A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Emily Owens, M.D. is a medical soap opera that downplays the graphic surgical procedures, sex, and other adult-themed content common in most primetime series of the same genre. Instead the show takes a unique look at how workplace relationships among these supposed grown-ups reflect what the titular character experienced living on the social fringe in high school and how they influence her self-confidence and self-identity. Expect some pranks and rumors at the expense of some of the less "popular" characters (including Emily), a few references to social media's role in those rumors, and emotional struggles with creating relationships. Happily, though, the heroine outshines this kind of behavior at the same time that she gives teens and parents some concrete issues to talk about at the show's end.
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What's the story?
EMILY OWENS, M.D. is a medical soap seen from the point of view of Emily Owens (Mamie Gummer), a well-meaning newbie intern at Denver Memorial Hospital who's disappointed to find that the social dynamics among the hospital staff bear a strong resemblance to those she loathed during her teen years. There's her longtime friend and crush, Will (Justin Hartley), with whom she shares a sweet but awkward companionship; her former high school nemesis, Cassandra (Aja Naomi King), who still lives to make her life miserable; and the brilliant and stoic Dr. Gina Bandari (Necar Zadegan), who seems to enjoy holding Emily's very fate in her hands. Fortunately for Emily, she's also flanked by the kind-hearted Dr. Micah Barnes (Michael Rady) and her new bestie, Tyra (Kelly McCreary), who help her navigate the ups and downs of the social land mines . . . oh, and the new challenges of her medical internship.
Is it any good?
So . . . a fresh-faced group of interns encounter professional and personal challenges during their first year as M.D.s, often exacerbated by simultaneously navigating tricky social relationships with their new coworkers. If the plot sounds familiar, then you must be a Grey's Anatomy fan. So much of this show is borrowed from Grey's -- even down to the voice-over narrative from the titular female character and her outspoken sidekick -- that it's impossible to watch without drawing comparisons between the two shows. And if you do that, you'll find this one lacking in the sensational action and gripping medical cases that Grey's boasts.
Happily, though, Emily Owens, M.D. makes a minor but crucial adjustment to the plot's direction that makes it a more appropriate choice for the teen set. It's not often that a serious drama states up front that it's making a commentary on high-school social dynamics, but this one does, and by casting the stereotypical players ("in" crowd, mean girls, jocks) as adults, it better spotlights the fallout of their actions on those around them, in particular a semi-outsider named Emily Owens. It's impossible not to like Emily and to feel for her when she's at the heart of cruel rumors or mean-spirited pranks, and because this show raises these issues in such an unusual manner (and with so little iffy content in the mix), the messages have the potential to reach their teen targets more effectively.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about bullying. Teens: What forms of bullying do you encounter at school or among your peers? Have you ever been the target? What do the instigators hope to gain from their behavior?
What social castes exist in your peer group? What problems does this system cause for some people? Whom do you see as an outsider? Have you ever been on the outside looking in at a situation you envy?
What messages do we get from the media about how we should look or act? Does this influence your habits? What role does it play in defining popularity?
Themes & Topics
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