According to Emily Owens, M.D., TV's new doctor dramedy, life at a hospital is just like high school.
It's a place of cliques, hookups, gossip and bullying.
That's a fun and interesting storytelling premise, unless you happen to be a hospital patient. Then it becomes a deeply disturbing scenario.
"You've raised a totally valid concern," says Mamie Gummer, the actress who plays the title character, a socially awkward first-year surgical intern. "If you're a patient, you probably would be troubled by the idea that your doctors and nurses are behaving behind the scenes like teenagers.
"But look, it worked for Doogie Howser."
That's a final comfort that is small.
That said, Emily Owens, M.D., which premieres at 8 p.m. Tuesday on the CW, is a thoroughly entertaining hour of television -- largely because of Gummer's endearing performance.
She's a gifted actress, adept at balancing broadly comedic scenes with deeply poignant moments, just like her famous mother, Meryl Streep.
We chatted last week with Gummer, 29, about the new show.
What was it about this premise and this character that appealed to you? What convinced you that this one could be unique?
Actually, I was wary of doing another medical show. I had just done a series on ABC [ Off the Map in 2011] where I played a doctor. And I was wary of moving out west [to Vancouver] to make the show for potentially a long time. Because my husband is back in New York.
But the integrity of the show and the character is what sold me. I like how grounded and how real she is. And I like that there isn't a whole lot of gloss thrown onto the lens, that Emily's life can be kind of messy and not all windswept and glamorous.
Given your experience at pretending to be a doctor, if we were to drive you over to a real hospital and drop you off wearing scrubs and carrying a stethoscope ...
That would be a very bad idea.
... How long do you think you could fake being a doctor before being found out as a fraud?
It depends on how many times I can call for an Ambu bag. That's something I'm very capable of and very convincing at. I can do that over and over again. "We need an Ambu bag! We got to Ambu bag her!" But that's about as far as my expertise goes. So people would probably catch on pretty quickly.
Is there any danger of letting your TV medical career go to your head, that you might start thinking you know more than you actually do?
I suppose it's possible. I might try to challenge a diagnosis the next time I'm a patient. I might think I'm as smart as Emily is. Actually, the show has given me a new appreciation for doctors and how tough the job is. The hours that they keep and how grueling it is and what they have to see and live with every day. I would think it's hard for them not to take a lot of their work home with them.
If you could have your choice of doctors -- an Emily Owens, whose strong suit is her caring bedside manner, or a Dr. House-type, who will hurt your feelings while he heals you -- which would you rather have caring for you?
Oh, I want Emily Owens, no question about it. I would absolutely want to be coddled if I'm sick and frightened. And who says you can't be coddled and still be in equally good hands? You don't have to be cold and unfeeling to be good at your job.
Is it possible that you ever wanted to be a doctor in real life?
No, that would not have been possible. I don't have the know-how, never have. Chemistry was the course that was my worst grade in high school. I think I got a C-minus. No one wants a C-minus doctor.