[16 October 2012]
PopMatters Film and TV Editor
“Breathe.” On her first rounds at Denver Memorial, her first internship after medical school, Emily Owens (Mamie Gummer) hears a voice. It’s Micah (Michael Rady), the resident assigned to look after her, and he’s just what he’s doing. A little uncomfortable, but not enough, she turns to answer, “Is it that obvious?” Actually, yes, everything she’s doing is that obvious in this premiere episode of Emily Owens M.D.. Whether she’s nattering on in her voiceover about her insecurities or behaving as if she’s confident, Emily can’t seem to strike a balance. And so she leaves you feeling on edge for 42 minutes.
She means to be more interesting. Emily has a love interest, her med school colleague Will (Justin Hartley, former the Green Arrow on Smallville) and she has a rival named Cassandra (Aja Naomi King), who taunted her in high school (who they’ve come together so many years later is one of those remarkable coincidences that befall girls wrapped up in dubious plots on TV) and an seemingly cruel but plainly impressed mentor, Gina (Necar Zadegan). As Emily tries to sort out how to get close to Will, she relies on advice from her 12-year-old patient (Sarah Wiley), but gets hung up when she thinks that his compliment on her surgical skills (“You have great hands”) mean what she thinks it might mean. !You know, because boys are baffling!
Obvious in every possible way, Emily tells her new best lesbian friend Tyra (Kelly McCreary), ” I thought I left high school behind,” and is informed, oh no! “A hospital is totally like high school, complete with jocks (orthopedic surgeons who look like square-jawed Ralph Lauren models in grey scrubs), mean girls (who go into plastics), stoners (anesthesiologists), and a camera that tracks them in the hallway. But before you imagine that any of these jokey bits are actually funny, take a breath. Despite Gummer’s considerable charms, Emily Owens M.D. is cluttered by eccentric affects and hospitalish subplots (the sick girl, the bad daughter, the misdiagnosis crisis, the essentially good brother), Emily Owens, M.D. is decidedly dull. “The thing about being an adult that no one tells you growing up,” Emily sums up, “Is that you don’t feel like an adult.” Much less like Angela Chase, who said it all before her, more convincingly and when she was in high school.