If Ally McBeal had been a doctor, she'd be "Emily Owens, M.D." (9 p.m. Tuesday, WPCW).
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.
Ms. Gummer, the daughter of Meryl Streep, previously 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.
Rob Owen writes this Sunday TV column for Scripps Howard News Service. Contact him at: email@example.com or 412-263-2582. Read the Tuned In Journal blog at post-gazette.com/tv. Follow RobOwenTV on Twitter or Facebook. First Published October 14, 2012 4:00 AM