It seems that every critic has compared “Emily Owens M.D.” to “Grey’s Anatomy.” And sure, there are some significant similarities between the shows. The lead character in both shows is a newbie doctor with some serious social issues, though Emily Owens is (thus far) far less dark-and-twisty-childhood-damaged than Meredith Grey is. They both take place in hospitals and apparently all these people practice medicine while they’re not angsting over their personal lives. But “Grey’s Anatomy” isn’t the show that we should be comparing “Emily Owens” to.
“Emily Owens, M.D.,” is “Felicity” in scrubs. It’s a beautiful thing.
The premise of “Felicity” was this: the titular character went through high school with a crush on Ben Covington, though she never spoke to him. After he left a long note in her senior yearbook (in which he expressed dismay that they’d never gotten to know each other better), she decided to follow him to the University of New York. There, she met her resident advisor, Noel Crane, who developed feelings for her while she confided in him about Ben. Oh, and there was an excruciating scene where she blurted out all of her feelings, to Ben, at an incredibly inopportune moment, and it was so painfully awkward we’re still cringing from it years later. “Felicity” was peppered with voice over, thanks to her audio-taped letters to Sally, a mentor back home.
The premise of “Emily Owens M.D.” is this: the titular character (Mamie Gummer) went through medical school with a crush on Will Rider (Justin Hartley), though they were just friends. After he leaves her a long voicemail one drunken night (in which he
expresses a desire to date girls more like her),
she decides to follow him to Denver Memorial Hospital.
There, she meets resident Micah (Michael Rady), who is definitely going to develop feelings for
her while she confides in him about Will. Oh, and there is an
excruciating scene where she blurts out all of her feelings, to Will, at
an incredibly inopportune moment, and — yep, it’s painfully awkward. There is voice over in nearly every scene, narrating Emily’s inner monologue as she fumbles through her day-to-day.
We’re not saying that the comparison is a bad thing! “Felicity” was a critically beloved, iconic series that launched the careers of current TV mainstays Keri Russell, Scott Speedman, and Scott Foley — along with some guy named J.J. Abrams. You might have heard of him. The “Emily Owens M.D.” cast, led by the extremely talented and likable Gummer, certainly holds up to the standard set over a decade ago.
Yes, a decade ago.
Of course, “Felicity” aired between 1998 and 2002, and “Emily Owens, M.D.” is making an attempt to endear a 2012 audience to a concept that can, perhaps, best be described as quaint. Would “Felicity” have survived in a world where Olivia Pope, Carrie Mathison, and even Blair Waldorf are the sort of TV leading ladies we’ve come to expect? Watching a grown woman — a doctor, no less — stumble through telling a boy she likes him feels a bit tired. We’re hoping that she comes into her own sooner rather than later, because while the “real life is just like high school!” theme is certainly relatable, it’s not necessarily a trope we want to see carried out by someone with a scalpel in her hand.
Years ago, Felicity Porter made us want to hide under the couch from the sheer agony of second-hand embarrassment as she made bad decision after bad decision, but we still loved her candor and her honesty. Emily Owens has the potential to make us fall in love the same way. Gummer gives her character the same sheepishly beautiful, but almost never sexy, on-screen quality. Hartley has the sympathetic hunk thing down (though Will doesn’t brood quite as much as Ben did, as far as we’ve seen). Rady might as well have been taking lessons from Scott Foley for all that he’s completely nailing the Noel archetype at this point.
If you go into “Emily Owens” expecting the emotional gravitas of “Grey’s Anatomy,” you’ll probably be disappointed. There’s not likely to be a bomb planted in someone’s ribcage or for a beloved character to be killed in a plane crash and have her body eaten by wolves. If you’re hoping for a slow-building romance, a relatable lead character, and a sweet follow-up to lighthearted lead-in “Hart of Dixie,” you’re in the right place.
Also, it has Justin Hartley in glasses. You could do worse.
Tune in Tuesday nights at 9 p.m. EST on The CW.