On ''Grey's Anatomy,'' Kate Walsh's proposed new series is dead on arrival; meanwhile, the original cast kills Meredith's stepmother

By Gregory Kirschling
Updated May 06, 2007 at 04:00 AM EDT
Kate Walsh, Grey's Anatomy

”Grey’s Anatomy”: Addison’s spin-off

I’m trying to think of something pleasant to say about last night’s two-hour Grey’s Anatomy, and…I’m still thinking.

Okay, there’s Bailey. As always, there’s Bailey. As underutilized as ever, she essentially had one scene. And it was good. Mopey O’Malley was eating his own organs up over Izzie again this week, and at the clinic he came right out and asked Bailey if she ever had any doubts about her marriage. She ran away from him fast. Then Burke, deep into planning his own wedding with the uncooperative Cristina, came in a scene or two later and asked Bailey a marriage question of his own. So she called O’Malley over, worked up a head of steam, and told the boys, Bailey-style, to talk to each other, ”and leave my marriage out of it!”

Chandra Wilson is — I think it’s safe to call it now, two eps from the finale — season 3’s MVP. Her version of ”God Bless the Child” from last fall is the season’s top moment, and throughout the year she’s reliably delivered even as the ship’s been sinking around her. Bailey has dropped out of the picture for much of the second half of the season, but Wilson’s managed to steal most of the few scenes she’s still in. (Standing among her castmates as the pants went down last week, her reaction shot to Grapefruit Testicles’ displayed goods was the keeper of the pack.) Last night’s freak-out at O’Malley and Burke wasn’t a classic Bailey bit, and it wouldn’t be worth singling out like this except that it was, like, the only good moment in the whole two-hour epic.

Maybe I exaggerate. Some of the other scenes at Seattle Grace hit par. Izzie and George kissed some more in the elevator, and — to all of America’s shock, I’m sure — Callie didn’t catch them in the act when the doors opened. (She was right there, of course, when the doors opened, but George had pulled himself off Izzie by then.) Meredith, meanwhile, tossed off a few well-turned lines to Derek at the beginning of the episode about how he shouldn’t give up on her because she wants to let him in. He smiled, she smiled; it made me like these two again. Then her stepmom, played by Mare Winningham, got the hiccups and died. Meredith had to tell her dad, whom she’d been bonding with all night, and Jeff Perry, who plays Thatcher, did some of the most realistic breaking down I’ve ever seen on TV, at least until he slapped Meredith. (”I trusted you!”) Thatcher, that goofball, ain’t a slapper.

And that was the episode! Thanks, friends, good night!

Oh, would that it were. Because there’s seriously not a single friendly thing to say about the other half (or maybe more, like three-fourths) of the episode, which followed Kate Walsh as Addison went down to Santa Monica on a leave of absence to visit old friends and meet the costars of her proposed new spin-off. This part of the show was bad from the very first scene, which was edited in ’80s-music-video style so that Addison was shifting the gears of her lipstick-red convertible to the beat of the New Wave-y soundtrack as she drove along the ocean. She rolled up to the Oceanside Wellness Group, the swank-hippie New Age medicine hut where, before too long, she’ll presumably be hanging her shingle.

Maybe I’ll get around to explaining who some of the new characters are, but here’s the first thing you need to know about them: They look older than the spring-chicken cast of Grey’s — I mean, not bag-of-bones Marlow old, but still old — and they’re hornier too. So far it’s a funky combo. For one thing, their talk is very coarse. I like to curse, I wish I could curse in the pages of Entertainment Weekly, and yet I blanched at so much of these geezers’ dialogue that eventually I felt like the old, prudish one. Why are all these new people so gross? The place is run by Sam (Taye Diggs), a health guru who just divorced Addison’s med-school classmate Naomi (Merrin Dungey). In an early scene, apropos of I-can’t-remember-what (probably nothing), Sam actually used the line ”Smelt it, dealt it” to support some point he was making, and Addison replied, ”You’re using fart logic?” Ugh. Stay classy, Santa Monica! Back in Seattle, Burke’s mama got on his case for using the word ”crap,” but over in Santa Monica, the potty talk just kept coming. Both of the Oceanside medical cases this evening were about sex: One was about a guy who didn’t want to sleep with his wife (”No wood?” Sam asked sensitively); the other was about a surrogate mom who had sex with three guys. Sex, sex, sex, dirty, dirty, dirty.

But this new setting already feels like a letdown after Seattle Grace. There’s less froth, less bite, less wit than there was in the first episodes of Grey’s. The Oceanside scenes last night were soap opera unleavened by the usual Grey’s comedy or intrigue. In the elevator on her first trip into the Oceanside building, Addison started babbling to a doc (played by Tim Daly) about how it’s nice, for once, to be in an ”unhorny” elevator, and the writing was so contrived it actually made your jaw drop. (And that was before the ”Elevator God” started talking to Addison, in another WTF motif almost too awful for words.) Taking notes throughout the show, I just kept writing, ”This is bad, so so bad.” That bit where the lady doctors — including Amy Brenneman as the in-house shrink — ogled the shirtless desk clerk while his right pec pumped in time with his strokes as he waxed his surfboard in the lobby? Excruciating.

This is really how the new show’s gonna go? We really need two TV programs about horny docs who take on wacky medical cases? I was on board with the idea till last night. Now we’ll have to see. It was not the finest night for Kate Walsh either. She was affecting when Addison found out she can’t have kids, but here and there, starting with that first elevator scene with Tim Daly, she seemed to be mugging for the camera for the first time. She’s a little desperate to be loved. There are only two more episodes this season: I hope Addison makes it back to Seattle Grace quick next week.

That’s my take. What’s yours? All night I wondered about those Grey’s fans who hadn’t yet heard that Walsh was getting her own show. Any of you out there? Last night were you like, What the hell is going on? Because that would be funny. And what else about the episode? Do you think Burke and Cristina will really be together forever? Will Karev and Ava? Will Callie find out about George and Izzie next week, or do we have to wait till the season finale for that? And is it too late to take the spin-off away from Addison and give it to Bailey?

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Grey's Anatomy

Meredith. Alex. Bailey. The doctors are definitely in on Shonda Rhimes' hospital melodrama.

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