Picks and Pans Review: Private Practice

updated 11/17/2008 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/17/2008 AT 01:00 AM EST

ABC, Wednesdays, 9 p.m. ET ]

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The Grey's Anatomy spin-off started out as a misfire when it premiered last year: Kate Walsh's lovelorn Addison Forbes Montgomery didn't seem like the strongest pick to anchor an ensemble, although it was nice to think how the Los Angeles sun would highlight her gorgeous auburn hair. A month into Season 2, things haven't changed much—Walsh is charming and guardedly cute, like Jennifer Aniston fortified by medical training, but she's constantly upstaged by Audra McDonald. McDonald, huffing and puffing her way through conflicts with the staff at the Oceanside Wellness Center, is a fireworks display unto herself. Who can compete with her? (Maybe the show could borrow powerhouse Brooke Smith, Dr. Hahn on Grey's.)

The medical cases, at least, pose ingeniously thorny ethical puzzles, made more urgent by the fact that the practice is financially broke. Whether the show will ever be healthy enough to stand on its own feet is a tougher question.

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