Tuesday night the CW premiered its foray into the medical world with the new drama Emily Owens, M.D. Starring Mamie Gummer (the glorious offspring of the great Meryl Streep), Emily Owens is a med school grad beginning her surgical internship at Denver Memorial Hospital, and she just can’t seem to shake her high school insecurities. Whether it’s her nefarious school days nemesis Cassandra (Aja Naomi King) passively aggressively undermining her every move, her med school friend/fellow intern/secret crush Will (Justin Hartley), or her demanding, intimidating idol, the brilliant Dr. Bandari (Necar Zadegan), Emily finds herself anxiety-ridden in a lifestyle that's stressful enough as it is. But there’s a ray of sunlight in her new job: Micah (Michael Rady), her resident, who not only helps her put things in perspective, but maybe, just maybe, likes her as more than just a mentee. Boom: requisite love triangle established.
Watching the season premiere last night, I was shocked by the show’s similarities to another, famous long-running medical drama. You know the one I’m talking about. The one whose doctors recently survived a plane crash on a mysterious island where the Dharma Initiative was born and are now running around with a revengenda hunting villains with a bow and arrow and… wait, I’m getting confused!
Deep breath. Let’s start over. I'm talking about Grey’s Anatomy. Emily Owens, M.D. seemed to be almost a carbon copy of ABC’s veteran medical drama. Now, medical dramas are obviously going to see some crossover. That’s unavoidable. But this isn't merely a few coincidences here and there. The entire show’s structure was practically the same, and those similarities can’t be ignored:
1. The voice-over/narration by the titular doc throughout the episode, kind of like Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo) in every episode, ever.
2. The emotional monologues from the characters, telling (not showing) how they feel and explaining their actions, a.k.a. Grey's Anatomy, also in every episode, ever.
3. The brilliant, yet bitchy doctor all the interns fear and idolize, much like Miranda Bailey (Chandra Wilson) in Grey's earlier seasons.
4. Emily’s profession of love in a bumbling speech to her best guy friend, which has happened to just about every character on Grey's Anatomy.
5. The lesbian intern struggling with the implications of her sexuality, much like Callie Torres (Sara Ramirez).
6. The Chief of surgery cheating on his wife with another hospital employee, just like the Chief Webber cheating on Adele with Meredith's mother.
7. The patients’ medical drama eerily mirroring the doctors' relationship drama, giving the patients the opportunity to give advice that conveniently and completely solves all the doctors’ dilemmas. Once again, this is every episode of Grey's Anatomy ever.
Now, that’s a whole lotta similarities going on. The comparisons should completely turn viewers off, and yet, it works.
Somehow the few, small-yet-game-changing differences completely change the entire tone of the show and the result is really quite charming. For one thing, after Emily’s profession of love to Will, her crush completely shuts her down, saying he just sees her as a friend. It was awkward. It was uncomfortable. It was mortifying. And it was totally realistic.
Unlike Grey’s Anatomy’s epic love stories and heartfelt confessions that are few and far between in real life, having a crush not return your feelings happens more than we’d all care to admit. That “just friends” response Will gives to Emily slams the swelling romantic background music to a jarring halt, quickly reminding us this was one happy ending that isn't going to play out. Emily raids the vending machines and camps out in a stairwell to nurse her wounded pride. Girl, I’m with you on that one. Life isn’t pretty, and Emily does the best she can with the lemons she's given.
And another significant difference is that Emily – unlike Meredith Grey’s "dark, twisty" personality – is light, happy, and optimistic. Even after her heart is stomped on by the guy she’s been crushing on for years, a quick pep talk with Micah puts her life in perspective, and she puts that smile back on her face and gets back to work with a kick in her step. Faced with her high school nemesis, she remains upbeat and confronts her, determined to not let anything stop her from being a good doctor.
This sunnier disposition can partly be attributed to Gummer’s brilliant portrayal of Emily. She conveys emotions and feelings with subtle shifts in her facial expressions and the tone of her voice is astounding. It could have something to do with her good genes – being Meryl Streep's daughter never hurts. No other comment will be made of her parentage, though. Gummer clearly has talent, and I don’t care whether it is learned or inherited. As long as I get to see her on my TV Tuesday nights, that's fine by me.
The effect of these few changes made this show (at least, the pilot) worth watching. Only time will tell if the rest of the season continues on this trend. And in the words of Emily Owens herself at the end of the pilot: “Oh come on. It’s gotta get better than this—right?”
Emily Owens, M.D. airs Tuesday nights on the CW.
Follow Sydney on Twitter @SydneyBucksbaum
[Photo Credit: Jack Rowand/The CW]
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Life’s never exactly been a walk in the park for Rooster (Antwan Patton) and Percival (Andre Benjamin) even when they were childhood best friends but things are about to get real messy. Now grown up and living in the 1930s South--Idlewild Georgia to be exact--they remain close and even work together. Rooster the more flamboyant of the two is the emcee and Percy the piano player at a place called Church which is “anything but.” Church is a speakeasy beloved by locals but after a gangster (Terrence Howard) forcibly removes the club’s former owner (Faizon Love) the new regime is considerably tighter especially for Rooster who has to answer to the new guy in charge. Rooster is all about business and is concerned about keeping Church in operation. Percy meanwhile is torn between love for a woman (Paula Patton) and allegiance for his widower dad (Ben Vereen). But nothing will get resolved before the gunpowder settles. As Outkast Benjamin (a.k.a. Andre 3000) and Patton (a.k.a. Big Boi) have set pop music on fire while maintaining hip-hop cred. In Idlewild they try to continue that along with taking over a new medium; the results are mixed. Patton the one with seemingly no aspirations of movie stardom actually gives the stronger performance of the two. This is just his second film yet he coolly slides right into this role one that should’ve entailed more dialogue and less rapping. For Benjamin he has certainly displayed acting chops before but his wounded puppy dog Percy does not suit the actor at all. A role with more external drama would seem optimal for him. Benjamin does seem deeply committed to acting though so there’s reason to have faith. But it’s Howard yet again who absolutely pilfers the show making everyone look like mere rappers trying to cross over. His Hustle and Flow hype now calmed Howard proves that he is anything but a one-hit wonder. Bryan Barber is Outkast’s go-to music-video director who’s making his feature debut with Idlewild; both of those facts speak volumes about his writing/directing effort here. As such the film is loaded with bright spots usually consisting of the dance sequences and the overall style and major cinematic blemishes as can be expected for a first-timer. In other words the core elements--i.e. the script and direction--are a mess but the peripheral elements--i.e. the look and sound--are dazzling. Part of the problem is the timing of the release: This film is supposed to do too many things from launching Benjamin into movie stardom to coinciding with the actual Outkast album/soundtrack release and that ambition is a microcosm of the flaws. But most of all there is simply too much going on here. Anachronisms run rampant where they shouldn’t and the same can be said for some of the songs--the vulgar rap played against the film’s Southern themes doesn’t always quite work as the intended contrast is sometimes overbearing.
Dave Chappelle is a Hollywood anomaly. Not only because the comedian felt his soul was worth more than $50 million (the reported amount he walked away from when he left his Chappelle's Show) but also because he lives worlds apart from the place--literally and figuratively. In Block Party not a moment is spent trying to go deep inside the man behind the comedy yet that much is ascertainable. The documentary tells instead of his September 2004 mission to organize a rap/R&B block party/concert in Brooklyn and hand out the event’s "golden tickets" at random to people in his Dayton Ohio community. It cuts back and forth between concert footage with his standup and the often-funny events that precipitated it. Those hoping for some sort of mea culpa will be disappointed (and should be ashamed); rather it's Chappelle's show seemingly the way he wanted Chappelle's Show. While Block Party obviously contains no acting there is a bevy of performers. The catalyst of course is Chappelle and as he did so well on his show he turns mundane observations into knee-slapping hilarity—thanks in no small part to his infectious laugh that follows everything he says. He also plays the part of hip-hop goodwill ambassador both reuniting groups and diversifying the lineup. His tastes and schoolboy enthusiasm might even be enough to endear the hip-hop naysayer. See he prefers artists who are progressive--artists who say something punctuated by actual live music! Acts like The Roots Kanye West Common Erykah Badu Jill Scott Mos Def Talib Kweli Dead Prez and a reunited Fugees--the film’s climax if you will--make theater dancing all but unavoidable and massacre stereotypes. And they're all Chappelle-approved for an extra layer of authenticity. Block Party perfectly pairs subject with director. Michel Gondry--best known as director of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind--has a voyeur’s curiosity an artist’s eye for aesthetics and an ear for left-of-center music (he is also an acclaimed music-video director). He is not interested in somehow exposing Chappelle to his legions of fans and few detractors but he does touch on something that might surprise: Chappelle with his genuine benevolence seems just as content to get a smile as he does a laugh. Such is the case when he invites an entire college band to come play at his block party and pays their way; or when he pleases the crowd by assembling the aforementioned eclectic mix of musical acts groups which might’ve gone their careers without appearing together. But what Gondry captures best is this freak of nature who’s so maddeningly candid in front of a camera.
Hollywood funnyman Howard Morris died at his Los Angeles home on May 21 from natural causes. He was 85.
The comic actor shot to fame in 1963 playing beloved hillbilly Ernest T Bass
in hit '60s TV show The Andy Griffith Show.
He went on to provide the voices for several animated TV characters,
including Beetle Bailey and Atom Ant.
And his love of television inspired him to spend the latter years of his life
directing popular shows like Bewitched and the small screen adaptation of movie
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Helen McCarter (Kimberly Elise) thought she had the perfect life with lawyer husband Charles (Steve Harris): a big house lots of creature comforts and a stable--albeit staid--marriage. But Helen's world shatters when Charles tells her on the eve of their 18th wedding anniversary that he wants a divorce and literally kicks her out of their spacious mansion to make room for another woman. Devastated she runs to her beloved pot-smokin' gun-totin' grandmother Madea (Tyler Perry) who lets Helen know she's a proud beautiful black woman who nonetheless should whoop the bastard's ass. As hurt as she is Helen really just wants to pick up the pieces and move on if she can. She finds guidance and empowerment from her family and friends including new friend Orlando (Shemar Moore) a drop-dead gorgeous construction worker whose sweet and sincere ways more than help Helen get through her pain. And he cooks too. Really there's no contest.
The main cast members aptly portray their roles formulaic as they are. Kimberly Elise (The Manchurian Candidate) as the grievously wronged wife has the toughest job trying to convey all the crazy mixed-up feelings Helen has for the ex-husband while trying to jumpstart her life. Steve Harris (TV's The Practice) as the callous husband and Shemar Moore (TV's The Young and the Restless) as the too-good-to-be-true suitor represent the two opposites sides of the coin. Even Cicely Tyson makes an appearance as Helen's invalid mother who seems just a little too healthy to be in a nursing home. But it's Tyler Perry who turns out to be the true mad black woman. The film comes alive when he's onscreen either playing the outrageous Madea--complete with wig makeup and padding--or Madea's brother Joe a lecherous old coot. Perry even gets to play it straight as Helen's kindly cousin Brian who has a junkie for a wife (played by Tamara Taylor with the usual vacant twitchy neediness). It would have been a long hour and a half without him.
Perry obviously writes from the heart having struggled through his younger years to become a well-known playwright. And with music video director Darren R. Grant at the helm Diary of a Mad Black Woman has all the best intentions. It's certainly a buoyant portrait of African-American life and culture that also speaks to anyone who has had to grapple with betrayal and hurt at the hands of those they love. But the stage-trained Perry somehow misses the subtleties of writing for film. Diary doesn't know what kind of genre it wants to be jumping from raucous comedy á la Big Momma's House to mind-numbing drama á la Waiting to Exhale. The characters don't have any complexities and are drawn very black or white. It also takes an awfully long time for our heroine to figure out what direction she's going to take when we could tell her in the first 30 minutes as to whom she should end up with. In the meantime we must endure several melodramatic set pieces filled with elaborate speeches about revenge love relationships redemption religion and all that which are meant to hit us hard with their poignancy. Perry might consider keeping the highfalutin writing for the stage and think about an acting career in film.
Maid in Manhattan is yet another take on the Cinderella story. There are very few surprises but the film is still somewhat enjoyable despite its predictable setup. Cinderella aka Marisa Ventura (Jennifer Lopez) is a hardworking no-nonsense single mom who loves her son Ty (Tyler Posey) and dreams of breaking out of her job as a maid at a five-star hotel in Manhattan. Her Fairy Godmother aka co-worker Stephanie (Marissa Matrone) unwittingly gives her that chance when she convinces Marisa to try on some expensive clothes left in a suite by the Evil Stepsister aka spoiled socialite Caroline Lane (Natasha Richardson) while they're cleaning. In walks Prince Charming aka Christopher Marshall (Ralph Fiennes) an incredibly handsome U.S. senator candidate and the city's most eligible bachelor and Boom! sparks fly. Chris thinks Marisa is the expensive suite's occupant--and she's too overwhelmed by the domino effect that happens to tell him different. Ah what a tangled web love at first sight can weave. Marisa spends the rest of the movie trying to cover up her error in judgment while also becoming increasingly drawn to her prince. Will he find out who she really is? Of course. Will it matter in the end? Of course not.
This may have been created as another vehicle to help further propel the career of actress/singer/designer/fiancee to Ben Affleck J. Lo but unexpectedly someone else comes out of the film looking better--Fiennes. It's little hard even for Jenny on the Block to outshine an Oscar-nominated actor. He elevates the formulaic subject matter and portrays a pretty down-to-earth Prince Charming without us ever seeing a forced move. I'm curious as to why such a high-caliber actor would choose such a run-of-the-mill project like this but whatever the reason he makes it work--at least for his part. Lopez doesn't do anything out of the ordinary. In fact it looks like she may have simply cloned the same expressions she put on in her other successful romantic comedy The Wedding Planner. And unfortunately Lopez and Fiennes don't share the same kind of heat she shared in that film with Matthew McConaughey or even George Clooney in Out of Sight (still her best performance to date). Yet they manage to convey a fair amount of good feelings to make the movie palatable. Richardson has a blast playing the rich bitch Caroline while Matrone making her film debut just comes off as annoying and pushy even if she thinks she's doing the right thing. Thank goodness she is because if things had turned out badly it would be in Marisa's best interest to go out and shoot her. Stanley Tucci as Christopher's watchdog campaign manager and Bob Hoskins as a senior-level butler at the hotel both do the best they can with silly parts.
Maid in Manhattan relies so heavily on the been-there-done-that Cinderella formula it becomes one of those romantic comedies you'll end up waiting to watch on cable one Saturday night rather than paying to see in a movie theater. It's really a shame because director Wayne Wang (The Joy Luck Club) had some interesting elements to play with and lots of acting talent to back it up. Perhaps Lopez could have played Marisa more wacky than so serious maybe try to show some comic ability. It would be a nice change of pace to think out of the box for once--what if the lovestruck pair didn't get together in the end? (I know the film would have fallen flat on its face.) But instead Maid wallows in predictability and implausibility. Christopher falls a little too hard and a little too fast for reality. Also it's hard to believe a maid would have access to all the hotel's amenities as Marisa does--borrowing a Harry Winston diamond necklace from the hotel jewelry store for the gala event? Unlikely to say the least. The only aspect of the film that stands out is the sneak peek you get into the inner workings of a top-notch hotel. It's definitely a world you don't get to see very often.