Grey's Anatomy-Season 4 (2005)
Audio Commentary-"Forever Young" - Lauren Stamile and Rob Corn
Audio Commentary-"The Becoming" - Sandra Oh and Julie Anne Robinson
Featurette-Behind The Scenes
Outtakes-4:22 : "In Stitches" - Season Four outtakes.
|Year Of Production||2005|
|RSDL / Flipper||
Multi Disc Set (7)
|Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||2,4||Directed By||
Walt Disney Studios Home Ent.
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||
English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.78:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.78:1||Miscellaneous|
English for the Hearing Impaired
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
One of the most enduringly popular and successful genres of TV drama series has been the medical drama. Westerns and cop shows have had their seasons of popularity, but the medical drama series seems to endure. One of the first TV series I became aware of was the 1954 US series Medic, which starred Richard Boone (Have Gun Will Travel). Australia did not get TV until 1956, but Medic became known locally mainly because of its hugely popular theme Blue Star. Medic was, to my knowledge, never shown in Australia, but since then we have had a long line of medico dramas from Doctor Kildare and Marcus Welby to the current House and Grey's Anatomy. Last September the fifth season of Grey's Anatomy began airing in the US and Season Four has recently been given a local release. .
The success of Grey's continues, despite controversy and criticism. Over the past twelve months two hugely publicised incidents seemed, at the time, to cast a pall over the future of the successful ABC series. Controversy began with the homophobic slur against one of the stars, T.R. Knight, made by fellow actor Isaiah Washington. This controversy continued with the slur repeated "innocently" after an awards presentation, provoking star Patrick Dempsey into public condemnation of Washington's attack on Knight. The final outcome was that Washington was dropped from the cast of the show. Then Katherine Heigl, who had won an Emmy the previous year for her portrayal of "Izzie" in Season Three, withdrew her nomination for the current year's Season Four, asserting that the poor standard of her scripts for her did not warrant an award. Fellow workers on the series were not pleased, with claims that Heigl's eyes were on a "big screen" career, rather than to continue with Grey's.
Season Four then began the object of a great deal of criticism mainly directed at the poor scripts and stagnating characters. The writers seemed to have trapped themselves in some awkward situations with plot and character, and the fans were not pleased. The unexpected dispatching of Burke (Washington) left the character of Cristina (Sandra Oh) jilted at the altar, and she continued with a weird mixture of despair and bitter humour as the script attempted to disentangle her from her predicament. Derek (Patrick Dempsey) and Meredith (Ellen Pompeo) become bogged down in a repetitive on-again, off-again relationship that becomes tedious and, what is worse, unbelievable for these characters. Oddly the writers had also sexually paired the characters of Lizzie (Heigl) and George (Knight), who had previously been staunch best friends. This made for a very unconvincing sexual involvement for these two characters in Season Four, two who formerly had presented a charmingly positive image of friendship. Also contributing to the believability problem for Heigl was her opening episode battle to save the life of a deer. Is there any animal, human or otherwise, that that girl can't save with a set of paddles? Poor George then has to deal with whether or not to confess his infidelity to wife Callie (Sara Ramirez), presenting us with another character who is emotionally constipated.
Then came the writers' strike. Maybe in a way this was a blessing in disguise, giving a lay-off period for creator Shonda Rhimes to reassess the show. The intended twenty-one episodes were whittled down to seventeen, and after the hiatus there is a renewed energy and direction. In five greatly improved episodes early personal messes are tidied up, and the new cast members, the fresh interns, add considerable zing to the proceedings. Good use was also made of guest stars, most outstandingly Seth Green in a two-parter. By the time we get to the two-part season finale, "Freedom", all characters are doing what they do best. The plight of the sorry youth encased in a slab of concrete demands the involvement of all the doctors on the premises to get a chisel and start chipping away, a little reminiscent of The Seven Dwarfs, only "chip-chip-chipping", instead of "dig-dig-digging". One assumes that all other patients in the hospital had either been miraculously cured or in chorus dropped down dead. But then plausibility has never been a great strength of Grey's Anatomy. What is important is that at the season's fadeout new directions and developments are indicated for these still fascinating characters. There is promise here that teases us to look forward to Season Five. The emotional dancers are suspended in motion, some returning to old partners while others are on the brink of new relationships.
Despite the considerable problems Grey's Anatomy held onto its audience during Season Four, and the new season has been eagerly anticipated, with a general belief that there would be an inspired return to form. The show obviously has a large, devoted following, and there are three factors which mainly contribute to its success. Of paramount importance is the, at times, surreal juxtaposition of comedy and drama, with comedy usually prevailing. This is a tone which has been honed to an art form in recent years by shows such as Ally McBeal and Boston Legal. Secondly, this is a medical series. The fascination of the general population for all things dealing with sickness, doctors, and hospitals is extremely bankable, and every time the double doors are bashed open by a speeding trolley we know that some new gory treat is in store. Then there is the casting. This is an aspect of TV production which should be recognized with a separate award at the Emmys. The cast is uniformly excellent, but it is not just the performances that make the cast so remarkable.
Each member of the large ensemble cast is a distinct and unique individual, with obvious stereotypes avoided. There are no young bimbos or himbos in sight. Remarkable! Titular star, Ellen Pompeo, is fortyish, suggesting at times either Renee Zellwegger or Dorothy Maguire - not a bad mix. Patrick Dempsey has matured from one of the most gawkishly awkward teenagers on screen (Lover Boy) into a charming, enormously handsome leading man. In films such as Enchanted and Freedom Writers, Dempsey has become a huge movie star. His portrayal of whimsically pained manhood may be limited, but that didn't stop Cary Grant. Also a success on the big screen is Katherine Heigl, a box-office smash with Knocked Up and 27 Dresses. The lovely Heigl is an accomplished comedienne, with wit, pathos and warmth. Sandra Oh has proved herself many times, and was unforgettable in Sideways. Sara Ramirez is just as striking in her portrayal of head resident Callie as she was when I was lucky enough to see her Tony Award winning performance in Spamalot on Broadway. What a voice that young woman possesses! Eric Dane as Mark Sloan ("McSteamy") injects considerable testosterone into the show, competing with Dempsey ("McDreamy") for male diva attention. Always consistent, but more predictable, are Chandra Wilson, outstanding in the episode "Lay Your Hands on Me", and James Pickens Jr as Dr Richard Webber. Then there is the most welcome casting of the excellent actor, Justin Chambers (The Musketeer) as Dr Alex Karev. Finally, the three new interns are an impressive addition to the cast, played by a trio of distinctive young actresses in Chyler Leigh, Brooke Smith (The Silence of the Lambs) and Lauren Stamile.
For fans of off-beat US TV series, Grey's Anatomy is a must. Erratic characters and non conventional plot twists add spice to what would otherwise be yet another prime time version of the soap opera. Production values are impeccable and performances are top flight. It is only the scripts that let down a series like this. Hopefully Season Five will see this most admirable series regain the impact it had in its first exposure to the public.
A final sour grapes comment relates to the cost of this set. In the US there has been a price reduction of seasons of some shows, not all, shortened by the writers' strike. This is not the case locally. Local consumers are still being charged premium price for what is, in reality, less than a full season of episodes. If there was compensation in the form of a plethora of valuable extras, OK, but that is certainly not the case here.
There are three audio streams : English, Italian and Spanish.
The three streams are in Dolby Digital 5.1 encoded at 384 Kbps.
There are limitations to the impact of the audio on these discs, but that is basically due to the nature of the series. One would hardly expect audio dynamics in an operating theatre.
There is a lack of dynamic directionality, and a softness to the subwoofer contribution, but otherwise the audio is superb.
Dialogue is perfectly clear, beautifully recorded and balanced, without any sync problems.
The music is an important aspect of the show, with a generally "trendy" sophisticated pop sound. Evidently the producers wisely obtained rights to the music utilised in advance, thus avoiding the problems experienced by, for instance, Ally McBeal in obtaining rights when the time for DVD release came around. The music is faultlessly recorded and reproduced, making full use of the surround capabilities of a system.
|Surround Channel Use|
On the surface there appears to be an impressive assortment of extras on this five disc set. In reality, however, it is a very slight and unsatisfying helping of goodies. There are only three audio commentaries, and only one of these features a genuine "star" in Sandra Oh.
The featurettes are all brief and either superficial or downright silly. "Silly" is often acceptable, but it would be much more satisfying to have something substantial, especially considering the problems of this season, internal and external.
Presented in the ratio of 1.78:1 the menu begins with a montage of black and white portraits of the main actors, leading to live action plus music from the series.
Options presented are :
Episode Selection : Two screens, each with a star portrait and music presenting :
Disc 1 : Episodes 1, 2, 3 and 4 thumbnails on two screens.
Disc 2 : Episodes 5, 6, 7 and 8 thumbnails on two screens.
Disc 3 : Episodes 9, 10, 11 and 12 thumbnails on two screens.
Disc 4 : Episodes 13, 14 and 15 thumbnails on two sceens.
Disc 5 : Episodes 16 and 17 thumbnails on one screen.
Audio Commentary : Only on Discs 1, 2 and 4. See below for details.
Set Up : A screen with a still plus music from the series offers:
Languages : English, Spanish, Italian.
Subtitles : English, English for the Hearing Impaired, Spanish, Italian, Dutch,
Norwegian, Danish, Swedish, Finish, Icelandic and Portuguese.
Bonus Features : Apart from the three audio commentaries, the Bonus Features are all on Disc 5. See below for details.
Bonus Features :
Audio Commentaries :
Three off camera talents behind the show plus three actresses contribute these fairly ordinary commentaries. Two of the new on-screen faces are utilised, and these commentaries are disappointingly dull and pedestrian. The third, featuring the sole "big gun", Sandra Oh, is much better, mainly because it is this individual and talented lady talking to us.
Disc 1 :
A still with music from the series gives the "On / Off" option to view "A Change Is Gonna Come" with or without commentary by actress Chyler Leigh and associate producer Karin Gleason.
Disc 2 :
A similar screen gives the option to view the extended episode "Forever Young" with or without commentary by actress Lauren Stamile and executive producer Rob Corn.
Disc 4 :
A similar screen gives the option to view the extended episode "The Becoming" with or without commentary by actress Sandra Oh and director Julie Anne Robinson.
Bonus Features : Disc 5
This is a rather meagre collection of extra goodies which, while entertaining and lightweight fun, adds nothing to anyone's appreciation of the show.
With the exception of "One Quick Cut", which is presented at 1.33:1 in a 4x3 ratio, these all new featurettes are presented 1.78:1 and 16x9 enhanced.
The image quality of material from the actual show is on a par with that of the complete episodes, but the new interview sequences have poorer skin tones.
The audio on all extras is Dolby Digital 2.0 encoded at 192 Kbps.
Featurette : New Docs on the Block (7:48)
Executive producer Betsy Beers introduces the new characters and the actresses who play them : Brooke Smith, Chyler Leigh and Lauren Stamile.
There is no prize for guessing that this is just a seven minute praise fest. How much more interesting it would have been to have learnt a little about the backgrounds of these ladies! No doubt there have been years of training and learning for all three prior to this career break for them.
Behind the Scenes : On Set with Patrick and Eric (5:25)
These few minutes are devoted to the two most publicised males from the series revealing themselves as endearing "little boys" - joking and horsing around in an exhibition of camaraderie and male bonding. It seems that these two are on set the mirror-preening dual prima donnas in the cast. "McDreamy" and "McSteamy" are both capable, attractive and likeable actors, but for my money the screen sizzles when the intense Justin Chambers is in focus.
Featurette : Good Medicine : Favorite Scenes (13:17)
In new interview footage each actor individually introduces his or her favourite scene from Season Four. Some interesting comments from the players.
Deleted Scenes : Dissecting Grey's Anatomy : Unaired Scenes
Like most "deleted scenes" there is usually a sound reason for their non-inclusion. Nothing here is a loss, except the first scene, which gives a little more of the old man from this episode. The presentation of the scenes is nicely organized. which is a pleasant change:
The options presented are :
Select Individual Scenes, with a separate screeen for each episode.
Episode : "Let the Truth Sting" : Really Dead Guy (1:15)
Episode: "The Heart of the Matter" : Be Her Doctor (1:03)
Episode : "Kung Fu Fighting" : Go Get Started (0:21)
Sensitive about His Toes : (0:43)
Episode : "Forever Young" : High School (0:24)
Anything Else (0:45)
Outtakes : In Stitches : Season Four Outtakes (4:22)
A breathless montage of flubs, gaffs and giggles from the season. Good fun.
Featurette : One Quick Cut (4:20)
This is a ridiculously compressed précis of Grey's Anatomy from Episode One up to date. Once again, fun.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
|DVD||Onkyo-SP500, using Component output|
|Display||Philips Plasma 42FD9954/69c. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080i.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to DVD player. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.|
|Speakers||VAF DC-X fronts; VAF DC-6 center; VAF DC-2 rears; LFE-07subwoofer (80W X 2)|