For awhile, notes James Hibberd of TV Week, Private Practice was widely assumed to become the biggest slam-dunk new hit of the fall season.
But as excitement for NBC's Bionic Woman and ABC's own Pushing Daisies has grown exponentially this summer, the Practice buzz has waned.
- The PRIOR Private Practice pilot that aired in May as part of a two-hour Grey's Anatomy episode was disastrously haphazard, causing critics and fans to slam the promising concept with surprising vehemence.
- The FUTURE Private Practice premiere was then re-cast, shot, then re-shot again. The result is a premiere episode that's firmly better than the May intro and more successfully captures the Grey's sense of humor.
The most despised elements of the "backdoor" pilot (talking elevators, women fawning over a young staffer) are gone. What weaknesses remain, ABC hopes to address in future episodes.
The sour taste of the May effort has partly lingered because, unlike most fall first-year dramas, until recently, ABC hasn't had a completed Private Practice premiere for critics and insiders to view.
The show's launch is set for September 26 and hardly anybody has seen the show (including most ABC employees, who are typically treated to early screenings).
Also, ABC elected to shiftmarketing efforts to tough sells like Pushing Daises, Dirty Sexy Money and Cavemen rather than its perceived fall flagship debut.
The network figures Private Practice already has a built-in audience, the show doesn't need added publicity and Disney Dollars are better spent on pushing fresh concepts.
Just as Private Practice is sort of a returning series, sort of a new series, this reasoning sort of works, sort of doesn't.
It doesn't need more publicity - the series and star Kate Walsh are on the cover of Entertainment Weekly's fall preview issue - but it does need positive publicity that restores viewer confidence in the show.
It's two weeks until Private Practice premieres in an insanely competitive time slot against Bionic Woman and viewers still associate the spin-off with their least favorite Grey's Anatomy episode.
Given the potential to clone Grey's Anatomy's success, and given ABC has to overturn rocks to find anybody who liked the May preview, one would think taking more steps to convince viewers that it represents an exciting and improved TV event would be a priority.
On ABC's side: The latest data measuring viewer intent to watch new fall shows, has Private Practice tying two other programs for second place.
The only catch: In first place is Bionic Woman.