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HTF DVD REVIEW: GREY'S ANATOMY SEASON FOUR

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#1 of 2 OFFLINE   Timothy E

Timothy E

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Posted September 14 2008 - 02:01 PM

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Studio: Buena Vista Home Entertainment
Year: 2008
Rated: TV-14 DLS
Film Length: 12 hours, 20 minutes
Aspect Ratio: Anamorphic Widescreen (1.78:1)
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish


Release Date: September 9, 2008

The Series
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“Grey’s Anatomy” is set in the fictional Seattle Grace Hospital. The cast of characters consists of surgical interns and their supervisors, and the plot-lines follow the stories of patients in the hospital as well as the private lives and loves of the surgical staff. The title of the show is a play on words referring to “Gray’s Anatomy”, a famous medical treatise.

The main character is Dr. Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo), who has an on-again, off-again relationship with surgeon Derek Shepherd (Patrick Dempsey), nicknamed “McDreamy” for his good looks. Derek himself has a rocky relationship with his old pal Mark Sloan (Eric Dane), nicknamed “McSteamy” for his amorous nature, due to their history in competing for the same feminine affections. George O’Malley (T.R. Knight) has started an affair with his friend Izzie Stevens (Katherine Heigl) before the beginning of season 4, even though he is married to chief resident Callie Torres (Sara Ramirez). Miranda Bailey (Chandra Wilson) does her best to undermine the chief resident’s authority every chance she gets, since she was in the running to be appointed as chief resident before being passed over for Dr. Torres. Cristina Yang (Sandra Oh) was set to marry Dr. Preston Burke, but she was dumped at the altar by Dr. Burke at the end of the third season. Season 4 begins with the aftermath of Yang’s disastrous wedding. Series regulars also include Dr. Richard Webber (James Pickens, Jr.) and Dr. Alex Karev (Justin Chambers).

At the beginning of season 4, Dr. Lexie Grey (Chyler Leigh) has joined the staff. To Meredith’s chagrin, Lexie is her half-sister. Meredith’s father abandoned her and her mother when she was a child before having Lexie with another woman, which causes Meredith to have resentment against her half-sister. Other additions to the cast in season 4 include Dr. Erica Hahn (Brooke Smith), whose abrasive personality puts the other staff on their toes, as well as Nurse Rose (Lauren Stamile), who immediately competes with Meredith for Derek’s affections.

It may seem odd to describe Meredith Grey as the main character, since all of the surgical staff share screen time relatively equally. Meredith is considered the main character, however, because the show follows a format in which each episode begins and ends with narration by Ellen Pompeo’s character.

Only 2 of the episodes are designated as "Extended" episodes having extra footage on the DVD menus. The running times of the episodes suggest that there are actually more than 2 episodes on these DVDs that are extended with extra footage. The running time of many of the episodes is approximately 43 minutes, which is the current standard for 1 hour network shows, after the commercial time is removed. Many of the episodes, other than the "Extended" episodes, have running times of approximately 48 minutes, which suggests that there are more than 2 episodes in this set that have additional footage that was not included in the original network broadcasts.

Video
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The video is anamorphic wide-screen 1:78:1 enhanced for 16 x 9 monitors, except for the special features which are primarily in a 1:33:1 screen ratio. The video quality on the individual episodes is excellent. The episodes are produced deliberately in a muted color palette, so this is not the most colorful DVD picture you have ever seen, however, it is obviously a fine transfer of the original material. The picture quality is terrific throughout, including the special features. Studio are notorious for cutting costs on production of the special features, leaving them with inferior video quality. The special features here have a high video quality consistent with the episodes themselves.

Audio
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The audio is Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound, except for the special features.

The music on this show plays a significant role in setting the dramatic mood. The producers typically end an episode with music by up-and-coming artists playing over the narration by Ellen Pompeo. There have been 3 CD compilations of music from the show released to date and more are on the way. I understand that the producers of this show have been forward-thinking enough to obtain licensing rights to include the same music on the DVD sets as appeared on the original network broadcasts. To my knowledge, there are no music substitutions made on the Season Four set, and the packaging does not indicate any changes of this kind. The music on the Dolby Digital 5.1 surround soundtrack is blended appropriately with the dialogue so that the music neither overwhelms nor is drowned out by the dialogue.

Special Features
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The special features are all presented in a 1:78:1 widescreen aspect ratio with the exception of “One Quick Cut”. The studio deserves credit for maintaining excellent video quality on the special features, since this is one area where studios typically cut costs so that the special features sometimes look like a bad videotape transfer. This is not the case with the excellent video quality here. Disc 5 includes all of the special features, including the following:

New Docs On The Block (8:07): Cast and crew provide behind the scenes footage and discussion regarding the new cast members added for the fourth season.

On Set With Patrick and Eric (5:37): Patrick Dempsey and Eric Dane are interviewed regarding their characters on the show interspersed with footage from the show and from behind the scenes.

Good Medicine: Favorite Scenes (13:49): Cast members talk about their favorite scenes from this season and portions of the scenes are shown.

Dissecting Grey’s Anatomy: Unaired Scenes (11:52): 23 different unaired scenes can be viewed individually as well as through a “Play All” feature.

In Stitches: Season Four Outtakes (4:31): Consists of some flubbed line readings and practical jokes by the actors.

One Quick Cut (4:19): This is the only special feature displayed in a 1:33.1 aspect ratio rather than the 1:78.1 widescreen aspect ratio. This consists of footage with narration summarizing all of the major plot developments in 4 seasons of the show in a little over 4 minutes. This should be viewed after all of the episodes, since there are some spoilers regarding developments occurring during this season of the show.

Sneak Peaks: These consist of trailers for other television shows and movies on DVD, including “Brothers and Sisters” Season Two, Blu Ray Disc, Miramax, “Prince Caspian”, “Wall-E”, “Grey’s Anatomy” Season Four, and “Private Practice” Season One.

Many sets of “Grey’s Anatomy” Season Four sold in retail stores also include a bonus DVD attached to the outside of the package. The bonus DVD is labeled as an “ABC Starter Kit” promoting 3 ABC television series with DVD season sets being released on September 16, 2008. The series are: “Pushing Daisies”, “Private Practice” (a spin-off of Grey’s Anatomy), and “Dirty Sexy Money”. My review copy also came with this bonus DVD attached to the back of the package.

Conclusion
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I had not watched this show in its original network run on ABC prior to reviewing this DVD set. I can understand the popularity of this show since the stories are character-driven to the point that you feel like you know these characters. The show has an addictive quality that draws you into the lives of these characters and makes you want to see what happens next, like any good serial. With this set, the entire series is available to watch on DVD ahead of the season five premiere on September 25, 2008.

#2 of 2 OFFLINE   Andrew Radke

Andrew Radke

    Screenwriter

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Posted September 15 2008 - 02:26 AM

Season 4 is my least favorite of the series thus far. The number of episodes which followed the writer's strike were uninspired and ultimately not that entertaining. Mind you, that season's finale episode made up for it in spades. I'll still get this since I have the other three seasons, but as far as I"m concerned, they were far superior than this one.
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