The CW will be premiering its new medical dramedy at 9 p.m. on Tuesday called Emily Owens, M.D. A cheerful if annoying young doctor who constantly narrates her own misadventures as a first-year surgical intern in voice over, Emily Owens manages to remain likable thanks to the winning performance by actress Mamie Gummer in the title role. Gummer’s strong resemblance to the famous Oscar winning performer, Meryl Streep does not overshadow her excellent skills as a dramatic actress. But then again, Ms. Gummer is actually Meryl Streep’s biological daughter.
That said, the 29-year-old Gummer needn’t feel defined by the link.
The actress has managed to steadily establish her own identity since her tender debut in “Heartburn,” opposite her mother and Jack Nicholson, more than two decades ago. She now finds herself headlining her first TV series, “Emily Owens, M.D.,” on the CW, which premieres Tuesday.
Previously, Gummer had a recurring role on “The Good Wife.” She makes up for a lot in “Emily Owens,” a series that has an excess of excess at every turn.
Emily doesn’t just recall being an ostracized high school geek; she gets called a loser by a high school student before she enters her new workplace for the first time.
The series doesn’t just make an offhand comparison of doctor cliques to high school cliques; it hammers them home on multiple occasions (jocks become orthopedic surgeons; rebels work in the ER, sanctimonious types gravitate toward pediatrics).
On top of that, Emily runs into her old high school nemesis (Aja Naomi King) who turns out to be a new co-worker who eagerly shares with others Emily’s high school nickname, “Pits,” for a case of flop sweat she developed at the debate club finals.
If this all seems too precious, well, it is.
But the show is saved by Ms. Gummer and a relentless pace. Even in cringe-worthy moments, which are many, “Emily Owens, M.D.” manages to hurry through them fast enough, barreling on to the next scene before viewers’ groans have ceased.
The absolute worst moment: Emily has a crush on colleague Will Collins (Justin Hartley, “Smallville”) for years and finally works up the nerve to make a move while standing next to him during a medical test. “I’m gonna move over a few inches so our shoulders are touching,” she says in still more voiceover narration. “If he doesn’t move, he likes me.”
Yes, the dear doctor has less emotional maturity than one of her sickly 12-year-old patients who also can’t bring herself to tell a classmate she likes him.
Emily strikes up a friendship with a top administrator’s daughter (Kelly McCreary) and the premiere episode offers a surprisingly heartfelt twist involving another doctor, Micah Barnes (Michael Rady, “Melrose Place”), who seems poised to be Emily’s next crush.
There’s a lot to mock in “Emily Owens, M.D.,” but the lead character’s cheerfulness makes all the silliness go down somewhat easier.
One performer can’t entirely make up for too on-the-nose writing, but Ms. Gummer’s sunny disposition and warm performance manage to pull “Emily Owens” back from the brink of total disaster. Ms. Gummer makes an otherwise scorn-worthy series just entertaining enough not to be completely dismissed.
Her stab at TV hasn’t been without its struggles. Last year, Gummer played a doctor in ABC’s “Off the Map,” from “Grey’s Anatomy” creator Shonda Rhimes, but it failed to make it past one season.
“There were a lot of cooks in that kitchen trying to make it work but adding way too much eggs to the pudding,” she said of the experience.
“CW shows have been very glittery,” she said. “To be honest, I don’t know how this show will fit because I haven’t really tuned in. I’m not, like, watching the ‘Vampire Diaries.’” It’s the sort of discomfited revelation that Emily Owens might make.
“She’s so honest, so vulnerable, so raw,” said the show’s creator, Jennie Snyder Urman. “And that makes her so likable. She brings this sort of naivete to the role that is subtle and elegant…. When I think about her, I don’t think about her mom.”
When Gummer is asked to reflect on the struggle of getting the industry to take notice of her talents apart from her famous mother, she wrestled out a stiff smile before grudgingly offering a response.
“I don’t know. It’s all in other people’s perception,” she said. “I don’t have anything to compare it to. Of course, it’s like a really unique position, I guess, I’m in. Although increasingly not so much. We’re everywhere — these children of stars wanting to be stars.”