Judge Kent Dixon is still confused why he had to turn his head and cough for this review.
Dr. Naomi Bennett (Audra McDonald): I wish I was a little bit more like
Cutting the Grey's Anatomy apron strings, Private Practice struck out on its own in 2008, taking one of the series' leads with it, but is there enough new material and are the characters interesting enough to sustain the show in the long run?
Facts of the Case
It's not all fun in the sun, as the staff of Oceanside Wellness group struggle with the ups and downs of keeping their struggling practice afloat while caring for patients, dealing with professional challenges and personal struggles, all while trying to have private lives of their own.
Private Practice: The Complete Second Season includes all 22 season two episodes, spread over six discs as follows:
Fortunately for Shonda Rhimes, when she decided to spin off a new series from Grey's Anatomy, she had a strong actor like Kate Walsh she could steal to anchor the new ensemble. Despite a slightly different medical setting and some slightly different character dynamics, Private Practice isn't all that different from its parent program. There was enough novelty to carry the show through its short first season, but a full 22-episode second season really managed to show some of the series' warts.
I've been a big fan of Kate Walsh's portrayal of Addison Montgomery since she first appeared as a supporting character on Grey's in 2007. Initially causing friction between fans' beloved on-again-off-again Meredith and Derek, Addison quickly evolved into a character with grace, integrity and class. So when the decision came for Addison to move back to California and leave the show, fans in my household were rooting for Walsh and eagerly anticipating the new series. It wasn't long before I was completely confused. Why had such an amazing character degenerated so quickly into a bubble-headed adolescent who seemed to want to jump every guy with a pulse? Not only that, but the same disease seemed to have infected the other skilled cast members as well. The writers either need to expand their themes beyond collegiate bedroom antics and shallow relationships or Private Practice may become just another network TV casualty.
On the bright side, Season Two gave the cast of Private Practice the writing support they needed to delve into their characters more deeply while giving the producers the time they needed to stretch their legs. Grey's fans will have likely checked into Oceanside Wellness from the beginning and for them, Season Two is filled with more of what they came to love at Seattle Grace: medical drama, torrid affairs, complicated relationships and occasional comic relief. Season Two saw the show coming more into its own and finding its own identity apart from Grey's, but given the considerable talent and acting chops of the series' ensemble the show remains grounded in the "average" category. The sophomoric affairs and shallow relationships that pervade the show are significantly out of balance with the ethical and moral issues the show tackles with tact and depth.
Likely the most noticeable character evolution in the entire cast between Seasons One and Two is Dell Parker (Chris Lowell, Veronica Mars). Starting out pretty much as eye candy for the 30-something women on the show, Parker has quickly evolved into one of the more developed characters on the series, dealing with issues of single parenthood and coping with an addict ex-wife. Now if the writers can just manage to deliver some more meaningful plotlines for the other actors, the series might rise above the crowd. It's hard to tell whether the series will stand the test of time and manage to grow its audience, but despite somewhat soft ratings in the first half of the season, Season Two has managed to rally and amass some wins in both the NAACP Image and People's Choice Awards.
Private Practice: The Complete Second Season picks up the audio and video torch nicely from the Season One release, delivering a clear and crisp viewing experience throughout. If you're like me and do a lot of your viewing in the Blu-ray realm, don't let yourself be so jaded that you don't recognize this as a solid SD release. My one complaint is that since the majority of the scenes are shot on sets, there are times when the picture is a bit darker than I would like to see on a recent TV release. While dialogue-heavy like most other dramas, the audio is clear and well balanced when combined with music. The menu design is refreshing, featuring the core cast in an assortment of full-motion clips supported by a catchy music track.
On the extras front, "Patient Confidentiality: Examining Season 2" addresses the conscious decision that was made to focus the stories of Season Two on deeper moral and ethical situations. This new approach allowed greater character depth while also presenting both sides of ethical grey areas without preaching to the audience. "Life Through the Lens: The Pictures of Chris Lowell" showcases the amazing photography talents of one of the series' core actors. Both "Crime and Punishment"and "Nothing to Fear" are extended on this release, and deleted scenes and producer commentaries are included for the episodes "A Family Thing," "Equal and Opposite," "Nothing to Talk About," "Past Tense," "Let it Go," "Know When to Fold," "Worlds Apart," "Contamination," "Homeward Bound," "Wait and See," "Finishing," "What Women Want," and "What You Do For Love." Finally, the standard blooper reel rounds out the somewhat average McExtras offering on this release.
Looking back on my review of Season One, I have to wonder if I was either too kind to the series at the beginning, or if I'm being too hard on it now. I think it comes down to being spoiled by some moments of great writing and character development on the series so far and I simply want more. Private Practice: The Complete Second Season will be a "must have" for fans that delivers the first full-season taste of a sophomore series that will hopefully continue to gains its footing.
Providing the writing staff can keep tackling the tough issues with objectivity and class, while keeping the whining and college dorm antics to a minimum, Private Practice just may have a long run ahead. Not guilty.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: ABC Studios
• Extended Episode
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