Tuesday TV Review: Emily Owens, Underemployed, Fox Comedies and More
How many times have you heard that while watching a medical show? Now meet The CW's Emily Owens, M.D. (9/8c), who's such a magically giddy sprite of a surgical intern she can actually "Clear!" a room, just by showing up. My living room, anyway. Or any room in which she might suddenly appear, babbling in gratingly incessant voice-overs that make Meredith Grey seem a model of restraint. A more toxically cutesy, aggravatingly precious, aren't-I-adorable waste of talent would be hard to imagine.
That talent being Mamie Gummer, the gifted offspring of Meryl Streep, who has shown her disarming mettle in guest roles, most notably in The Good Wife as a deceptively dithery courtroom antagonist to Alicia Florrick. As Emily Owens, she is encouraged to mug, to dither without irony, as a newly minted medical-school grad who arrives at her first major medical posting in Denver only to learn that hospitals are just like high school. This theme is hammered over and over with all the subtlety of cardiac paddles.
"Take it down a notch, Emily," she tells herself. But does she listen? No, she's too busy mooning over her med-school heartthrob (Justin Hartley) and obsessing over her high-school nemesis who's a fellow resident (Aja Naomi King), all while self-consciously comparing everything to the bad old days of high school, where Ems earned the nickname "Pits" because of her embarrassing tendency toward flop sweat. Think a less charming Ally McBeal in scrubs, acting out with all the maturity of the dancing baby, and that still can't approximate the annoying aftertaste of this cringe-inducing misfire.
Although I've been a fan of Grey's Anatomy for years (save for the "Denny's Ghost" period), I realize I'm not exactly the target audience for this ghastly piece of girly wish fulfillment. Emily Owens M.D. is like being stuck inside the head of the worst Grey's character ever. Worse than April. Seriously! If I were the target audience for Emily Owens, M.D., I might want to shoot myself. But with my luck, they'd send in Emily Owens for the save. Although she'd probably be so busy talking to herself about herself, I might be able to make a run for it. Which I'm doing now.
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THE WANNABES: Consider it an act of public service as I steer you toward a much more likable group of near-contemporaries of Emily Owens, five college buddies who a year into their post-graduate life hit one speed bump after another on the way to achieving their conquer-the-world dreams. These young Chicagoans are seriously, but amusingly, Underemployed — the title of a disarmingly scruffy new MTV hour-long dramedy (10/9c) from Six Feet Under's Craig Wright that nails the confusion (sometimes sexual) and disappointment (usually economic) of a generation raised to expect more than today's society is offering.
"Life is real!" declares Lou the idealist (Jared Kusnitz), forced to put his save-the-planet playbook away to work at his dad's chemical company — OK, so this isn't exactly subtle — when his college ex Raviva (Inbar Lavi), who moved to Los Angeles to pursue her musical ambitions, breaks her months-long silence by showing up on his doorstep very, very pregnant. After Lou stops putting his foot in his mouth about his anxieties and feelings, their delight over a new baby is quickly soured by arguments about money and responsibility and money and thwarted ambitions and money.
Lou later tells his aspiring-model BFF Miles (Diego Boneta), who depends on the kindness of cougars to pay his rent, "We are totally growing up." The correct response to this: If you have to say it aloud, you're probably not quite there yet. Still, the variations on the familiar coming-of-age theme are engaging, as the brainiac aspiring writer Sophia (Michelle Ang), hawking donuts while sponging off her parents, explores her heretofore untapped sexuality, and the lovely Daphne (Sarah Habel), who lives with her dad, negotiates her way out of an endlessly unpaid ad-agency internship by getting uncomfortably close with her handsome boss. Every single actor in this cast is new to me, and each is more convincing and appealing than any of the recycled shiny pretty people who populate the phony corridors of Emily Owens, M.D.
MTV has been on a fairly impressive roll lately with its scripted shows, embracing horror (Teen Wolf) and raunchy teen comedy (Awkward). Underemployed should hit this channel's demographic sweet spot, although the too-quick exit of the similarly themed I Just Want My Pants Back makes me wonder if this premise might hit just a bit too close to home. Thankfully, the self-effacing humor provides a lift whenever the circumstances threaten to become too heavy. When one of the characters is asked, "How does someone get to be like you?" the answer is fresh and funny: "Oh, it is a long and slow process of error and error." Exactly.
SHORT TAKES: In the hour before the second presidential debate airs (9ET/8c), your best entertainment option is Fox's comedy combo of the irrepressible Raising Hope (8/7c), with a joke-filled caper to spring Maw Maw (Cloris Leachman) from the nursing home, and the warmly quirky Ben and Kate (8:30/7:30c), in which big brother Ben tries yet again to spice up killjoy Kate's life by giving her the 21st-birthday party she never had at the time. Both end up going a little cray-cray — Kate by boozily reuniting with her "party friend" from the old days, and Ben by finding a new way to obsess about the girl that got away. It all ends sweetly, though lacking the inspired frenzied lunacy that makes Hope such an underappreciated gem.
The rest of this list can be considered a DVR alert, because as good as some of these shows are, they're no substitute for doing your civic duty and watching the latest presidential debate. (The robust ratings suggest few need such prompting.)
USA Network's Covert Affairs (10/9c) returns from a brief hiatus to close out its best-yet third season with six new episodes, starting with Annie (Piper Perabo) in one of her worst fixes yet, running afoul of Russian authorities in the wake of taking down the evil double agent Lena. Trapped in prison, while her team back in Langley frets and plots how and even whether to rescue her, it's up to rugged Mossad agent Eyal Lavin (Oded Fehr) to come to her aid, though not without complications — some of them of Annie's own making, prompting Eyal to sigh, "A normal person doesn't do this kind of thing, you know that, right?" ... The body count continues to rise on FX's red-hot Sons of Anarchy (10/9c), as Jax's business relationship with Pope continues to evolve, dividing the club even further. Payback gets bloody on several fronts, while the fallout from the most recent home invasion (with the sheriff's wife caught in the crossfire) takes some surprising turns, none of which will be good news for SAMCRO. ... The Canadian crime drama Flashpoint, no longer a utility player for CBS, returns for a fifth and final season of original episodes on ION (11/10c). ... Starting with John D. Rockefeller, History profiles The Men Who Built America (9/8c) in an eight-part docu-series about self-made moguls who helped our young nation become a superpower. What will the fans of Pawn Stars make of a show on History that's actually about, you know, history?
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