers (yes, BEEPERS!) and running off to some other area of the hosptial, yelling about syringes or broken arteries or some such medical nonsense. It's enough to make you roll your eyes and groan, "Come on."

With only so much to work with in a very weak script, it's no surprise that not even the excellent Mamie Gummer, who looks and sounds so much like her mother, Meryl Streep, at times that it's uncanny, can elevate the material above mediocrity. She has very few dramatic moments to play; instead she's standing around making googly eyes at Will or fretting over what happened to her in high school to make everyone hate her. Emily is a sympathetic character if you're a teenage girl, but an annoying one if you're anyone else. Still, Gummer is the only actor who doesn't succumb to the script's more ridiculous moments and characterizations. Aja Naomi King is doing her best Regina George impersonation, but nothing doing; she is so stereotypically bitchy that she might as well be a cardboard cutout with a pre-recorded bitchy voicebox. Justin Harltey just needs to look adorable; ditto for Michael Rady, who's just as shallow an actor as he was on the aborted CW remake of Melrose Place.

I can imagine a show like Emily Owens, M.D. (which should have stuck with its original title, First Cut) finding an audience of young people and women who are invested in its melodramatic love stories and tales of redemption after high school, but for anyone who prefers a bit of meat on their shows, it falls incredibly short. It's Grey's Anatmoy without the gravitas, Scrubs without the humor, and Mean Girls without the bite.

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