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A view from the Blu (-ray) on DVDBeaver by Leonard Norwitz


A Little Background     Openers     


    Modus Operandi     The Scorecard:     

Emotive Connection      Audio     Operations    Extras     The Movie     Equipment




(Grey's Anatomy: Season 4 - Expanded) [Blu-ray]


(Created by Shonda Rhimes, 2007)







Review by Leonard Norwitz



Theatrical: ABC Studios

Blu-ray: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment



Region: All

Runtime: 740 min

Chapters: 16

Size: 50 GB

Case: Expanded Amaray Blu-ray case

Release date: September 9, 2008



Aspect ratio: 1.78:1

Resolution: 1080p

Video codec: AVC



Feature: English 5.1 Uncompressed PCM (48 kHz/16-bit). Extras: English 5.1 DD



Feature: English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Malay, and more



• Extended Episodes

• Audio Commentaries

• Featurette: New Docs on the Block

• Featurette: On Set with Patrick & Eric (05:38)

• Featurette: Good Medicine: Farewell Scenes (13:50)

• Featurette: Dissecting Grey's Anatomy

• In Stitches: Season 4 Outtakes (04:33)

• One Quick Cut: Recap of Season 1, 2, & 3 (04:20)

• Season Play



The Film:

Grey's Anatomy begins its fifth season on ABC just as season four has the honor of being the first installment of the series to appear on Blu-ray, coinciding with its DVD incarnation. The previous three seasons have already been available on DVD beginning back in February 2006.

For those of us that can wait six months to a year, watching TV shows via high definition video disc is definitely the way to go. No commercials. You can stop and return to the show wherever you want without concern to overfilling your hard drive. Then there are all those bonus features, commentaries and the occasional expanded episode – as we have here.

For those of you who have not been following the show, either as it aired or on DVD (or both), Grey's Anatomy might be thought of as ER-light, which only makes sense when you consider that the setting for ER leaves less room for shenanigans or, for that matter, hope. I haven't kept track, but my guess is that fewer patients walk out of the hospital on ER than Grey's Anatomy. In
any case, on ER, their fate is generally sealed in a single episode, leaving character and plot arcs more or less to the doc's.

The first hospital drama I got hooked on was a half-hour show called: Medic back in the mid-1950s. Each episode was introduced by a dead-serious Richard Boone (afterward to turn in his scalpel for a six shooter on Have Gun Will Travel) – in character as Dr. Konrad Styner and in surgical garb, as I recall it. There was little room for intramural sports on the show, though
we did get to learn more about personal lives as the series went on. What every TV hospital show owes to Medic is its attempt at realism and attention to medical and surgical procedure, which has become standard operating procedure since.



Medic's creator and principal writer was James E. Moser, who went on to write the more popular and, some would say, more vacuous, Ben Casey, where the exploitation of relationships in a hospital setting - long the domain of daytime soaps – began to leak through the sutures. Let me see - there was one called General Hospital that's been around for a while - it was more about
what went on between staff at home than in the doctor's office or under the knife.

But I think the first show to manage both medicine and personnel, credibly and creditably, was St. Elsewhere, which Grey's Anatomy resembles in a number of ways. By comparison to St. Elsewhere, Grey's Anatomy has little to say about substantive issues. It's just not that kind of show. It is, on the other hand, very hip - how could it be otherwise with Shonda Rhimes at the
helm (How long did it take you to notice that every episode from Season One on is titled after a song?) Grey's Anatomy is a well-produced series, filled with interesting three-dimensional characters. Maybe they spend more time bed hopping than is necessary to keep me interested, but things could be worse. You could be watching reruns of Ben Casey.

Season Four : 5
The title of the show is a clever play on the famous classic medical text of that name – a text, by the way, I had more than a casual look at when I would watch Medic – and the name of its lead character, Dr. Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo), who started off in season one as a surgical resident at Seattle Grace. Meredith is the daughter of the renowned surgeon, Ellis Grey, about whose
backstory, Meredith's fortunes rise and fall, not least in the sudden appearance of her half sister by way of Ellis in the opening of season four.

I wouldn't expect folks to come at this series fresh just because it makes its first entrance on high def video with season four. That said, the season does make allowances: For good or ill, a number of the shows' regulars did not come back for this season, making room for a whole slate of fresh-faced, wide-eyed interns facing the now seasoned, generally cynical residents - so one could jump in in medias res. The series depends on our making a connection with the characters. The writing, for this season anyway, is not of particularly high quality. (Even in translation, the Korean hospital drama series, Inside the White Tower, is better written.) The situations are familiar enough: A great many people, in and out of doctor's garb, spend their time lying down, or wish they were, or wish they weren't. You'll know soon enough if the show is for you.


Image: 7/8.5
The first number indicates a relative level of excellence compared to other Blu-ray video discs on a ten-point scale. The second number places this image along the full range of DVDs, including SD 480i.

Grey's Anatomy is broadcast by ABC in HD. But like most networks, ABC doesn't make an effort to clarify the distinction between 720p, 1080i and 1080p for their audience – and early on I didn't think I was really seeing much of a difference myself. Certainly, I had viewed material in 1080p that was not as good as some in 1080i. Add to that the variables of transmission and reception
and it can be difficult to make an informed judgment.




In any case, as far as I know, Grey's Anatomy is typical of ABC HD broadcast in that it is 720p, which is just fine for the large majority of those who watch the program. The Blu-ray, on the other hand, is a full 1080p, which means that this time around, the picture should look denser, more vibrant. While not as snappy as the best live action theatrical exhibits, the overall impression I have from this Blu-ray is that is it a bit soft and vague and less dynamic – if I may be permitted to apply that term to image quality. Bit rates are typically in the upper teens. I'd be surprised if it weren't noticeably better looking than the original broadcast, regardless of the medium.








Audio & Music: 7/9
The show's main title theme is from "Cosy in the Rocket" by the British experimental electronica duo, Psapp. It's a grabber, hitting just the right note for me, and provides some of the impetus for the background score and other songs used throughout the series. Music by current artists plays a key role for Grey’s Anatomy, since each episode of the show is named after a song, which, in turn, relates to the storyline. The music track is neatly blended with the dialog and other environmental sounds. The dialog is clear enough so that I didn't have to resort to subtitles. Surrounds are, as expected for a show like this, pretty quiet.




Operations: 8
Grey's Anatomy Season 4 touts as one of its operational features something that has been SOP with Sony (and some other) DVD players for some while. Disney calls it SeasonPlay. It's a feature still not available on most Blu-ray players, including Sony: Memory! It used to be, you could remove a DVD from players gifted with this ability and when reinserted, even with other DVDs intervening, the player would remember where you left off – and voila! Now something like this ability is built into the Blu-ray disc itself – on this title at least. You can immediately see the value of it for a series with as many five episodes on a single disc. You finish one episode and, as much as you want to see what happens next, you fold your hand for the evening, maybe the week, but you're able to pick up where you left off – even in the middle of an episode – next time you pop in the disc. It would be nice if upon loading, the disc went straight to SeasonPlay. But alas not. When activated, SeasonPlay is merely the first menu item that pops up, prompting you to go directly where you left off. On disc 1 you still have to wade through the promos each time. On discs 2-4, there are no promos, so that's a plus So it's not quite like the old days where you could just pop in and play. But it's a useful feature anyhow.


Extras: 5
Let's begin with the Expanded Episodes – of which, so say the box and the menus, there are two. I counted four, or something very like it. The time for the broadcast for each episode is 43 minutes, give or take a few seconds. The two expanded episodes (The Becoming and Forever Young) are 54:00 and 48:38 minutes respectively; but there are also two others (Kung-Fu Fighting and Physical Attraction. . . Chemical Reaction) that are 48 minutes, give or take. Were these two longer at broadcast? The remaining bonus features are pretty small potatoes. I liked the montage presented in One Quick Cut, a recap of Season 1, 2, & 3, and the general good humor in On Set with Patrick & Eric. The producer and cast members recall their favorite scenes from the season in Good Medicine. A few of the episodes are accompanied by commentaries.



Bottom line: 6
For fans of the show, you couldn't ask for a much better-looking picture. The Extra features aren't all that much, but considering the first three seasons probably gobbled up the most interesting possibilities, what is here is at least adequate.


Leonard Norwitz
September 13, 1408










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