The 2007-2008 SeasonWell-Known Secret:Grey's Anatomy' Spinoff for ABC
By Edward Wyatt The New York Times
April 28, 2007
LOS ANGELES, April 27 Like a doting parent trying to hide a child's Christmas bike under the bed, ABC has been pretending to hope that no one notices what could be its biggest winner in next fall's television season, a spinoff of its hit nighttime soap opera Grey's Anatomy.
On Thursday night the network will broadcast a two-hour episode of Grey's titled The Other Side of This Life, in which Addison Montgomery, the neonatologist played by Kate Walsh, will travel from Seattle Grace Hospital to Santa Monica, Calif., in search of a new life and, mostly likely, new loves.
If all goes according to plan, the episode will set the stage for a new series beginning in September that will feature Ms. Walsh and a new cast of kooky physicians including the actors Amy Brenneman, Tim Daly, Taye Diggs, Merrin Dungey and Paul Adelstein in private practice in the oceanside environs west of Los Angeles.
But despite the buzz being generated by a potential spinoff of its highest-rated scripted show, executives at the ABC network and its television studio have refused to talk publicly about the new venture. Actors in the new series, which has been called Private Practice in news reports, appear to be under strict orders of silence. And a publicist for Grey's declined to comment on the show's potential title or even to confirm reports of the new characters' names.
Until we know if the show is picked up for the fall schedule, said Amy Astley, the chief publicist for Grey's Anatomy, we're not talking about it.
Except, of course, when they are talking about it. ABC has sent out a steady stream of news about casting and production of the show, including naming Marti Noxon, best known for overseeing the series Buffy the Vampire Slayer for the WB and UPN networks, as the executive producer who will be in charge of day-to-day production of the new series.
Representatives of Ms. Walsh and Shonda Rhimes, the creator and executive producer of Grey's Anatomy and the writer of Thursday's special episode, declined requests for interviews to discuss the potential spinoff.
But the Internet is abuzz with speculation about the cast and the potential series, in which Ms. Walsh's character goes to California to visit a couple, friends from medical school who she apparently believes have a blissful marriage.
In fact, the pair's relationship has pronounced fissures. The wife, played by Ms. Dungey, is a fertility specialist, opening up myriad possibilities for Ms. Walsh's aging yet childless character. The husband, played by Mr. Diggs, is a health guru, author and television personality, and the two have surrounded themselves with other doctors whose defining characteristics qualify them as much for group therapy as for a medical clinic.
Ms. Brenneman, for example, late of Judging Amy on CBS, portrays a self-doubting therapist, and Mr. Adelstein, who this season starred on Fox's Prison Break, portrays a lovelorn gynecologist who, in production photographs from next week's episode, is holding an ice pack to his face the morning after a date.
Like Grey's, whose hunky male stars are regularly referred to by swooning nicknames like McDreamy and McSteamy, the new series offers its female fan base plenty of buff eye candy. Mr. Daly portrays what is said to be a bed-hopping widower and specialist in alternative medicine; he can be seen leering seductively at Ms. Walsh in production photographs.
And Chris Lowell, the 22-year-old heartthrob seen recently in CW's Veronica Mars, plays a receptionist/surfer who commutes to the medical office directly from the beach, first showing up in the office shirtless and carrying his surfboard.
But the series will also have a distinct difference from Grey's Anatomy. While that show began as a group of people who did not know one another well and who were thrown into a stressful situation and resorted to sex to ease the anxiety of professional life, the new series will be about a group of people who know one another intimately and who resort to sex to ease the anxiety of personal life.
For all the secrecy, few people in the television industry doubt that the new show will be given a prominent place on ABC's fall schedule, largely because the network desperately needs a boost.
With a month to go before most prime-time series end their run of new episodes, ABC is mired in third place among the top four broadcast networks, according to Nielsen Media Research, behind Fox and CBS both in average total viewers so far this season and among adults age 18 to 49, the demographic group that attracts premium advertising dollars.
Except for Ugly Betty and Brothers & Sisters, most of the new scripted series introduced by ABC last fall are either far down in the ratings or have been canceled altogether. Among the flops were the dramas Day Break, which starred Mr. Diggs, and The Nine, and the comedies The Knights of Prosperity and Help Me Help You.
Even some of the network's bigger hits, like Desperate Housewives and Lost, have slumped in the ratings this year, attracting far fewer viewers than in their first two seasons.
Yet Grey's can seemingly do little wrong. Even after going so far as threatening to kill off its lead character, the medical intern Meredith Grey, played by Ellen Pompeo, in one episode this winter, the series has ranked first or second among adult viewers for all scripted shows this season.
With Ms. Rhimes easily the brightest star at ABC, the only surprise would be if the Grey's spinoff fails to keep viewers and advertisers entranced.http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/28/ar...gewanted=print