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Series / Providence

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Providence was an American drama series created by John Masius (Touched by an Angel), which ran for five seasons (1999–2002) on NBC.

It centered on Dr. Sydney Hanson, a plastic surgeon who leaves her glamorous practice in Beverly Hills to return to her hometown of Providence, Rhode Island for her sister's wedding and decides to stay and be closer to her family. It starred Melina Kanakaredes (later of CSI: NY fame) as Sydney, and Mike Farrell (formerly of M*A*S*H) as her father Jim. Syd's brother and sister are also present, and Syd frequently gets visits — and advice — from her late mother's ghost.

NBC fully intended to continue the series following its fifth-season "winter finale", but after Kanakaredes told them she would not return there was no choice but to end it permanently.

This show provides examples of:

  • Abortion Fallout Drama: Sydney starts to become disillusioned with her politician boyfriend when he reveals that his opponent had an abortion while she was in college, disgusted and angry with him for violating the woman's privacy and shaming her for her choice.
  • The Alcoholic: Janie, after her miscarriage and breaking up with her fiancé.
  • And Starring: Mike Farell gets this distinction.
  • Babies Ever After: The second-to-last season ends with Robbie and Tina welcoming their new baby.
  • Birth-Death Juxtaposition: The pilot has Sydney's mother dying roughly halfway through and her sister giving birth near the end.
  • Black Dude Dies First: Subverted. When a madman shoots up the clinic, it's Helen who's shot. She survives, but quits to recover from her injuries. note 
  • Bookends: The series begins with Sydney returning to Providence for Joanie's wedding, though it's aborted, and ends with Sydney's wedding just before she and her husband prepare to leave Providence for Chicago, where he's gotten a new job.
    • The episode "Out Of Control" starts with Sydney having a nightmare about being trapped in the clinic, surrounded by numerous candles. It ends with a schizophrenic patient of hers torching the place with her trapped inside.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: The comatose Sydney looks as gorgeous as she did when she was healthy. The same thing happens when she's ill with mononucleosis a few years later.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: Sydney and her lawyer clash the moment they meet and continue doing so throughout her lawsuit. By the series finale, they're married.
  • Broken Pedestal: Sydney is seriously contemplating moving to Washington, DC with her politician boyfriend should he win the election when she becomes disgusted with the unscrupulous tactics he uses to defeat his opponent—revealing that she had an abortion in college—and dumps him. Of course, the fact that he was cheating on his wife with her and lied about should have foreshadowed that he wasn't an upstanding character. . .
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Our first introduction to the lawyer representing Sydney in her malpractice suit is of him vacuuming his own office, having just hosted a hemp-growing client and eating breakfast at 8PM. Sure enough, he turns out to be one of the best lawyers in the city.
  • Catapult Nightmare: Sydney tends to wake up like this from her dreams even though they're usually comedic.
  • Cliffhanger: The fourth season ends with both Tina and her newborn son in perilous condition and Sydney trapped in her burning clinic with her only means of escape being the schizophrenic patient who's been stalking her for weeks. By the next season opening, all situations have been resolved safely—Tina and the baby are fine, Sydney is safe, and her patient is in the hospital. The only drawback is that her clinic is still in ruins.
  • Convenient Miscarriage: Janie's second pregnancy. It's unplanned, her father disapproves as this is now the second time she's been pregnant out of wedlock, and despite bringing her and her fiancé together, is generally not looked at as a good thing by anyone. But the word "abortion" is never mentioned by anyone—though she does admit that she's "thinking about not having the baby"—and she loses the baby just as everyone is starting to adjust to the idea.
  • Creator In-Joke: When contacted by a man who believes that he's her biological father, the man refers to his Greek heritage while Sydney herself admits to having always been fascinated with Greek culture. Melina Kanakaredes is in fact of Greek descent.
  • Dead Person Conversation: Syd is visited by her mother, who died in the first episode, quite frequently.
  • Dream Intro: Every episode starts this way, with protagonist Syd having a dream featuring her mother who is in limbo. At one point, she has a conversation with her mother while in her car and is horrified to realize that she's fallen asleep while driving. Luckily, nothing bad happens.
  • Fever Dream Episode: Jim becomes very ill in one episode and spends most of his scenes conversing with one of his canine patients. In another, Sydney can't understand why she keeps hallucinating the characters from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland until she finally collapses and is diagnosed with encephalitis.
  • Florence Nightingale Effect: Sydney gets very uneasy about Kyle's relationship with his pretty physical therapist. Nothing happens, however. Later, she becomes very attracted to her own physiotherapist, but it fizzles out thanks to the interference of his My Beloved Smother.
  • Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling: Both of Sydney's younger siblings, Robbie and Janie, to her.
  • Friendship as Courtship: Jim eventually reveals to Sydney that his and Linda's premarital relationship was this. She was even engaged to another man before he abruptly dumped her only a few weeks before their planned wedding, at which point, he quickly stepped in to spare her the humiliation of having been abandoned.
  • Good Girls Avoid Abortion: Joanie admits to Sydney that she's "thinking about not having the baby" when she cites her numerous unfavorable circumstances, but by the time she tells her boyfriend about it, she makes it clear that she will, whether he's on board or not. This is also cited when Sydney's politician boyfriend reveals that his opponent had an abortion while in college, clearly intending to shame her for her decision and imply that it means that she's someone of poor character.
  • Grief-Induced Split: Following a miscarriage, Joanie develops a drinking problem and pushes her fiancé away. By the time she gets her act together, he's moved on.
  • Hollywood Healing: Averted. Jim is never quite the same after being shot in the head, and it takes considerable rehab to even get him to that point. Sydney must also undergo physical therapy after her illness and pushes herself too hard, collapsing in one case and getting into a car accident in the other.
  • Honorable Marriage Proposal: What Jim made to Linda when her original fiancé abruptly dumped her a few weeks before their wedding.
  • Hospital Paradiso: Sydney was a renowned plastic surgeon in LA, but she was clearly unfulfilled—one clip shows her outright rolling her eyes at a patient. She returns home to work in a humble family practice clinic with her best friend from college and medical school.
  • It Has Been an Honor: Jim and Sam exchange this sentiment when the latter decides to accept a prestigious fellowship rather than enter a professional partnership, with Jim sincerely thanking him for taking over during his recovery and Sam being equally grateful for the learning experience.
  • It's a Wonderful Plot: The show's first Christmas Episode, "Home For The Holidays", had Sydney wishing she'd never returned to Providence. Her mother (of course), shows her what would have happened otherwise—Joanie's trapped in a miserable marriage to Hannah's deadbeat father because Sydney didn't warn her not to marry him, Robbie's in jail thanks to participating in a scam because Sydney didn't warn him not to get involved, and Jim's trapped in an equally miserable second marriage because without any of his kids around, he attended a neighbor's Christmas party, where she was able to get her hooks into him.
  • Kindly Vet: Syd's dad and his temporary replacement Sam Magala. Interestingly, most of the other vets interviewed fall into this category too, they just don't have the "it" factor that Joanie and Heather want.
  • Later-Installment Weirdness: Sydney's clinic burns down at the end of one season. The next season, the final one, begins with her abandoning plans to rebuild it and taking a hospital job. She also moves out of her father's house and in with her lawyer boyfriend.
  • Law of Inverse Fertility: Tina (Robbie's wife) fears she can't conceive. Of course she does once Sydney works her magic.
  • Lifesaving Misfortune: Sydney's schizophrenic patient spends several episodes stalking her. But because of this, he's able to rescue her when her clinic catches fire.
  • Limited Wardrobe: Sydney's mother's ghost remains in the "Mother-of-the-Bride" dress that she died in at Joanie's wedding until the series finale, when she not only changes, it's into a dress for Sydney's wedding.
  • The Loins Sleep Tonight: Joanie's fireman boyfriend can't perform. He goes to Sydney and it turns out there's a legitimate medical issue necessitating surgery. Joanie's ticked off that she wasn't told, but Sydney reminds her about patient confidentiality.
  • Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe: In one episode, Sydney is approached by a man who believes he's her father, admitting that he ran out on their mother a few weeks before their wedding. By the time he returned, she'd married Jim, but the date on which she gave birth to Sydney has him certain that she was pregnant with his child at the time. Jim later tells her otherwise, that Linda conceived on their honeymoon and gave birth early.
  • Medical Drama: What it centered on.
  • The Missus and the Ex: Sydney and the estranged wife of the politician she's dating meet while working on a breast cancer committee and are surprised to find themselves getting along.
  • Mistaken for Gay: Jim and Sam, his replacement, eventually hit it off so well that they decide to go into practice together and set out to hunt for office space. The realtor gushes over the fact that they're buying property together after having known each other only a few months, having mistaken them for a couple and clearly finding it romantic. Strangely for this trope, neither of them realizes her error.
  • Mistaken for Servant: When she's sued for malpractice, Sydney goes to her lawyer's office and asks who she thinks is the custodian (he's vacuuming) where he is. It turns out that he's the lawyer in question and is simply humble enough to clean his own workspace.
  • Not Me This Time: It's seems likely that Sydney's schizophrenic pyromaniac patient Kevin set her clinic on fire, but it turns out to have been electrical.
  • Obnoxious In-Laws: A visit to the Hansen siblings from their long-lost maternal grandfather reveals that he disowned their mother for marrying their father. He essentially tries to buy their affection by promising them money if they'll work for his company, but after Sydney and Jim tell him off, he relents and gives them the money with no strings attached.
  • Once per Episode: Every Cold Open was of Sydney having a strange dream related to the episode's events, with her mother being present. There was often yet another at some point in the episode as well.
  • Parental Favoritism: Syd's siblings think her parents favor her and don't like it.
  • Plot-Inciting Infidelity: Sydney's return to Providence is kicked off after walking in on her boyfriend with another man.
  • Politician Guest-Star: Providence, Rhode Island Mayor Vincent "Buddy" Cianci appeared periodically (the series' run coincided with Cianci's second and final stint as the city's mayor before it ended in a corruption sting that was nicknamed "Operation Plunder Dome".
  • Posthumous Character: Despite dying in the first episode, Sydney's mother appears in all of them during dream sequences.
  • Ship Sinking: Many of the show's relationships:
    • From the moment she returned to Providence, it seemed be Sydney was destined to reunite with her high-school sweetheart Kyle. Only for him to see himself as damaged goods after his arm was amputated due to bone cancer and break up with her despite her repeated assurances that she loved him no matter what. In fact, all of Sydney's relationships until she got engaged in the final season can be examples of this.
    • Robbie falls in love with his father's veterinary assistant Heather, even interrupting her wedding to whisk her away. However, he can't change the irresponsible behavior that led her to rebuff his advances in the first place​, leading them to break up.
    • Also, Joanie and her second fiancé. She becomes an alcoholic after her miscarriage and pushes him away and by the time she gets her act together, he's moved on.
    • The father briefly dates a former classmate of the girls' but it fizzles at the realization of their vastly different lives—she's a globe-trotting photojournalist, while he's a small-town veterinarian and neither of them is willing or able to give up their lifestyles to adapt to the other's.
  • Shotgun Wedding: Sydney and Joanie think their parents had this when they realize that she was born 8 months after their wedding, but her father tells her that she was conceived on their honeymoon and born a month premature. There was still a variation on this in that they married quickly to spare her the humiliation of having been dumped by her original fiancé only a few weeks before their wedding. This was also the case with both of Joanie's aborted weddings, even though she and the respective grooms actually loved each other, but it's still clear that in both cases, her pregnancy was the deciding factor.
  • Shout-Out: One of Sydney's dream sequences is this to NYPD Blue, being filmed in the same manner with music that sounds very similar to the theme song.
  • Sibling Rivalry: Syd and her siblings fight a lot.
  • Significant Wardrobe Shift: Sydney's mother appears in every dream clad in the mother-of-the-bride outfit for Joanie's wedding that she died in, but in the series finale and Sydney's final dream, she's in a completely different dress—a mother-of-the-bride outfit for Sydney's wedding, symbolizing that Sydney is finally ready to let her go.
  • Spell My Name With An S: Sydney, although that's the common spelling for the female version of the name, with Sidney only being used for males.
  • Successful Sibling Syndrome: Both Robbie and Joanie had moments of this regarding Sydney.
  • Surgeons Can Do Autopsies If They Want: Sydney is a plastic surgeon, but begins work as a family practitioner despite her friend's misgivings, which are precisely because she doesn't have the necessary training in this specialty. Additionally:
    • A former high school classmate asks for her to treat her OCD, something that would be done by a psychiatrist.
    • She operates on Joanie's boyfriend to treat his impotence, something that would be done by a urologist.
    • She helps sister-in-law Tina get pregnant, something that would be handled by a fertility specialist.
  • Terrible Interviewees Montage: Joanie and Heather have this with veterinarians who they need to take over for Jim when he's shot.
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: In the final season, Sydney becomes very attracted to another doctor, despite her engagement to her lawyer Owen. Nothing more than a kiss happens between them, but during the series finale, he comes very close to making an Anguished Declaration of Love when they're caught in a Hostage Situation. In their final scene, he wishes her good luck on her upcoming wedding as he's preparing to leave for Cameroon, but he's so desperate to avoid even looking at her, it's painfully clear that despite her impending marriage, they're both wondering What If?. The lyrics of the song being played over the scene emphasize this—"In another life, you would have been my girl, I would have been your man. . ."
  • The Villain Knows Where You Live: Sydney returns home from work to find her schizophrenic patient Kevin chatting with Joanie and Hannah in the living room as comfortably as if he's known the family for years. Already unnerved by this, she's even moreso to find that he has a Stalker Shrine full of pictures of her. Later, she finds her car papered with pictures of her family and coworkers.
  • Wedding/Death Juxtaposition: Linda Hansen collapses and dies at Joanie's wedding.
  • Wham Shot: Sydney walks into the hospital room where her patient Kevin is visiting a badly burned friend of his and chatting with another friend. But a confused Sydney asks "Who are you talking to?" as we see the room from her point of view—it's completely empty, thus revealing that Kevin's friend is a hallucination and that he's mentally ill.
  • Widowed at the Wedding: Happens to the family patriarch when his wife collapses at Joanie's wedding.
  • You're Drinking Breast Milk: Janie accidentally uses her breast milk to make clam chowder, striking gold when everyone raves about how delicious it is and even suggests that she try to market it.