"Private Practice" is the highly anticipated spin-off of "Grey's Anatomy" (the plot of the series was essentially put into motion in the 2-part "Grey's" episode, "The Other Side of This Life") starring actress Kate Walsh as Dr. Addison Montgomery and created by "Grey's" exec producer Shonda Rhimes. In "Private", Montgomery has exited Seattle to head to sunny California to work in a private practice run by her pal, Naomi (Audra McDonald).
However, when she arrives, things are not exactly as they seem: the practice is less advanced then she expected, no one was told of her arrival and Naomi's ex-husband, Sam (Taye Diggs) accidentally sees Addison naked. Overall, Addison's not exactly pleased, but as Naomi reminds her - she wanted change and this is definitely change.
At the practice, she's joined by a series of doctors specializing in different areas, including Dr Pete Wilder (Tim Daley), Violet Turner (Amy Brenneman), Cooper Freedman (Paul Adelstein), Sam, Naomi and nurse-in-training William Parker (Chris Lowell). The doctors find themselves up against the chief of the nearby hospital, Charlotte King (KaDee Strickland).
The series starts off on shaky footing in the first episode, which has some rather slapsticky moments (such as Addison dancing around her apartment, only to be "spotted" by neighbor Sam) and a main story (a man has a stroke while making a sperm deposit and the woman he was with fights to still get a deposit, even after he doesn't make it before the stroke happens) that the series presents in a manner that seems a little ridiculous - it's the kind of story that a David E. Kelley series would have likely turned into something more.
The series - at least at the open - seems to have trouble mixing its blend of medical drama and lighter comedy, as while "Grey's" occasionally has lighter moments, these serve as hits of comedic relief. The lighter, somewhat quirky tone that is present in stretches of this series results in the drama having less weight. The show starts to achieve a better balance as it goes on, but the kind of quirkiness the show goes for at times doesn't come together as it shifts uneasily between laughs (some of which, such as Addison's upset at the rain in "In Which Addison Finds the Magic", aren't as effective as intended) and more emotional moments.
The cast is the show's best asset, as despite the writing taking a little while to get into gear, Walsh remains a compelling foundation for the series, offering her best effort in order to carry the new show. She's backed up by a series of experienced supporting players that offer fine performances of their own, including Diggs, Daley, McDonald and Brenneman. Even in the rockier early going of the season, the ensemble cast does show fine chemistry with one another - especially Daly and Walsh, who have a pleasant romantic chemistry with one another. The cast also succcessfully attempt to fill in their characters beyond what's on the page.
Overall, I found the early episodes of "Private Practice" to be a bit of a letdown, but things slowly pick up as the show begins to move between the romantic entanglements between the characters and the medical drama a little more smoothly, and the tone of the early episodes is brought back down to Earth a bit by the end of this short season. Despite some concerns, the series does have a promising cast - it's just a matter of the writing trying to get a handle on the characters and spending time looking deeper into who they are. The show also handles shifts in tone better as the season goes on, and hopefully that will continue.
The series only aired 9 episodes on its first season, due to the writer's strike.
- Episodes 1 & 3 are presented in extended versions.
1. 1- 1 26 Sep 07 In Which We Meet Addison, a Nice Girl From Somewhere Else
2. 1- 2 3 Oct 07 In Which Sam Receives an Unexpected Visitor
3. 1- 3 10 Oct 07 In Which Addison Finds the Magic
4. 1- 4 17 Oct 07 In Which Addison Has a Very Casual Get Together
5. 1- 5 24 Oct 07 In Which Addison Finds a Showerhead
6. 1- 6 31 Oct 07 In Which Charlotte Goes Down the Rabbit Hole
7. 1- 7 14 Nov 07 In Which Sam Gets Taken For A Ride
8. 1- 8 21 Nov 07 In Which Cooper Finds a Port In His Storm
9. 1- 9 5 Dec 07 In Which Dell Finds His Fight
VIDEO: The show is presented by Buena Vista in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. Presentation quality is terrific, as the series looked a touch better than broadcast quality on this DVD. The picture remained well-defined during most scenes, with only the occasional touch of softness here-and-there. A few slight instances of artifacting were spotted, but the majority of scenes appeared smooth and clean, with no edge enhancement or other faults. The show's warm color palette is a clear contrast from "Grey's", and the warm hues looked rich and well-saturated throughtout. Overall, this was an excellent presentation of the series.
SOUND: The series is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. The series is mostly dialogue-driven. Some slight surround use for ambience and reinforcement of the music is occasionally heard. Audio quality is fine, with crisp dialogue.
EXTRAS: actress Kate Walsh, creator Shonda Rhimes and producer Bonnie Beers offer commentary for the pilot episode. While the trio offer some interesting tidbits and insights about the development of the series and production, there is quite a bit of small talk and praise that does make the track drag at times. Actors Amy Brenneman and Paul Adelstein also offer a track for "In Which Sam Gets Taken For a Ride" and actors Taye Diggs and Chris Lowell offer a commentary for "In Which Dell Finds His Fight". The actor-only tracks are a little more entertaining, as the duos seem to be having fun chatting about the stories behind-the-scene and joking about some elements of a few of the scenes.
We also get "Alternative Ensemble: Behind the Scenes of "Private Practice", deleted scenes, outtakes and "Practice Makes Perfect" (a look at Kate Walsh's career and how she got the role.)
Final Thoughts: "Private Practice" starts off out of the gate stumbling in the first few episodes, but the series does have a terrific cast that does smooth out a few of the flaws. Once the writing starts to get in order, the series begins firing on all cylinders as the season goes forward. The DVD set offers excellent video quality, fine audio quality and a solid set of supplements. Recommended for fans.