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 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.
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”.
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.
The third season has the show moving right along. The end of the second season left us with quite a dramatic cliffhanger. Violet was bleeding on her floor in the hands of a maniac woman who believed that Violet’s unborn baby belonged to her. She was about to operate. The clinic gets into the genetically designed babies market, and it causes tension within the staff. There is also tension when a custody battle between staff members causes others to have to take sides. There are a couple cross-over moments with Grey’s Anatomy. The season also uses Maya to explore teen pregnancy from the teen’s parents’ point of view. There’s a lot of emotional drama going on in this otherwise lighter show. It’s a welcome turn of events.
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.
You get all of the episodes on 5 discs. The following bonus features appear on Disc 5:
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.
Bloopers: (4:27) Typical stuff here.
Kate’s Top 8: (12:16) Kate Walsh counts down her favorite aspects of the third season along with a quick look at each: locations, the medical cases, Violet’s story, crossovers, fashion, Maya’s story, romances, and Addison’s family secret.
The show has finally found its legs and is better, for now, than its parent series. While there is more cross-over this year than the previous two-years, I’m not so sure it’s a great idea. These are different shows, and Private Practice deserves a chance to stand on its own. The Violet character goes through a ton of emotional baggage this year, and I have to say I was impressed with the performances of Amy Brenneman. There’s nothing like settling in to watch a standard television show and getting a hell of a performance out of the deal. “Now isn’t this better than chocolate.”