For the second year in a row Private Practice has decided to tackle a huge and emotional issue for the characters at Oceanside Wellness Group. Last season began when Violet had been brutally attacked. A crazy woman believed Violet was carrying her baby, so she showed up and cut the baby out leaving her to die on the floor. Of course, she survived, but the season was all about the scars left from the attack in her mind. It was quite an intense storyline and one the show decided to try and top in season 4. Charlotte King, played by Kadee Strickland, suffers an equally brutal attack and is sexually assaulted. It’s quite an intense episode that digs deep into the emotional trauma as well as the physical. It will change some of the characters forever. One thing you can’t say about the folks running Private Practice. You can’t accuse them of being unwilling to take chances and push the boundaries of our own limits as members of the audience. The show also suffers the death of one of its beloved characters in the previous season finale. Dell’s death has an impact on the beginning of the season. But the man who killed him ends up coming to Pete to save his life.
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.
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.
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 scenes from several episodes.
Bloopers: (2:15) Typical stuff here.
An Inside Look At The Violation Of Charlotte King: (13:13) A closer look at the emotional episode.
Private Practice continues to separate itself from its mother show. The series has shown over and over again an ability to walk a very tough line. These are the kind of events that can push an audience away if not handled just right. That means the writing has to be respectful and the story itself has to avoid making an audience feel like they need to look away. We have to be bonded to the characters and the performances certainly make that happen here. I’m sure there are some turned off by the serious aspects of the show. It would be a shame if you let that happen here. “You’re not going to want to miss this.”