Part of ABC TV's big turnaround in the last few years, "Grey's Anatomy" started off as a mid-season replacement in its first season, with only nine episodes. The series picked up steam during its first season and became a breakout hit during its second. A prime post-Super Bowl slot in 2005 netted the show an astonishing 38.1M viewers.
One of the show's best elements is that it finally found consistent work for Ellen Pompeo, a wonderful actress who has brightened up moments in small supportng roles in such films as "Old School", "Moonlight Mile" and others. Pompeo stars as Dr. Meredith Grey, a new doctor following in the footsteps of her famous mother, Ellis (Kate Burton), who now suffers from Altzheimers.
In the first season, her roommates turn out to be a pair of fellow doctors: Isobel "Izzie" Stevens (Katherine Heigl) and George O'Malley (T.R. Knight, who looks an awful lot like Sean Astin to me). Other fellow fresh docs in the Seattle hospital include: Cristina Yang (Sandra Oh) and Alex Karev (Justin Chambers). Shepherd (nicknamed "McDreamy") (Patrick Dempsey) is Meredith's superior, which she finds out after she has a fling with him. Also supervising the newcomers are Miranda Bailey (Chandra Wilson) and the Chief of Surgery, Richard Webber (James Pickens Jr.).
While Pompeo has an enjoyable on-screen presence and manages to show vulnerability and drive equally well, the entire ensemble shares the spotlight quite well, with highlights such as Oh's ambitious doc and others. The show's cast also has good chemistry with one another, and the series does a mostly fine job of developing relationships (such as the one between the Pompeo and Dempsey characters) without making the show seem like a soap. In fact, the show develops both the relationships and the workplace environment quite well, keeping the overall feeling grounded and at least reasonably realistic. Additionally, while the show is primarily a drama, there are moments of comedy on occasion that lighten the mood without taking away from the overall emotion of the episode.
The third season continued some of the story arcs, especially the relationship between Burke (Isaiah Washington, who departed the series after this season) and Yang. While the two decide to get engaged, their bond remains a bit shaky. Meredith continues to have a difficult time with her mother, and finds the return of her father equally tough. George finds himself in a relationship with Callie Torres (Sara Ramirez) that progresses towards a surprise later in the season. Izzy opens the season still getting over the loss Denny (spending much of the season sullen and moody) and soon finds out that he's left her something unexpected. Addison (Kate Walsh) decides to leave in order to start her own practice (see the upcoming spin-off, "Private Practice".) In the midst of trying to assist during a ferry boat collision, one of the characters nearly passes away.
While I've liked the series and continue to like the series, I've felt that there have been some minor issues, such as the fact that the series does seem unrealistic, such as the fact that the amount of interpersonal relationships in the hospital would seem like a no-no. Getting past that, the third season gets to the point where I'd like to see the show's relationship turmoils start to get worked out. George gets deep into a relationship with Callie, but screws it up because he realizes he still has feelings for someone else. While I'm aware the series is a nighttime soap, I'd like to see the show's relationships start to move on and progress beyond love triangles and multiple relationships, which all starts to seem contrived after a while. The medical side of the series still rolls along reasonably well here, although the series seems a bit heavier and glum (although an eyebrow gag in the final episode did crack me up, but it's turned into something serious) this go-around.
After a third season that fans had a rather negative reaction to (I thought it was certainly uneven), the fourth season of "Grey's" clearly sees the series trying to change things (backed up by the design of the DVD set, which has "Job Changes", "Life Changes", "Everything Changes" and similar McChange-y labels on the DVDs) up a little bit to try and freshen up the show to get it back on the right foot. The fourth season is the first time the series has shifted cast members, with regulars Isaiah Washington and Kate Walsh (Walsh moving over to the "Grey's" spin-off, "Private Practice") leaving and newcomers Chyler Leigh (playing Meredith's younger half-sister) and Brook Smith becoming full-time cast members. Unfortunately for the new arrivals, their first full season on the show was a short one, as the Writer's Guild Strike resulted in the season being shortened down to 17 episodes.
The season itself is a step-up from the one that came before it, as the writing sees some improvements and the ensemble cast begins to show some signs of clicking together like they did early on in the show's run. This time around, the docs are - mostly, as George failed his exam - residents and have a new set of interns to work with (unfortunately for George, that group also includes him) and some problems both old and new.
Christina returns after her failed marriage to Burke, only to find that he's vanished. While Meredith starts off the season dismayed at the presence of her half-sister (who she didn't even know existed), Lexi (Leigh), the two begin to bond as the season goes forward. Callie has difficulty in her new job as the chief resident, while Bailey - at least at first - fumes at not being chosen for the position and doesn't hesitate to let her feelings be known.
The season returns the series to a more pleasing balance of medical drama and relationship issues, and it's nice to see as the medical drama continues to be the stronger side of the show, in my opinion. While Leigh has largely made her mark in comedies, she's unexpectedly good in a dramatic series, as she's excellent in her scenes with Pompeo and wonderfully sweet in scenes like in the first episode, where she brings George out of the spiral he'd found himself in after failing his exams.
The Meredith/Derek relationship highs and lows were getting a more than a little tired by the third season, but the fourth season explores Meredith in further detail and tries to draw a greater understanding of how her troubled past has resulted in difficulty with relationships. Pompeo is improved here, as is the rest of the cast, as while the drama still remains moderately soapy at times, I felt as if the drama was a little more grounded this time around, and that was a benefit to these episodes, some of which - including a very good 2-part season finale - had the kind of emotion and heartbreak that the series had when it started. This season is still hasn't entirely turned the ship around, as the first quarter of the season is somewhat slow going at times, but afterwards things get better quickly.
62. 4- 1 401 27 Sep 07 A Change Is Gonna Come
63. 4- 2 402 4 Oct 07 Love/Addiction
64. 4- 3 403 11 Oct 07 Let The Truth Sting
65. 4- 4 404 18 Oct 07 The Heart of the Matter
66. 4- 5 405 25 Oct 07 Haunt You Every Day
67. 4- 6 406 1 Nov 07 Kung Fu Fighting
68. 4- 7 407 8 Nov 07 Physical Attraction... Chemical Reaction
69. 4- 8 408 15 Nov 07 Forever Young
70. 4- 9 409 22 Nov 07 Crash Into Me (1)
71. 4-10 410 6 Dec 07 Crash Into Me (2)
72. 4-11 411 10 Jan 08 Lay Your Hands on Me
73. 4-12 412 24 Apr 08 Where The Wild Things Are
74. 4-13 413 1 May 08 Piece of My Heart
75. 4-14 414 8 May 08 The Becoming
76. 4-15 415 15 May 08 Losing My Mind
77. 4-16 416 22 May 08 Freedom (Part 1)
78. 4-17 417 22 May 08 Freedom (Part 2)
This "Extended" set offers one longer episode - "Forever Young".
VIDEO: "Grey's Anatomy" is presented by Buena Vista Home Entertainment in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. The picture quality is quite good, as the image remained crisp and well-defined for the majority, with only a couple of slightly softer moments seen here-and-there.
Some minor edge enhancement and a couple of slight artifacts were visible, but the image was almost entirely free of issues. Colors appeared natural and accurate, with no smearing or other faults.
SOUND: "Grey's Anatomy" is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. The presentation generally remains forward-oriented, as one would expect from a drama like this. Still, surrounds occasionally offer some ambience and other tidbits. Audio quality was certainly satisfactory, with crisp dialogue, music and sound effects.
EXTRAS: "A Change is Gonna Come" offers commentary from actress Chyler Leigh and producer Karen Gleason, while "Forever Young" boasts a track from actress Lauren Stamille and exec producer Rob Corn.We also get a series of featurettes: "New Kids on the Block", "On the Set With Patrick and Eric" and "Good Medicine" (which has the cast and crew chatting about their favorite scenes.) Also included are some very funny outtakes, 16 deleted scenes and "One Quick Cut" (which is essentially a history of the show within a couple minutes.)
Final Thoughts: "Grey's Anatomy" starts off somewhat slowly in the fourth season, but the show quickly improves as it heads into the second half of the season. Overall, the season shows improvement in the writing and performances over the third season and looks to be turning the ship around. The DVD presentation is excellent, as audio/video quality is terrific and there are plenty of extras. Recommended for fans.
Note: There is also a Blu-Ray edition available. Season 5 of the series premieres 9/25/08.