Shonda Rhimes had a big hit on her hands with Grey’s Anatomy, so after five years she did what comes naturally in her situation. You spin the success off in the hope that the fans just can’t get enough in just one night. At first it appeared to me she had chosen the wrong character to put out on her own. I mean, I never considered Kate Walsh as Addison to be one of the show’s more compelling characters. The show was presented as what the business calls an imbedded episode on Grey’s. What that means is that the situation is set up during one of the original show’s episodes. In this case a two parter called The Other Side Of Life. The idea is that you want to be sure that your existing show’s fans at least watch the pilot in the hope that they will consider it a part of their beloved series. I got to watch that episode when I was called upon to review the fifth season of Grey’s. I was new to the whole universe, so I believe I was able to approach the spin-off more objectively. To tell the truth, I didn’t like it at all. And so I considered Private Practice to be doomed even before I saw the first stand alone episode. That wasn’t boding well when I received this truncated season one set to review recently. True, I had warmed up to Grey’s by then, but I was still a bit put off by the new show. I watched it anyway.
Dr. Addison Montgomery (Walsh) is looking for a change. She’s feeling a little burned out in Seattle at Grace Memorial Hospital, where she carries a ton of baggage. She heads down to L.A. to visit a friend who has his own clinic in the sunny city. The clinic practices something called co-op medicine. Specialists from various fields come together to treat their patients in a more holistic manner. Dr. Naomi Bennett (McDonald), specializing in fertility, and her ex-husband Dr. Sam Bennett (Diggs) run the place. Dr. Violet Turner (Brennemen) is the clinic’s shrink. I guess you could call her a shrinking violet. Dr. Cooper Freedman (Adelstein) is the pediatrician. Dr. Peter Wilder (Daley) is the herbal medicine specialist. He’s also got a rep for sleeping with all of the other women and even running some out of the clinic. Dr. Charlotte King (Strickland) is a troubled soul who can’t sleep and has an apparent addiction to pills. Finally there is Dell (Lowell) the office assistant and “pretty boy”. Because of the strike there are only 9 episodes spread over 3 discs.
What happened was that a well cast show won me partly over. I ended up enjoying the episodes more than I expected. I still find all of this musical beds soap opera stuff tedious, but I also discovered that Private Practice might actually be about more. OK. It’s not. Still, the show is incredibly well cast, and that will be its saving grace, if you will. It’s almost as if Rhimes put together an all-star baseball team. Almost every member of the cast had been in shows where they were the top character. Kate Walsh might be the least known member of the cast, at least to the non-Grey’s Anatomy fans out there. Unfortunately the writer’s strike came and put an end to any grand schemes the cast and crew might have had for the first season. It never really found its footing, and the cast didn’t have the chemistry they have the potential for, so I’d say the jury is still out on Private Practice, but there could be some good times ahead.
The second season becomes the first actual full season. No writers’ strike to get in the way. The show didn’t waste any time getting into rather controversial issues. This season found the cast dealing with some very heavy issues. The clinic must decide if they are willing to begin performing abortions. Whatever the politics, it’s a tricky issue for a business dedicated to helping with fertility. The doctors must decide if a child exposed to measles should be vaccinated against his parents’ permission. This is one of those times where law and morality could be in direct conflict. The staff deals with a pregnant 12 year old who is the result of a mother who is too permissive. The season also confronts the issue of euthanasia. For a series that once promised to be rather light and fluffy, it certainly went against type and just might have proven itself better than its more frivolous parent series.
Each episode of Private Practice is presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio. This is a nice transfer that seems to work almost all the way around. Colors are near perfect reference, particularly flesh tones. Black levels are nicely rendered, adding a depth of detail to the darker scenes. This is a brighter palette than Grey’s was. The lighting reflects the sunny California climate as contrasted with the drab overcast lighting that represents Seattle in Grey’s. The bright lighting and flashier colors work well in this transfer. It might even be the brighter atmosphere that makes this show a little bit better, in my opinion, than Grey’s.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 track works. The film utilizes the common trend of using music to work a few montage images into the story. The music is not merely stereo mixes thrown into the bunch, but decent 5.1 mixes in their own right. Dialog, which is essentially the entire show, is always upfront and center where you’re sure to catch every word.
There are Commentary Tracks on select episodes. Mostly it’s a lot of glowing love fest stuff.
Deleted Scenes: There are about a dozen scenes from several episodes. You have the handy play all and an optional commentary with Shonda Rhimes and Betsy Beers.
Patient Confidentiality – Examining Season 2: (12:52) Betsy Beers and creator Shonda Rhimes talk about what they wanted to do with the first full season of the show. The cast and crew also chime in about the various ethical issues encountered this season.
Through The Lens – The Pictures Of Chris Lowell: (8:10) Cast member Lowell is a bit of a black and white photographer. He talks about his craft, and we get to see a large example of his work.
Bloopers: (4:17) Typical stuff here.
I said back in season 1 that the series showed promise. It delivered that and more in season 2. The series thankfully pulled away from the style and overt humor of its parent series and took the huge gamble to become a much more serious show. It was a good gamble that paid off, at least for the likes of me. I guess I’m not sure what hardcore fans of Grey’s Anatomy think about the change. I would hope they would embrace something different, but close enough to what they’re used to to make them happy. This is one of those shows that I had to be careful about going into too much detail on plot. Our policy here has always been to avoid spoilers, with or without warnings. The characters don’t do what you expect them to do when faced with some of these ethical issues. It’s important that the viewer be allowed to discover these moments on their own. Yet, you want to know what’s going on. You’re trying to figure out if you want to spend that hard earned money in a soft economy for the set. It’s a tricky balance that a good reviewer must learn to navigate.: “How to tell without telling”.