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Grey's Anatomy: Season One

Television is a medium that falls back, time and again, on oft-used formulas. The main reason, as in most aspects of this business we call show, is financial — if it's made money in the past, TV execs reckon, it'll probably make money this time around, too. And the reason that these tried-and-true formulas continue to work is comfort. Television is beamed directly into our homes to be watched while we eat dinner, play with our children, thumb through magazines, clip our toenails… and as much as we all complain that TV is a vast wasteland of repetitive pap, truly innovative programming is almost always rejected by the majority of viewers. Most of us don't want to be challenged by TV — we want our nighttime soaps, police procedurals, and medical dramas, thank you very much. But being the fickle beings that we are, we also want something with a bit of a twist — it should be a lot like other shows we've seen before, but not exactly like shows we've seen before (cf. the many permutations of "Law and Order"). However, the key to success is to also offer likable characters, interesting storylines, and crisp, fresh dialogue.

In March, 2005 the latest doctor show on the block, Grey's Anatomy, came to ABC-TV. The nuts and bolts of the show were all pulled from the same big Dumpster of spare parts from which showrunners cobble their shiny new programs — Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo) is a smart, pretty, terrifyingly skinny young med school graduate starting her first year as a surgical intern at Seattle Grace Hospital. On her first day, Meredith boots a handsome bar pickup (Patrick Dempsey) out of her bed before heading off for her first day of work, where she meets her fellow interns (introduced with the warning "Meet your competition") and quickly creates a close bond with four of her colleagues — driven, prickly Cristina Yang (Sandra Oh), former model Isobel "Izzie" Stevens (Katherine Heigl), arrogant pretty-boy Alex Karev (Justin Chambers), and insecure, good-hearted George O'Malley (T.R. Knight). Meredith's mother, a renowned surgeon (Kate Burton), has Alzheimer's, so to help pay the expenses on her mother's home — and, let's face it, to facilitate storytelling — George and Izzie also become Meredith's roommates. In the premiere episode, which sets up all of the above with alacrity and humor, the interns meet their surgical advisor, ominously known as "The Nazi" — Dr. Miranda Bailey (Chandra Wilson), who turns out to be a thirtysomething, pregnant black woman (George: "I thought the Nazi would be a guy." Meredith: "I thought the Nazi would be— a Nazi"). Meredith also discovers, to her chagrin, that her conquest from the night before is attending physician Dr. Derek Sheppard, making him her boss (Derek: "Actually, I'm your boss's boss"), setting up a deliciously illicit attraction between the two, as well as a number of very human complications when the other interns discover that one of their friends/competitors may have an unfair advantage thanks to the wholly inappropriate relationship — all of which is made even more complicated by the surprise arrival of Sheppard's estranged wife, a respected pediatric specialist (Kate Walsh).

Grey's Anatomy is a painlessly addictive show, combining as it does compelling medical drama — the cases that the interns face each week have ranged from 40-pound tumors to a pregnant burn victim and a man afflicted with seizures who believes he's psychic — with human interaction that's a little soapy, a little snarky and wickedly well written. The cast is uniformly superb and the writers cannily allow each actor to stretch in the parts, making each character unusually well-rounded for a network TV program. Buena Vista's two-disc Season One release offers the first nine episodes (by premiering mid-season, the first year was a short one) in anamorphic widescreen (1.78:1) with DD 5.1 audio. Like most of the new generation of TV dramas, the creators obviously put a lot of thought into the look and sound of the show — it's beautifully shot, and the audio plays up the wide range of ambient sounds, showcasing the intriguing music choices without losing clarity in the talkier scenes. Bonus features include optional commentaries on some episodes by creator Shonda Rhimes and director Peter Horton or actors Oh, Heigl, and Knight; the "making-of" featurettes "Under the Knife: Behind the Scenes of Grey's Anatomy" (11 min.), "Anatomy of a Pilot," a condensed version of the premiere episode with optional commentary by Rhimes and Horton (12 min.); five deleted scenes; an alternate title sequence (which is arguably better than the one they ultimately went with); and a funny, bizarre, black-and-white "avant grade trailer" that makes the show look like a French art film (2 min.). Dual-DVD keep-case with sleeve.
—Dawn Taylor

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