Emily Owens, M.D. Series Premiere Review: Grey's Anatomy With (Too Much) Sugar On Top

By Julia Bergen

Oct 17, 2012

Emily Owens, M.D. S01E01: "Pilot"

Last night The CW premiered its new medical drama, Emily Owens, M.D. Only, I'm sure that when it was in development, everyone referred to it as “that Grey's Anatomy-like show with Meryl Streep's daughter.” Emily Owens, M.D.'s pilot tried SO hard to mimic Grey's Anatomy, and its lack of originality really set it back. Overall I liked it, but I felt like it had more weaknesses than strengths.

First, the Grey's similarity. I'm sure network executives think this is a good thing, but for me, it's just lazy. Especially since Emily Owens, M.D. isn't just kind of of like Grey's; it borrows so much!

Granted, we've only seen one episode so far, but the cast is comprised mostly of young, attractive surgical interns, just like Grey's (at least when it first began). It would have been so simple for them to be any other type of doctor. The pilot featured multiple medical cases, all of which could have been plucked straight from an episode of Grey's: There was a little girl who collapsed, a daughter sick of caring for her elderly mother with dementia, and a man who claimed he'd been behind the wheel in a drunk-driving accident to save his goody-goody brother's political aspirations.

Then there's Emily Owens' level of sweetness; feel-good TV can still be good TV, but the pilot was a little too saccharine for my taste. The writing was weak at times, particularly Emily's speech to Will when she told him she liked him. Okay, she's been crushing on her colleague Will since they were in medical school, and one of the plots of the pilot involved Emily working up the nerve to tell him.

But when she did, she went way over the top, saying that when she watched him cut up a cadaver's heart, she thought, “He's holding my heart in his hands!” Please. I know this is something a girl like Emily might think, but who would say something like that in real life? I guess if I wanted to see real life I wouldn't be watching television, and but I expected more out of Emily's doomed love announcement.

Emily's relationship with her old high school bully, Cassandra, is also super cliché. Cassandra used to pick on her in high school, so when Emily realized Cassandra is now one of her fellow interns she was terrified... until Cassandra admitted that the reason she was mean to Emily in high school was that her little brother was very ill. Confronting your nemesis from high school has been done so many times. I was hoping the show could put an original spin on it, but “It turns out she's actually not that bad!” isn't particularly unique.

However, that's not to say the pilot didn't have strengths. There are a lot of little good things about the show, and one huge one: Mamie Gummer.

Gummer (who, yes, is Meryl Streep's daughter) is absolutely delightful. I want her to be my friend, I want to call her when I'm about to eat a whole pan of brownies and have her talk me down. She has the same glow as her mother, the one that makes you want to curl up with her on the couch with your head in her lap and listen to stories. Whether or not Emily Owens, M.D. goes on to be successful, I really hope Gummer gets more gigs after this. Or, you know, becomes my live-in companion. Either one is acceptable.

The show uses Gummer's superhuman charisma very well. In the little-girl plot, the girl insisted Emily be in the room during her surgery. With another actress, this might be hard to believe, or even ridiculous. Okay, it was still a little of both of those things, but with Gummer, I had a hard time buying that little girl wouldn't want Emily there for her surgery. I've never even met the woman, but if I found out I needed surgery tomorrow, I'd probably demand that Gummer-as-Emily show up for it. I can only imagine that in person she has some kind of aura that makes kittens and puppies follow her around as she auditions for ingenue roles.

Emily's friend, Tyra, could also turn out to be one of the show's strengths, depending on where the writers go with her character. I suspect that she's more than she seems, and that she was actually the one who stole Emily's pager (Emily assumed it was Cassandra). It was also pretty suspicious that Tyra warned Emily to watch out for the other interns right before offering to be her BFF. If Tyra turns out to be a maniacal backstabber I could be interested, but if she's just a nice girl then I'm bored. I hope the writers didn't think that making her a lesbian would automatically make her interesting.

In the end, Emily Owens' optimism, which does often come off as a sugar-overdose, could play in its favor. I've often found Grey's Anatomy to be pretty dark, but Emily Owens, comes off far more lighthearted. Sometimes you just want to snuggle up next to a warm fire when the world outside is dark and cold. Especially if Mamie Gummer is there to tell you stories.


– What type of under-portrayed doctor do you want to see in a TV drama?

– Who do you think stole Emily's pager?

– Were there any other big strengths or weaknesses I missed?

– Will you be watching Episode 2?

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  • DelvingEye Nov 07, 2012

    I agree. I was curious to watch Mamie Gummer and to see if she could carry a show -- especially a hospital drama, a genre I generally detest.

    (That goes particularly for "Grey's Anatomy." Ick. I still feel my brain cells exploding anytime I catch a glimpse of simpering Ellen Pompeo or any castmember for that matter -- with the exception of Katherine Heigl, probably because she had the good sense to leave the show.)

    By contrast, Gummer makes Emily Owens a pleasure to watch. She's natural and quirky and her costars are very good, particularly her savvy, cork-screwed, lesbian colleague.

    Owens is also very funny. Trying to be cool, she misses the mark with the opposite sex, with rivals and with clothes. I loved the scene where she unwinds her endless scarf as if to say, "What's with this stupid, ubiquitous fashion statement?" It's a feat that she pulls off both literally and figuratively. (There's something about her self-deprecating humor that reminds me of Mary Tyler Moore in her eponymous role. That's a good thing. A very good thing.)

    The writing is first rate. Kudos to everyone. I'll be watching.

  • BelleSantos Oct 27, 2012

    I love the show. I hope it becomes successful. It's very light and funny. You don't have that dreaded feeling after watching the usual medical tv series.

  • Tara8504 Oct 23, 2012

    The Grey's Anatomy link is obvious... what about the Scrubs inner monologue similarity! I actually think that part makes it a little funnier/lighter than the whole grey's drama similarity.

  • prowly Oct 21, 2012

    Oh, man. I had this show listed on my dead pool based on the description, but it was actually really funny and touching.

  • Graeccus Oct 19, 2012

    I never watched Grey's Anatomy so I couldn't compare this and that, but Emily Owens is the type of character that you'd really want to be your best friend and this show is so different from the usual genres that i watch like Supernatural and Fringe. So i think it's good.

  • graindesable Oct 18, 2012

    I'd love to see a show where medical doctors are shown as they are in real life : good, sometimes very good, bad, sometimes very bad ... Some are complete dummies (yes, you can be a doctor and be dumb !), some are real f***. Some are competent, some are not.

    Just a medical show where doctors aren't portrayed as heroes .... That would make a change !

  • cecylia248 Oct 18, 2012

    Fresh and i liked it. I love medical shows and there will be a lot of similarities between Emily Owens MD and Grey's anatomy, so i'd rather concentrate on what set them apart.

    It was so easy to relate to Emily, even the over the top confession to Will. Yes, IRL sometimes courage comes in a bottle and once you start pouring, you do until it's empty. Her Optimism maybe over the top but thats what allows her to bounce back. So i will tune in for the second one.

  • tashina395 Oct 18, 2012

    I never watched Grey's anatomy so i liked it.

  • smithinjapan Oct 18, 2012

    I figured it would be like this, more or less. Guess I'll pass. I still watch Grey's Anatomy, when they decide to grace is with a new episode, that is, and that's cheesy enough.

  • dref22 Oct 18, 2012

    Eh, I guess I should be glad that they recast Jack Coleman's part in this show.

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