By DAVID SCHMEICHEL -- Sun Media
By this point, it's one of the worst kept secrets in TV land.
But if you haven't already heard, the medical staff at Seattle Grace will be short one redhead come the fall.
That's because ABC plans to launch a spinoff series from Grey's Anatomy, one of the sole bright lights in the network's historically dim Thursday night lineup.
While little is known about the series (at this point, not even a name has been confirmed, although Private Practice seems to be the tentative fave), we can tell you the show will focus on Dr. Addison Montgomery-Shepherd (Kate Walsh), ex-wife of one Dr. Derek Shepherd (Patrick Dempsey) -- or McDreamy, as he's better known to the rest of the world.
The show's creators are playing their hand pretty close to their vest, opting not to do any advance press, nor even let critics see in advance the two-hour Grey's Anatomy episode that will set the stage for Addison's departure this coming Thursday night. But our friends at CTV were kind enough to share a few details, confirming that this week's instalment will see Addison take a road trip to Los Angeles, ostensibly to visit with a few old friends from med school.
Also, the show boasts a host of guest stars, among them Taye Diggs (Chicago), Tim Daly (The Nine), Paul Adelstein (Prison Break), and Amy Brenneman (Judging Amy).
A recent piece in the Los Angeles Times helped fill in a few more blanks -- namely, that two of Addison's pals (Diggs and Merrin Dungey) work at a successful oceanside health co-op with a staff that's just quirky enough -- widowed holistic-med expert, self-doubting therapist, male gyno who's clueless with the ladies -- to provide years of sexy, soap-opera fodder.
Addison, still reeling from her own disastrous romantic encounters, concludes that while her new cohorts' personal lives may be a mess, their professional standards are exemplary, leading her to ditch Seattle's rain-streaked vistas for the far sunnier environs of Santa Monica.
So will the show find an audience, especially in a TV landscape that's already cluttered with quip-prone doctors who can't keep their hands off each other?
Well, spinoffs are always a gamble, which probably explains why there are so few of them these days (and, no, we don't count the myriad permutations of either the CSI or Law & Order franchises). For every well-received Frasier there's a disastrous dud such as Joey, which means only time will tell whether audiences will respond warmly to a sexy neo-natal surgeon and her dating peccadilloes.