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Grey's Anatomy: Season Four Expanded Blu-ray Review

Grey’s Anatomy hardly needs any introduction, particularly to the ladies in love (lust?) with Patrick Dempsey, who portrays Dr. Derek Shepherd on the popular prime-time drama. Although it enjoys the same mainstream popularity as E.R. did in its heyday, Grey’s Anatomy’s equal focus on human relationships distances the show from its predecessor, although it certainly owes a great deal to E.R., which paved the way for Grey’s success. Still Grey’s Anatomy is and always has been anything but an E.R. clone; sure, it includes some medical-themed drama and E.R-like scenarios, but the meat of the show — and what makes it so popular — is its exploration of the dynamics and personal issues of its primary characters.

Disney/Touchstone’s Grey’s Anatomy: Season Four Expanded edition on Blu-ray Disc offers fans a chance to catch up on the most-recent season just in time to engross themselves in season five. Of course, with the 1080p picture, it also gives the ladies a chance to see the good Mr. Dempsey in high definition. The fourth season spans a range of topics, from medical calamities like a teenager whose brain is impaled by a pencil to a deep exploration of the dynamics between two terminal cancer patients who’ve fallen in love. Because this box set is comprised of the show’s fourth season, the writing is tight and the plot development impressive throughout each episode, which isn’t really surprising. What is slightly surprising, however, is that even as this Blu-ray set includes two expanded episodes (hence the “Season Four Expanded” title), those two episodes aren’t cluttered, but are deepened by the new content. Normally “director’s cut” type programs like this tend to drag, but in the case of Grey’s Anatomy, the added content retains the quality for which the series is known.

One of the benefits of network TV shows like Grey’s Anatomy coming to Blu-ray is that most high-profile programs are filmed with HDTV in mind. As such, the AVC encoding on this Blu-ray set has exquisite color, clarity and contrast, the latter of which is somewhat surprising, considering medical facilities don’t exactly offer the most diverse color palettes. The black levels are also good, and although there are occasional instances of softness, the detail of the 1080p transfer is solid. In fact, it’s not far-fetched to say Grey’s Anatomy Season Four looks better on Blu-ray than it did during its original broadcast on ABC. This isn’t entirely surprising, as there’s no interference to account for via satellite or digital cable, but it still makes for an impressive showing.

“Impressive” is normally the same description we’d use to describe an uncompressed PCM 5.1 audio mix, which is the default setting for Grey’s Anatomy: Season Four Expanded (it also has a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix). However, although there’s nothing technically wrong with the uncompressed track, no matter how clear dialogue may be, it’s not exactly a showcase for a surround-sound system. As expected from a TV show on Blu-ray, the mix relies heavily on the front speakers, with periodic hospital environmental audio giving a hint of ambiance through the rear.

Each of the four discs on Grey’s Anatomy: Season Four Expanded includes a bonus feature of some sort, with the majority coming on Disc Four. It’s impressive, though, to see how much attention was paid to the commentary tracks, as each of the first three discs has a full-length segment. On the first disc, actress Chyler Leigh and Associate Producer Karin Gleason provide commentary for the episode “A Change is Gonna Come,” with a surprisingly casual banter that gives some interesting context and insight into the production of the fourth season’s first episode. The second disc, meanwhile, offers a commentary track for “Forever Young,” one of the two extended episodes in this set. This track supposedly features actress Lauren Stamile and Director Rob Corn, but Corn’s comments about the show outshine Stamile’s by a mile, perhaps because Corn had more of an inside role in this episode. It’s too bad, too, because while Corn’s insight is interesting, he’s pretty dry, and Stamile could almost certainly have injected a bit more life into this commentary track. The third disc features the final commentary track, this one for the second extended episode, “The Becoming.” Although this track also features a director (Julie Anne Robinson) and an actress (Sandra Oh), it’s much more balanced in terms of who says what, and it’s not nearly as dry. Maybe Corn’s just a boring guy….

Disc Four marks the treasure trove of bonus features in Grey’s Anatomy: Season Four Expanded on Blu-ray, with six separate features, all filmed in high definition. The first feature, On Set with Patrick and Eric (5:30), panders pretty overtly to the female audience, as it’s basically a profile piece for Patrick Dempsey and Eric Dane. Sure, there’s character insight, but let’s face it: this feature is all about eye candy. The remaining features, though, are much more traditional, appropriate, and actually come across feeling like movie bonuses in many respects. In Stitches (4:30) includes a variety of Season four bloopers, while Good Medicine Favorite Scenes (13:45) is comprised of brief interviews with the cast in which they talk about their favorite scenes from this season. These are nice additions to the set, but they’re arguably a bit pedestrian. The others are not. Dissecting Grey’s Anatomy: Unaired Scenes (12:00) includes deleted scenes from throughout the season, a clear indicator that the producers could have extended more than the two episodes they chose to extend for this Blu-ray release. Although none of the scenes is bad (it’s Grey’s Anatomy — how could they be?), it’s still clear why the extended episodes were chosen and these were left on the cutting-room floor. It’s nice to see them, but really, they were wisely cut. Speaking of cut, One Quick Cut (4:30) is the perfect bonus feature for series newbies or people in need of a quick series recap, as it provides a highlight reel of sorts for the first three seasons. But New Docs on the Block (8:00) is by far the most appropriate bonus feature, if not the most entertaining. Grey’s Anatomy Season Four introduced several new characters, and this bonus feature profiles the new females among them (and the actresses themselves). These profiles may be a bit beyond (or overkill for) those who aren’t hardcore series fans, but really, those series fans are likely the only ones who will buy this Blu-ray set anyway, so this is an ideal opportunity to get to better know the characters and actresses who move the show forward.

Grey’s Anatomy is one of prime-time TV’s most popular shows, and with Season Four, the writers, directors and actors really began to gel and bump the intensity up a notch. If you’re excited for Season Five and want to delve deeper into some of the series’ new characters, the release of Grey’s Anatomy: Season Four Expanded on Blu-ray is about as close as you can come to required viewing.

Buy Grey’s Anatomy: The Complete Fourth Season on Blu-ray at a discount over at Amazon.

Score: 7.9

— Jonas Allen

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