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Out of Practice



Premiere Date: Monday, September 19, 2005 (Paramount Television)
Network: CBS
Time: Mondays at 9:30 p.m. E/P
Cast: (in Alphabetical Order) Ty Burrell, Stockard Channing, Christopher Gorham, Paula Marshall, Jennifer Tilly, Henry Winkler

Synopsis (Introduction, Cast Details):

OUT OF PRACTICE (Monday, 9:30 PM) is a comedy about a family of physicians who share the same profession but have little else in common. Ben Chase (Christopher Gorham, "Felicity") is an earnest young couples' counselor whose family doesn't consider him to be a "real" doctor because he doesn't have "M.D." after his name. But despite their lofty credentials, Ben might be the best prescription for the future of this family. Stockard Channing ("The West Wing", “Grease”), Henry Winkler ("Happy Days," “Arrested Development”), Ty Burrell, ("In Good Company") and Paula Marshall ("Spin City," “Veronica Mars”) also star in this series. Jennifer Tilly (“Bride of Chucky”) also is in the series as Winkler’s girlfriend and receptionist - and one of Burrell's former patients.

Winkler on the cast list should stand out immediately. Channing will probably ring a bell fairly quickly to most people. The other three have varying degrees of an unknown factor, as best case scenario their comedy work is limited. Should be interesting to see if the show brings in the laughs, particularly long-term

Pilot Plot:

It’s Ben’s 30th birthday, and he is going to the symphony with his mother ­ what a guy wants more than anything on his 30th birthday. Ben’s mother, Lydia arrives, and they get ready to leave. Bianca, Ben’s receptionist, refers to him as Dr. Barnes, to which Benny reminds Bianca he’s not a Dr…Bianca, says “People come to you, you help them, and to me that makes you a Doctor.” Lydia replies “What a lovely thing to say Bianca….but Benny’s right, he’s NOT a doctor.” After that, while talking about her day; Lydia says she gets out of the OR, gets into the elevator, and says “guess who was standing there?”…Ben’s father, Stewart, enters at this point, to which Ben says “Dad!” leading the mother to say, “I said my day was awful, not disastrous.” This back and forth between Dr. Barnes and Dr. Barnes (Lydia [Channing] and Stewart [Winkler]) is hilarious.

The main plot of the episode involves the entire family getting together at Ben’s place for dinner (a rarity in this family of Doctors). While Ben is upstairs at his Dad’s apartment to get an extra bottle of while, his phone’s his wife. She’s leaving him. At the same time, at Stewart’s apartment, Ben runs into his dad’s secretary, whom Stewart is sleeping with...and whom Ben’s brother, Oliver, a plastic surgery, recently did some work on. Ben gets back to his apartment…they’re afraid to tell him that Naomi (his wife) just called to say she’s leaving him, while Ben tries not to let out that Crystal, the secretary, is sleeping with Stewart ­ a revelation that would cause Lydia (divorced from Stewart) to go nuclear. The rest of the episode follows this plotline to its conclusion…including Ben thinking his family believes his life’s a joke after they hear them joking about his now ex-wife.


This show’s pretty good. Henry Winkler’s knack for clever entrances and exists shines through on multiple occasions in the pilot (two elevator scenes, the first scene in the office, and on and on). The main character, Ben, is a bit too overdramatic for my tastes ­ hopefully this will improve in time. The interplay between Lydia [Stockard Channing] and the various characters is great ­ her character’s personality quirks shine through quite well throughout the episode. Each character is nuts in their own way.


First, so that no one gets confused as to who does what:

Dr. Stewart Barnes (Winkler) ­ Gastroenterologist
Dr. Lydia Barnes (Channing) ­ Neurosurgeon
Dr. Oliver Barnes (Burrell) ­ Plastic Surgeon
Dr. Regina Barnes (Marshall) ­ ER Doctor
Ben Barnes (Gorham ­ Psychologist (“He’s not a doctor”)
Crystal (Tilly) ­ Stewart’s receptionist and love interest, Oliver’s patient.

Now, having THAT out of the way, I thought the show was funny in most places. As discussed, I wasn’t the biggest fan of Christopher Gorham’s initial outing as Ben Barnes (and they really need to decide whether the character’s going to be called Ben, Benny, or Benjamin) seemed a bit too dramatic. Also, the episode seemed a bit rushed. You went from a couple minutes at the office, brief trip to the restaurant, straight to the apartment, did the whole Naomi/Crystal thing, then back to the restaurant to close the show. The show needs to work on its pacing just a little bit. Otherwise, it’s a funny show, and I hope it sees a nice, lengthy run on CBS.

Final Numbers (out of 5 stars):

Watchability: 4/5
Funniness: 4/5
Overall: 4/5

-- Reviewed by Seth Thrasher on 09/18/2005.

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