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Case Number 15206

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Private Practice: The Complete First Season

Buena Vista // 2007 // 394 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Kent Dixon (Retired) // December 10th, 2008

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All Rise...

This is the review In Which Judge Kent Dixon Dissects Shonda Rhimes' New Show.

Editor's Note

Our reviews of Private Practice: The Complete Second Season (published October 5th, 2009) and Private Practice: The Complete Third Season (published October 7th, 2010) are also available.

The Charge

Dr. Pete Wilder (Tim Daly): I think we should stop kissing.
Dr. Addison Montgomery (Kate Walsh): Oh.
Pete: I mean, come on, what are we, 12?
Addison: No. We…definitely, you're not.
[Pete leans in for another kiss, but Addison stops him]
Addison: Which is why I do not want to be just another notch in your…acupuncture table.

Dr. Sam Bennett (Taye Diggs): I never…I…I didn't…I am not apologizing to her. She's the one. Naomi hires Addison and then moves her in right next door to me. I saw her naked this morning.
Dr. Cooper Freedman (Paul Adelstein): You saw her naked?
Pete: Does she look good naked?
Sam & Dr. Violet Turner (Amy Brenneman): Focus!

Opening Statement

If there's one gamble in the world of television programming, it's the risk of creating a spin-off series. For every success story like Frasier taking off from a brilliant sit-com like Cheers, there's a total stinker like Joni Loves Chachi or a short-lived misfire like Joey. Much worse than risking a spin-off stinker to a forerunner that is off the air is risking a failure like that from a successful series that's still in production. Happily, Private Practice: The Complete First Season: Extended Edition puts those fears to rest.

Facts of the Case

With her marriage in shambles and no solace in the arms of Dr. Mark "McSteamy" Sloan (Eric Dane), Dr. Addison Montgomery (Kate Walsh) cuts her ties with Seattle Grace Hospital, says goodbye to her Seattle colleagues, and moves to L.A. for a new lease on life in Private Practice. Joining a somewhat motley group of doctors from a diverse array of medical specialties, Addison finds both her personal and professional boundaries stretched.

The core cast includes:

• Dr. Addison Montgomery (Kate Walsh, Grey's Anatomy), a highly regarded neo-natal surgeon and a fellow of the American College of Surgeons, Addison is also a board certified OB-GYN with fellowships in maternal-fetal medicine and medical genetics. Looking for a new start, Addison moves to L.A. to join her friend Naomi at her exclusive practice, Oceanview Wellness Center.

• Dr. Pete Wilder (Tim Daly, Wings), an alternative medicine specialist, Pete used to work as a Doctor Without Borders physician. He and Addison very quickly develop an intense physical attraction that threatens to complicate their professional relationship.

• Dr. Naomi Bennett (Audra McDonald, The Bedford Diaries), a fertility specialist and endocrinologist and one of Addison's oldest friends, it's Naomi's invitation that temps Addison away from Seattle.

• Dr. Charlotte King (KaDee Strickland, American Gangster), Chief of Staff and doctor at St. Ambrose Hospital, Charlotte uses a tough exterior to keep people from getting too close and grudgingly works with the team at Oceanview on special cases.

• Dr. Violet Turner (Amy Brenneman, Judging Amy), the resident psychiatrist, Charlotte has relationship, dependency and trust issues, and can't see that her close friend Cooper may actually be in love with her.

• Dr. Cooper Freedman (Paul Adelstein, Prison Break), Oceanview's skilled pediatrician, Cooper bounces from online relationship to one-night-stand, looking for love in all the wrong places.

• Dr. Sam Bennett (Taye Diggs, Kevin Hill), Naomi's ex-husband, Sam is a successful internal medicine specialist and published author who can't seem to remember why he and his wife broke up.

• Dr. William "Dell" Parker (Chris Lowell, Veronica Mars), a trained midwife with a remarkably mature outlook on life, for someone so young, Dell is more than just Oceanview's resident boy toy.

All nine episodes of the show's first season are spread over three discs as follows:

Disc One
• "In Which We Meet Addison, a Nice Girl From Somewhere Else"
• "In Which Sam Receives an Unexpected Visitor"
• "In Which Addison Finds the Magic"
• "In Which Addison Has a Very Casual Get Together"

Disc Two
• "In Which Addison Finds a Shower Head"
• "In Which Charlotte Goes Down the Rabbit Hole"
• "In Which Sam Gets Taken for a Ride"
• "In Which Cooper Finds a Port in His Storm"

Disc Three
• "In Which Dell Finds His Fight"

The Evidence

Grey's Anatomy executive producer and creator Shonda Rhimes must have a lot of time on her hands. While she was knee-deep in production on the third season of her multi-award winning series, she had time to get the ball rolling on a sister project that would bring together an entirely new and unique ensemble cast. Not only would the cast be unique, but while being essentially a medical show, Private Practice would take a different look at both the medical practice and the interpersonal relationships of the doctors.

The benefit of launching a spin-off concept from an existing award-winner like Grey's Anatomy is that you can build on the strengths while exploring new directions with your characters and storylines. Proving that Private Practice is building on a strong foundation, the show has already received People's Choice and Image Award nominations, and composers Chad Fischer and Tim Bright won a 2008 BMI TV Music Award for their work on the show's score.

Launching a new series and cultivating a loyal audience is a challenge at the best of times, but how do you avoid fracturing your existing series' audience? Who knows at what stage the development of Private Practice was at before the Writer's Guild of America strike all but cut the legs out of the entertainment industry between November 2007 and February 2008. Viewers are still seeing and feeling the repercussions of the strike months later as new shows like The Bionic Woman were cancelled before they had a fair chance to develop a following. Strong shows like Prison Break, , Heroes, Grey's Anatomy and others felt the pinch as well, forced into abbreviated seasons of as few as 13 episodes, or in the case of Private Practice: The Complete First Season: Extended Edition, a mere nine. It's likely the strength of Grey's Anatomy and the writing and production skill of Shonda Rhimes that kept Private Practice alive under those difficult and challenging circumstances.

Fans of Grey's and TV fans in general may be asking, "Why bother watching Private Practice? Isn't it just more of the same?" I'm happy to say that while Private Practice launched during the two part season finale of Grey's and it features one of the core characters of that show, this is where the similarities end. As much as Private Practice is about medicine, patients and unique cases, it is also about relationships, both blossoming and in crisis. Even the show's name implies that while these people are confident experts in their chosen fields of medicine, they are realistic human beings who are learning to trust, love and develop healthy relationships.

What's missing from Private Practice that fans have come to expect from Grey's? Meredith Grey's (Ellen Pompeo) incessant whining and indecision. I for one do not miss that at all and in fact, as I said in my reviews of Grey's Anatomy: Season Three and Grey's Anatomy: Season Four, Meredith's constant complaining and failure to act on relationship opportunities is one of the weaknesses of that show. We get it already, you're conflicted, move on!

One of the other instantly noticeable differences between Grey's Anatomy and Private Practice is the color palette. While the look and feel of Grey's leans towards cooler colors and a more clinical feeling, Private Practice reflects the California setting with warm orange and amber tones, reproduced faithfully in this release. There is no fault to be found in the video presentation at all as colors are strong, but not overpowering, and contrast is sharp throughout all the episodes. The audio presentation is also solid, but not surprisingly, this will not be a reference presentation to test your speakers. Dialogue is clear, the show's score compliments the overall mix, and use of the surround channels pulls the viewer in, adding sound effects and ambient sounds to complete the experience.

There is a solid offering of extra features included on this release, beginning with screen-specific audio commentaries on three episodes from creator Shonda Rhimes, producer Betsy Beers and Kate Walsh; actors Paul Adelstein and Amy Brenneman; and actors Chris Lowell and Taye Diggs. The first commentary is by far the strongest, as Rhimes and Beers delve into the show's development and creation, joined by Walsh, who is just plain fun to hear. The actor commentaries offer moments of insight, and character development and interaction, but are not as strong as the first track.

Both the "In Which We Meet Addison, a Nice Girl From Somewhere Else" and "In Which Addison finds the Magic" episodes have been extended by re-incorporating scenes that were previously removed due to broadcast time restrictions. The deleted scenes don't include any dramatic character revelations or plot points, but it's nice to see the episodes in their final form as intended by the writers and production team. The set also includes two featurettes, beginning with "Kate Walsh: Practice Makes Perfect," which follows Walsh's career from her early days on stage to her ultimately landing the lead role in Private Practice. Running just over half an hour, and one of the best short featurettes I have seen on any TV boxed set to date, viewers get a strong biography, with friends, family and colleagues weighing in on Walsh, both personally and professionally. "Alternate Ensemble: Behind the Scenes of Private Practice" is just as the titles implies, a behind-the-scenes look at production of the series. The extra features are rounded out with some bloopers and deleted scenes.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

With so many strong characters in one ensemble cast, will the show's creators be able to do justice to the talent they've gathered? Only time will tell.

I'm still feeling the sting of the pre-season replacement of Merrin Dungey, who had originally been cast as Addison Montgomery's friend Naomi Bennett. The rumors seem to be that the chemistry between Kate Walsh and Dungey was not as strong as it needed to be to launch the series, but as a viewer and fan of Dungey's work on Alias and other projects, I felt she was an excellent choice for the role.

Closing Statement

With the creative power of Shonda Rhimes backing it and a strong, albeit short first season in the can, fans are likely to enjoy the warm sunshine and quirky relationships of Private Practice for years to come.

The Verdict

Although fans would likely have appreciated a greater offering of extra features, the audio-visual presentation is a real treat, making Private Practice: The Complete First Season: Extended Edition an easy purchase to recommend for fans of both Grey's Anatomy and Private Practice. Not guilty of anything but fractured relationships.

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Scales of Justice

Video: 90
Audio: 90
Extras: 85
Acting: 90
Story: 85
Judgment: 90

Perp Profile

Studio: Buena Vista
Video Formats:
• 1.78:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Subtitles:
• English
• French
• Spanish
Running Time: 394 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Genres:
• Drama
• Romance
• Television

Distinguishing Marks

• Episode commentaries
• "Kate Walsh: Practice Makes Perfect"
• "Alternative Ensemble"
• Extended episodes
• Deleted scenes
• Outtakes

Accomplices

• IMDb
• Official Site








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