Preview: Emily Owens MD (The CW) 1×1

High school at hospital

Emily Owens MD

In the US: Tuesdays, 9/8c, The CW. Starts October 19
In the UK: Not yet acquired
In Canada: Acquired by CTV2 for simulcast
In Australia: Acquired by Network Ten

The medical procedural (MP) is something of a blank slate. Any network can stamp its DNA into the MP and make it its own. Fox can take the MP and add a little bit of crime drama to produce The Mob Doctor. NBC can take the MP and turn it into a low-quality bombastic explosion fest that runs out of budget by episode two (Trauma). ABC can make the MP a soap opera within three seconds (Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice).

So how about The CW, a network best characterised by Gossip Girl, America’s Next Top Model and Privileged? What would it do with an MP? Think about… What’s your answer?

If you guessed “young female doctor has to face up to mean, probably black girls, while finding career success and true love, probably with someone from Smallville in it”, you’d be right. Emily Owens MD is indeed a show about a young female doctor – Emily Owens (Marnie Gummer from The Good Wife) – who has just qualified from medical school and wants to become the best doctor ever. She moves to Denver to train with her heroine, Gina Bandari (Necar Zadegan from The Event), which is coincidentally where her best friend and secret crush Will Collins (Justin Hartley from, you guessed it, Smallville) is also going.

But whom should she discover has joined the hospital she’s going to be an intern at? Why the girl who used to bully her at high school, Cassandra Kopelson (Aja Naomi King), of course. And not only has she got to survive the girl who secretly messed up her cards just before the debate and knows her nickname is ‘pits’, she’s got to deal with all the other cliques in the hospital. Because it turns out a hospital is a lot like a high school.

Here’s a trailer.

At long last, Emily Owens (Mamie Gummer, “The Good Wife”) feels like she is an actual grown-up. She can finally put her high school days as the geeky-girl-with-flop-sweats behind her. She’s graduated from medical school, and she’s beginning an internship at Denver Memorial Hospital, where, not-so-coincidentally, her med-school crush Will Collins (Justin Hartley, “Smallville,” “Passions”) is also an intern.

So why does everyone keep warning Emily that the hospital is just like high school? She will soon finds out the hard way – her high school nemesis, the gorgeous, popular Cassandra Kopelson (newcomer Aja Naomi King), is also a new intern at Denver Memorial. Another fellow intern, Tyra Dupre (Kelly McCreary, “White Collar”), warns Emily that the cliques at the hospital are all too familiar: the jocks have become orthopedic surgeons; the mean girls are in plastics; the rebels are in the ER, and Tyra has her own awkward place as the principal’s kid – her father, Dr. Tim Dupre (Harry Lennix, “Ray”), is the chief resident. Tyra latches onto Emily as a new friend, and immediately begins confiding in her – the fact that Tyra is a lesbian, that she hasn’t come out to her father, that she is interested in dating a certain nurse – nothing is too personal for Tyra to share with Emily.

She may have made one new friend, but it doesn’t take long for Emily to realize that the long-standing rivalry she had with Cassandra back in high school is only going to grow. Now, both Emily and Cassandra are competing to impress the brilliant Dr. Gina Bandari (Necar Zadegan, “The Event”), a world-famous cardiothoracic surgeon who has been an inspiration and role model to both of them for years. While Emily and Cassandra vie for Dr. Bandari’s approval, they’re also competing for Will’s attention. Will and Emily were friends in med school, although his handsome face and charming personality left Emily hoping for more. Will has made it clear, however, that he likes their relationship the way it is. Emily struggles to convince herself that being friends with Will is enough, but she has to admit it bothers her just to see Will and Cassandra talking together.

Meanwhile, Emily is also getting to know the slightly nerdy, but smart and handsome resident Dr. Micah Barnes (Michael Rady, “Melrose Place,” House of Lies”). Micah is faced with serious medical issues within his own family, and Emily’s compassion proves an invaluable help. Impressed with Emily’s medical skills and warm bedside manner, Micah brings her in on a delicate surgery and talks her through the procedure, boosting her confidence and bringing them closer – both professionally and personally.

Even with the long hours, the heavy workload, and no shortage of personal drama filling her first days as an intern, Emily still fees like she’s the new geeky kid all over again, and it’s just as awkward as high school. At Denver Memorial, Emily is just beginning to learn that although she may be a geek, she may also grow to be a great doctor, flop sweats and all.

EMILY OWENS, M.D. is from CBS Television Studios and Warner Bros. Television with executive producers Jennie Snyder Urman (“90210,” “Lipstick Jungle”) and Dan Jinks (“American Beauty,” “Pushing Daisies,” “Milk”).

Is it any good?
Good probably isn’t the first word I’d use, but it’s actually not that bad. It’s basically an MP welded onto a high school drama, but where everyone’s an adult. Or appears to be, anyway.

And really, there’s not much to it beyond that. There’s Owens herself, who’s played with decent comic timing by the unthreatening Mamie Gummer. We have to endure her constant narrative, but it’s done quirkily enough that you don’t really notice that the entire lack of any real insight into life. Owens is a bit of a dork, a bit of a nerd, but she’s actually pretty likeable, and has a lot of admirable characteristics: intelligence, resourcefulness and a decent bedside manner.

Then there’s her big crush, Justin Hartley, who really lucked out after so many years playing the Green Arrow on Smallville to not be playing him in The CW’s forthcoming Arrow, which is what everyone’s looking forward to this season. He was Aquaman once on THe CW, as well. Hartley plays his character with the exact same amiability as he played both Green Arrow and Aquaman. So not much to report there – he’s basically eye candy.

There’s another male doctor (Michael Rady) who’s the obvious ultimate destination for Owen’s love life. He’s dependable and caring, etc. Dull would be another word.

Add on to that the evil Cassandra, the amiable Kelly McCreary and the icy Necar Zadegan and you get more or less the full cast complement. There are no real standouts and since the whole thing is basically a High School parallel, and forces that analogy onto the viewer as much as possible, everyone is really just a plot requirement rather than anything more rounded. There are some fillips to that, since as everyone who leaves High School eventually discovers, everyone has layers, with even evil Cassandra having some depths.

But largely, this is the nerdy girl fancying the cute boy, trying to win the admiration of the teacher, getting a sub-culture best friend, not all while not noticing the right guy is right in front of her. If that floats your boat, Emily Owens MD is just the show for you.

Nevertheless, although it’s not that remarkable, it does at least have a diverse cast and a large complement of highly competent women, none of whom have to be drop dead sexy at all times. If you have a daughter, this might be a decent pick for her.