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I know next to nothing about Grey’s Anatomy. Until this point I’ve never had cause or want to watch an episode, but I want to give this season four collection my best shot. I tried researching the previous three seasons, but reading episode descriptions on-line can be a little like trying to understand a WWII era code language without a cipher. I’m afraid I’m going to be a bit lost no matter what I do, especially because Grey Anatomy is a hard core soap opera with about a million characters and arcs to keep track of. The little map in the Blu-ray case is a help, but I’m still lost. I also don’t really like E.R., Chicago Hope, or Days of Our Lives, so the deck is a little stacked already.

Grey's Anatomy: Season Four
I’m cool enough with the dialogue, which is usually the first thing that rubs my flesh backwards (I thinking Gilmore Girls here). The characters talk snappier then normal people, but they don’t speak in constant clichés, and they don’t grate with their tones, which they actually manage to vary. Unfortunately, my unfamiliarity with the characters makes it hard to really feel for them (or tell them apart actually, it took me three episodes to realize that Dr. Alex Karev and Dr. Mark Sloan weren’t the same guy). There’s a lot of aimless angst, and some arctypal character sketching, but the writers actually avoid the huge clichés that usually bug me (though the hospital’s grape vine holes are a little repetitive and obnoxious).

Because I never really liked E.R., and because I’ve never seen House M.D., I’m not totally accustomed to the ‘freak of the week’ way these hospital shows deal with medical trauma, but I am familiar with the practice. The reason these shows remain so popular (I’m guessing), is because they mix addictive elements of exploitative and gruesome emergency room grotesquery, and old fashion, hyper-realist human drama. As an exploitation film fan I actually appreciate this very much, but it doesn’t really appeal to me a whole lot. I get why the show is so addictive, and the story pacing is pretty awe inspiring (really, these writers don’t take their time with things), but the human drama just doesn’t grasping me.

Grey's Anatomy: Season Four
The medical mystery, ‘freak of the week’ bits are kind of fun though. I like watching those mystery diagnosis docudramas on cable, and each episode has at least ten or twenty minutes of that kind of thrill. The dilemma arises about two episodes in when the practice becomes formulaic. Someone comes in with a minor ailment, is treated or sent packing, then passes out with some kind of deadly ailment no one suspected they had. Rinse. Repeat.

Overall it's not a terrible show though. I enjoy the simple thrills of hating on the mean spirited patients or family members, and I dig the medical suspense moments, mostly because medical procedures really get under my skin. I also have to admit that Grey’s Anatomy got several laughs out of me, though the awkward moment gags, of which there are plenty, are really more frustrating then funny.

Video


These discs are unmistakably hi-def, but noticeably noisier and softer then other hi-def series, especially Mad Men. Colours are natural, though often a bit muted (on purpose, I’m sure). The most damaged colours are darker skin tones and rich reds, both of which dance with greenish fine grain. White is pretty much the series’ theme colour (white a sterile like a hospital), and it shines without too much blooming or flare. In contrast the blacks are nice and solid, though their darkness tends to lose the detail a bit. The focus on white makes for some really flashy reds, which gives the blood some impressive impact (which helped to keep me interested, frankly). My biggest complaints are with general detail and minor edge enhancement (which mostly pertains to the on screen text). The details are above DVD levels, and I think the softness is mostly an aesthetic choice, but compared to other hi-def collections this one is definitely lacking.

Grey's Anatomy: Season Four

Audio


Grey’s Anatomy sounds very nice, clean, and fresh, but it doesn’t exactly tear the house down. It’s not an action series, and it isn’t audibly stylized either, in fact it’s less then realistic in its soundscape. There simply isn’t a lot of noise on the show at all. There is still some surround channel excitement, like ringing phones, opening and closing doors, and mumbling interns, and it all sounds somewhat natural. The dialogue is clear as can be, and consistently audible, even when Patrick Dempsey whispers his lines, but there is a hint of missing problem every once and a while, as background noise is brought up louder in the center channel when a character speaks. The score does the exact same plucky string thing that every quirky comedy uses, and it does the slow sad piano thing that every big drama does. The cute as a bug’s ear pop music kind of grates, but they stick it tolerably low on the track.

Extras


One of the ‘special features’ is something called ‘season play’, which allows your Blu-ray player to keep track of which episode across all four discs you watched last, even if you stop the disc, eject it, put something else in, and return later. This is unnecessary for most modern DVD players, but from what I understand most Blu-ray players don’t have a resume option, so it’s a cool bit of technology. The problem is that the option crapped out on my in the middle of disc three. Oh well, it’s probably a Profile 1.0 thing. Also, I suppose some would consider the ‘expanded’ quality of two of these episodes an extra feature too.

Grey's Anatomy: Season Four
As far as more normal extras go we’ve got some commentaries. Episode one, ‘A Change is Gonna Come’, features lead actress Chyler Leigh and producer Karin Gleason, episode eight, ‘Forever One’, features actress Lauren Stamile and executive producer/episode director Rob Corn, and episode fifteen, ‘The Becoming’, features actress Sandra Oh and director Julie Anne Robinson. The tracks are all pretty slow, with a twinge of “I don’t really want to be here” from most of the participants (I don’t know why I expected Oh to be more fun), but series fans should find some fun anecdotes and trivia.

Disc four houses the rest of the extras, beginning with ‘New Docs on the Block’, an eight minute look at the seasons newest cast members. As a non-fan with no attachment to previous episodes, I think that some of the new characters are my favourites, especially Brooke Smith (who I enjoyed on Weeds) as Dr. Erica Hahn, and Chyler Leigh (who’s the preverbal bug’s ear) as Dr. Lexie Grey. ‘On Set with Patrick and Eric’ is five and a half minutes with the two most popular male characters, Eric Dane and Patrick Dempsey, including interviews, behind the scenes, and ‘greatest hits’ footage. ‘Good Medicine’ is fourteen minutes of the cast and crew’s favourite scenes, with interview explanations.

Grey's Anatomy: Season Four
The collection is completed with twelve minutes of deleted scenes (five in all, mostly character beats), four and a half minutes of bloopers (which end on a high point with Seth Green), and a recap of seasons one through three (which I really wish I would’ve noticed before I made it to the end of the collection).

Overall


I think I gave Grey’s Anatomy a fair shake, and I surprised myself by enjoying the show at least a little. It’s formulaic like all hospital soaps, and the formula wears. The gruesome hospital gore is pretty thrilling (as a gore hound), and the mysterious medical stuff is entertaining. The cast is uniformly sharp (especially Chandra Wilson, of whom I’m in awe), and the guest stars are pretty awesome. I’m not planning on continuing focus on the series, but I recommend a look for people that like stuff like E.R. (which is frankly just as soap operatic, and ‘girly’, as my mother calls it). These Blu-ray discs look and sound good, but frankly don’t over-impress.


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