Opinions

Appraising ‘Private Practice’ – The Best Drama On TV

Sometimes spin-offs miserably fail. But the popularity of Grey’s Anatomy also gave rise to one of the best dramas currently on TV. Private Practice is coming off its strongest season last year, and so far this fourth season isn’t losing any momentum.


How does Private Practice grade for this season?

Sometimes spin-offs miserably fail. But the popularity of Grey’s Anatomy also gave rise to one of the best dramas currently on TV. Private Practice is coming off its strongest season last year, and so far this fourth season isn’t losing any momentum. Episode after episode has consistently been well-written, intelligent and thought-provoking with outstanding performances by its cast.  Not to mention the soapy quotient has been off the charts at LA’s Oceanside Wellness.

In particular, Amy Brenneman’s portrayal of Violet Turner has been stellar. Just a year ago, Violet was a shattered, broken shell of a woman, willing to give her newborn baby away, as she struggled with the after-effects of a brutal and horrific attack.  While I feel a little guilty in thinking this, the truth is Violet became pretty unlikeable last season.  So it’s with some notable acting on Brenneman’s part that Violet once again became a heroine and a strong role model.  In the haunting “A Better Place to Be” episode, Violet alone  was willing to take in Dell’s orphaned daughter Betsy,  and I found myself once again loving her and simultaneously disgusted with the rest of the practice. How could every single one of Dell’s supposed best friends (save Violet) turn their back on his only daughter? Even that uncomfortable question highlights one of PP’s strongest assets: its characters aren’t all good or all bad, they’re simply flawed.

I enjoy Timothy Daly’s alternative medicine guru Pete Wilder an awful lot, too, and it’s great to see him get his second chance with Violet. It will be fun to watch how they handle being newly-married, with a baby, after everything they’ve been through.  And as free-spirit Pete has already questioned whether he’s truly cut out to be a husband, I suspect there will be some rocky (and therefore vastly entertaining) roads ahead for these two.

The match-up of Sam Bennett and Addison Montgomery (Taye Diggs and Kate Walsh) was also one I strongly rooted for last year, but find it falling strangely flat now.  They just don’t seem in step and I’m not as in love with the reality of Sam and Addy as I was with the concept. They had more passion when they were forbidden by Sam’s ex-wife (and Addy’s best friend) Naomi (Audra McDonald).  And now that Sam’s also made it clear he’s not interested in fathering more children, I suspect more angst in store for the new couple. Poor Addy. She can’t seem to find the one, can she?

Furthermore, I wonder now if perhaps Naomi and Sam aren’t quite finished after all.  They’ve already shared a few moments this season that indicate perhaps there’s more to their story, divorced or not. Although I was greatly intrigued by the potential pairing last season of Naomi with Gabriel Fife (Michael Patrick Thornton),  in one of the few miscues this year,  he’s sadly disappeared.  At least so far.

Without any reservations, I adore the match-up Charlotte King and Cooper Freedman (KaDee Strickland and Paul Adelstein). What a strange, quirky, wonderful couple this is. I love the constant battle between Coop and Charlotte as to who will be the dominant partner.  (Of course, Charlotte’s wearing the pants, regardless of what Coop may think.)  And all on her own, Charlotte is a very strong female character, and her portrayer Strickland is a compelling on-screen presence.

That was never more apparent that in the last episode, “Did You Hear What Happened to Charlotte King?”  With only her eyes, KaDee Strickland conveyed better than anyone in recent memory  the utter horror of rape. While the subject matter is very uncomfortable, I can’t wait to see Charlotte King remain front and center as she deals with the aftermath of her attack.

Additionally, making semi- nerdy psychiatrist Sheldon Wallace (Brian Benben) a regular and permanent character was a smart move. Conversely, one of the few weak choices was the addition of Caterina Scorsone as Derek’s estranged sister, Amelia Shepherd. While the actress is solid and even strongly resembles Derek, I have reservations. Specifically, that this particular character strongly reminded me of Charlotte: the assertive, career-oriented woman hiding a softer side. If she remains a carbon copy of Charlotte, she’s unnecessary, but I suppose time will tell.

Beside that one worry, this is one of the most talented casts in primetime and there’s not a weak link in the bunch.  And the storylines so far this season have been engrossing, dramatic, and everything a soapy drama should be.  PP also, and not incidentally, has some of the strongest female leads on any television show and for that alone should be applauded.

Grade for PP so far:  A very strong A-

NEXT: I’ll join the Walker Clan and discuss how things are faring this year on Brothers & Sisters. Stay tuned!


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