At its very worst, Grey’s Anatomy is the kind of treacle that deserves to only be seen at two PM by your mom on her day off, with the only thing separating it from being a true blue soap opera being a lack of inappropriate organ cues and an eye patch for Dr. Shepherd. But at its very best, Grey’s Anatomy is a smart, highly addictive medical drama with deep, enriching characters, emotionally compacted storylines, and worthy cliffhangers that aren’t just thrown in for good measure. Luckily for us, season four of the acclaimed show is much more of the latter than the former.
Grey’s Anatomy is not House, and it took me a long time to come to grips with that. Being that I’m not the fervent Grey’s fan who gets with his lady friends every Thursday night for a evening of ice cream and McDreamy, I was a little skeptical about watching a whole season of the show, as I’d only seen it in brief snippets before in the past. But after you get beyond that initial first episode, which is mainly played out in exposition form to get you caught up with what happened last time on Grey’s Anatomy, the rest of the season, short as it is because of the writer’s strike, flies past you at a break-neck speed, turning this Hugh Laurie fan into a die-hard lover of the inhabitants of Seattle Grace.
For the uninitiated, few of you as there are, Seattle Grace houses a plethora of interesting doctors and nurses, with the central focus being on Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo), a brilliant second year resident who has to deal with many problems. One such problem is being the daughter of a legendary expert doctor, who recently just croaked last season, and another is the love affair she has with Dr. Derek Shepherd (Patrick Depsey), which is on again/off again more times than a light switch. These two conflicts lead to a lot of drama this season. But wait, there’s more! (Spoiler alert!) This season also sees the break-up of a rather ephemeral marriage (in the first four episodes, no less!) from last season, a re-appearance of Alex’s old, just-had-her-face-changed flame, Ava (with sexy results), and also a few new characters to boot, including Meredith’s hot half-sister, Lexie, Burke’s new replacement, Erica, and a pretty little nurse named Rose that soon takes the place of Ms. Meredith Grey in Dr. Shepherd’s heart (but is it real love, or just a rebound shot to the basket?). If all those names have you swiping your hand in the air and saying, “Aw, who needs all that noise?” then you’re just like me before I took a look-see at this season, which is really as addictive as everybody says it is.
What always bothered me about Grey’s Anatomy in the past is that the show was never really about the medicine but more about the people behind it. It was more about emotions, feelings, and sex; lots and lots of sex. But once you get to know these characters, feel these characters, and even love these characters, the medicine sort of fades into the background, and it’s not as important as the problems these characters are facing right here and now. That rings especially true in this season, where the characters face some pretty heavy decisions that not all of them come out of safely.
One pivitol scene features a taciturn Cristina (Sandra Oh), somberly singing “Like a Virgin” by Madonna in a morgue after hearing news that her old flame, Burke, who left her at the alter in the last season (probably because he was fired from the show for calling T.R. Knight a rather un-pleasant name), just won a prestigious reward and never mentioned her in the article written about him. At this point, you hurt for Cristina just as she hurts, knowing that behind that competitive scowl of hers is a shattered individual who hides behind that mask of hers because it’s the only way to shield herself from everybody else’s pity, which her character could never handle. I’d like to see the characters on House have that much complexity to them.
Also, as known as Grey’s is for having such a breath-takingly beautiful cast, it’s really the lesser sweet eye candy that really drives home the emotional impact of the show. Dr. Bailey, nicknamed “The Nazi” for being so tough, has one of the saddest episiodes of the season when she goes through marital troubles with her selfish husband who hates being a stay at home dad because it’s so emasculating to him. When her baby, Tuck, has a horrible accident on his watch, the mere look in her eyes is enough to send most running for the Kleenex box. Not me, though. I’m all man…but others I’m sure. Sniff sniff.
There are plenty more poignant, funny, and ultimately cathartic episodes on this season that really make this show worthy of its accolades. Season four is not to be missed, and it’s a good start-up point if you’ve never seen seasons 1-3, or its spin-off show, which I’m told is terrible, Private Practice. It gives it to you in sweet and syrupy doses, and is enough to handle at any temperature, which always seems to be hot, hot, hot on this show. Hugh Laurie now has some competiton in my life, with the medical mystery being, which show do I like better, House or Grey’s Anatomy. I’ll have to wait and watch both new seasons this year, making my Tuesday and Thursday night schedule now jam packed with shows. DVR, I need you, stat!
Fans, you’re in luck, as this five disc set truly caters to those who have been watching the show from the very beginning. If you haven’t been watching the show, though, don’t fret, as the excellent booklet inside the casing gives you a comprehensive, albeit basic, anaylsis of the show up to where we are at now. It beats the hell out of chapter selection notes, I’ll tell you that.
Besides the stellar packaging, though, which also comes with a disc full of sneak peaks of Dirty Sexy Money and Private Practice, there’s also audio commentary on a few episodes, revealing once again that the morose characters on the show don’t match their genuine personalities as they laugh, giggle, and snort at their own jokes just like everybody else in real life. Every audio track is worth a listen, and if there’s only one complaint I have with them, it’s that there aren’t enough of them, as only certain episodes have commentary and not all of them. Bummer.
“New Docs on the Block,” discusses the three new characters on the show, Dr. Erica Hahn, Rose, and Lexie Grey, with all three of them talking about what a great pleasure it is to now be a cast member on the show. Whatever. As long as you three don’t mess up the chemistry with the already existing characters, you’re alright with me.
“On Set With Patrick and Eric,” is a brief little featurette about McDreamy and McSteamy heating up the screen for all the ladies out there who can’t get enough of them. Repeated clips of McSteamy stepping out of a bathroom with a towel draped around his waist are shown more than once, so those who get overly excited really fast, don’t tell me I didn’t warn you.
“Good Medicine: Favorite Scenes” seems to be a wasted opportunity, as the comments on the scenes don’t really feel all that justified, but the “In Stiches: Season Four Outtakes” more than makes up for it, making Grey’s Anatomy, for all its mopey eyed moments, look like the most fun show to work on in show business. Everybody’s just letting loose and goofing around, and you can tell that the cast members really love showing up to work everyday, the outtakes being proof of that.
What most fans will probably love the most though are the extended cuts of some of the episodes they saw during the season. With the writer’s strike putting a huge damper on the series, allowing only 17 episodes to provide a true story arc, the writers pushed all they could with the time they had, and it shows, as the extended cuts add a bit more depth and undertone to the stories. Honestly, these cuts do so much more than the requisite deleted scenes that of course come bundled with this package that don’t do anything but elongate scenes that don’t need to be elongated. Overall, though, this package is really stacked and any passing fan of the show will really appreciate all the work that went into making these special features, well, special. Really, the only thing missing here is an autographed scapel from Dr. McDreamy himself, and that sounds awful dangerous to me, even for the TV-14 and up crowd this show is pandering to.