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GREY'S ANATOMY
Season One

Review by Ed Nguyen

Stars: Ellen Pompeo, Katherine Heigl, Sandra Oh, T.R. Knight, Patrick Dempsey, Justin Chambers, Chandra Wilson, Isaiah Washington
Directors: Peter Horton, John David Coles, Adam Davidson
Audio: English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
Subtitles: English
Video: Color, anamorphic widescreen 1.78:1
Studio: Buena Vista
Features: Anatomy of a Pilot, Dissecting Grey's Anatomy, Behind the Scenes of Grey's Anatomy, trailer and promotional ad, pilot episode commentaries
Length: 387 minutes
Release Date: February 14, 2006

"Surgery is hot.  It's the Marines.  It's macho.  It's hostile.  It's hardcore!"

Episodes ****

Grey's Anatomy is either of two things.  It is a reference book universally recognized (or abhorred) everywhere by beleaguered and sleep-deprived medical students.  Or, it is a hit television show with legions of sleep-deprived fans and wannabe medical students.  Reviewing a medical reference book is tantamount to death through stupefying boredom, whereas reviewing the nine episodes which comprise Season One of the television show is a wonderfully addictive experience.

Grey's Anatomy focuses on the quaint craziness and never-ending stress in the life of a pretty first-year surgical intern named Meredith Grey.  Naturally, she's brilliant with a famous surgeon as a mother (one rarely encounters stupid doctors or lawyers on television), but being smart with good genes hardly prepares Meredith for the insanity of the in-hospital experience.  Imagine being on-call every other night, standing for hours on end without a bathroom break in the operating theater, or going to bed so late that you bump into yourself waking up for the next work day.  Really, who in their right mind wants to become a surgeon?  It's sheer madness but it certainly makes for great vicarious entertainment.  Watching the misery of other people is always terribly fun, isn't it?

Over the course of the first nine episodes of Grey's Anatomy, Meredith finds romance and meets new friends and roommates among the other interns.  Some days are harder than others, but every day is a constant struggle against fatigue, unwieldy or demanding people, inter-relational friction, and oh yes, those darn pesky ailments which are the entire reason for a hospital's existence.  Yet above all the ceaseless work and lack of sleep, Meredith clings to the one ideal that will someday make her a truly fine doctor - the patient always comes first, and the patient's needs are paramount to all other considerations.

Check out the nine episodes of the first season of Grey's Anatomy below for an orientation to the sometimes madcap, sometimes heartbreaking milieu of life in a big city hospital!

1) A Hard Day's Night

"Honey, you get to do rectal exams."

Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo) reports for her first day as a new surgical intern at Seattle Grace Hospital.  Unfortunately, her attending physician, Derek Shepherd (Patrick Dempsey), turns out to be none other than her one-night stand from the previous evening!  The other attending physician, cool cucumber Dr. Burke (Isaiah Washington), is hardly a warm and fuzzy teddy bear, either.  Then, there is also the evil nazi from hell, Miranda Bailey (Chandra Wilson).  She's actually Meredith's surgical resident, but that is saying the same thing, really.

On Meredith's first day, she is assigned as one of four interns for Dr. Bailey to use and abuse.  The other three are the competitive Cristina Yang (Sandra Oh), effervescent former model Izzie Stevens (Katherine Heigl), and boyishly insecure George O'Malley (T.R. Knight), who quickly acquires the hardly flattering nickname 007, or "licensed to kill."  A thorn in everyone's side is smug intern Alex Karev (Justin Chambers), just the sort of obnoxious and smirking doctor who seemingly exists for no other reason than to be regarded with the utmost vitriolic disdain.  Meredith's remaining comrades-in-misery include several other new scut monkeys, uh, interns, but these are the principal ones around which the show will revolve.

The welcoming speech at the interns' orientation provides a downright miserable forecast.  Eight interns will probably switch to easier fields of medicine, five will probably crack under the pressure, two will eventually be asked to leave, and only one might survive the seven year training program.  That's Darwinism at its cruelest and most cut-throat.  Welcome to surgical medicine.  It's not a game for the timid or the meek.  Too bad it's only just the first day, and things are hardly going to get much easier!

 

2) The First Cut is the Deepest

"Do I look happy?  No.  Why?  Because my interns are WHINY."

Let's be perfectly frank now.  If a sick elderly person dies, well at least he had a long life.  It's tragic, yes, but c'est la mort.  If on the other hand a sick child dies, the tragedy is many times worse.  Life shouldn't be so short, and children deserve more than only a few years, or even hours, of it.  Imagine then how stressful working in the neonatal intensive care unit or hospital nursery can be at times.  Meredith experiences this potential heartbreak while observing a distressed and hypoxic infant, while George has the thankless job of running one unsuccessful resuscitation code after another on terminal patients.

Interesting cases in this episode include a Chinese patient that nobody understands and a rape victim who, shall we say, decided to fight back and take a bite out of crime.  On the brighter side, Meredith finally finds new roommates among her own fellow interns, George and Izzie!  And perhaps the coy, little cat-and-mouse chase between Meredith and Dr. Shepherd is not just a one-night fling after all.

3) Winning a Battle, Losing the War

"Don't mingle with the ER interns.  They don't know their ass from their esophagus."

Ah, what would a hospital drama be without the inevitable bone-headed injuries from a sporting event?  When an informal cycling race results in a steady stream of varying traumas, Seattle Grace Hospital becomes the dumping ground for the mangled and the miserable.

Surgeons are not only bone-sawers but also notorious back-stabbers.  It has something to do with that pyramid scheme for advancement.  Oh sure, they don't talk about it, like it's an urban legend, but it's for real.  Naturally, a show about surgeons has to touch upon this, as the surgical interns begin to push and shove over the right up mend up the injured.  The most interesting case of the day turns out to be a brain-dead patient and the subsequent race against time to contact his family and to harvest his organs before he expires.  The man's death from an avoidable biking accident is a tragedy, but the organs he provides will save the lives of many others.  Where fate or destiny closes a door, somewhere else it opens a window.

4) No Man's Land

"You know what, any patient who spanks to his doctor's pictures forfeits his rights."

Work-related injuries are the bread-and-butter of trauma surgeons and emergency room doctors.  When a particularly unlucky construction worker arrives after having stumbled and shoot himself in the head seven times with a nail gun, the Seattle Grace Hospital surgeons have their hands full, with Meredith struggling to stabilize the patient post-op.

Ever-competitive Cristina takes care of a very popular former scrub nurse.  This particular patient naturally who knows all the tricks and maneuvers pulled by gung-ho interns for the right to stand in on the really sexy surgeries - in this case, the nurse's own impending pancreatoduodenectomy for an adenocarcinoma of the pancreas.  That's a real mouthful!  Of course, with the nurse's words of wisdom, perhaps Cristina begins to appreciate that blindly aggressive medicine is not always the right medicine.

And naturally, we cannot have a title like Grey's Anatomy without some titillation, right?  In this episode, gossip circulates about a lingerie ad from Izzie's former days as a model.  And George learns that life with two female housemates is not a bed of roses, especially after the other male interns begin to tease him about his decidedly non-Alpha male servitude in deference to his housemates' whims and shopping list requests.  An exasperated George is even moved at one point to emphatically protest, "I am a man!  I don't buy girl products!"

5) Shake Your Groove Thing

"You're too damn young to be a doctor!"

If every cigarette packet came with a photograph of a terminally cancerous lung, would people be more inclined to quit smoking?  This very thought occurs to George while he deals with a stubborn, four-pack-a-day smoker.  What is that, about eighty cigarettes daily?  Who can even count up that high?  However, a bullectomy performed on the patient yields a surprising result which drags out an unlikely skeleton from Dr. Burke's closet.

Meredith has her own woes, too.  Aside from family stress involving her ailing mother, Meredith experiences a career scare following complications during a bypass graft surgery.  In her exhaustion, Meredith fears that she may have made a grave mistake.  Herein lies the inherent danger of trying to function with no sleep for forty-eight hours.  It's a situation that probably all doctors, surgeons especially, must confront at some point in their careers.

Despite some repercussions, everyone remains standing by the episode's end.  That's the precariousness of life as a surgeon for you.  On the lighter side, a surprise party at Meredith's house for Izzie's boyfriend gets a little out of control, and Dr. Burke and Cristina, of all people, also start to develop a clandestine relationship, too.

6) If Tomorrow Never Comes

"No good can come from sleeping with your boss."

Ah, young doctors in love.  Apparently, romance is in the air at Seattle Grace Hospital, never mind that fraternization between interns and their attendings is not exactly encouraged.  Save for perpetually annoyed Dr. Bailey, virtually everyone is thinking along lines of intimacy.  Meredith has Dr. Shepherd, Cristina has Dr. Burke, and even George is harboring a secret crush.

As for the actual medicine, this dramatic episode is devoted to two patients, one patient dealing with his progressing Parkinsonian symptoms and the other facing a life-or-death struggle with a sixty-pound tumor.

7) The Self-Destruct Button

"Why do I keep hitting myself with a hammer?  Because it feels so good when I stop."

An alcoholic doctor, a tattooed self-mutilator with a pain fetish, a would-be anorexic suffering from a botched illegal surgery, a man who swallows his girlfriend's keys so she cannot leave him - all are passengers on that one-way ferry ride to Stupidville.  These folks are obviously a few fries short of a Happy Meal.  But where would emergency and trauma centers be unless people insisted on doing silly things?

As for the self-destructive tendencies of private life, Meredith finds that her discreet fling with Dr. Shepherd is becoming less and less of a secret every day.  After her housemates discover the truth (which Cristina has known all along), concerns about preferential treatment begin to bubble over, leaving that tangible twinge of tension in the air.

8) Save Me

"My freak father likes hospital food."

Another day at the hospital, another series of life-or-death struggles.  Cristina takes care of a pregnant cancer patient with a difficult decision before her - whose life to save, hers or the baby's?  It is a case which particularly strikes home for Cristina (for reasons that no one else yet realizes).  Meredith assists Dr. Shepherd in a perplexing case of a man with a rapidly advancing and potentially fatal paralysis.  Alex struggles to solve the dilemma of an orthodox Jewish girl who ironically needs a porcine heart valve to survive.  Most curiously, a possibly psychic patient with a history of seizures has all his doctors wondering and self-guessing themselves; surgery could cure him but might also rob him of his "gift," too.

And lastly, Meredith finally begins to learn more about the secretive Dr. Shepherd's past.  Unfortunately, he leaves out one whopper of a key detail which is not revealed until the stunning season finale.

9) Who's Zoomin' Who?

"You have a camera sneaking up your mojo.  It's not the time to cross me."

In this final episode, an outbreak of syphilis causes a minor scare among the hospital staff.  Really, what do these medical personnel do on their days off?  The interesting cases of the day include an alcoholic with ascites who turns out to have an even more sinister diagnosis and the hospital's own chief of surgery, who starts manifesting ominous symptoms which could jeopardize his career.  Dr. Burke also has to handle a delicate matter involving a patient (and former frat buddy) who has an unusual anatomical anomaly.

Grey's Anatomy started as a mid-season replacement, hence the shortened first season run.  However, even within this short span of nine episodes, as with any successful soap opera Grey's Anatomy lays the foundation of many addictive sub-plots designed to keep viewers coming back for more.  How will the on-going relationship between Meredith and Dr. Shepherd turn out?  What about Cristina and Dr. Burke?  And how will the two attending physicians Shepherd and Burke vie for the position of hospital chief of surgery now that the current chief is possibly ailing?  Will poor George find ever-lasting love, either?  Will Dr. Bailey ever lighten up or remain a perpetual nazi?  Will Alex finally suffer the excruciatingly painful demise that he so whole-heartedly deserves?

There has been no shortage of television medical dramas in recent years (ER, Chicago Hope, Scrubs, House, etc.).  But just as with law, medicine is a field ripe with endless potential for stirring drama and human interest stories.  Grey's Anatomy provides all the usual moments of gaiety, tragedy, and anguish that one might expect from such a show, plus it boasts a fairly charismatic cast.  Of the hospital dramas, Grey's Anatomy is probably the most cheerful without resorting to outright parody like Scrubs.  Consider Grey's Anatomy television medicine for the Dawson's Creek set.

Truly, why watch the subjective and highly-edited "reality" of reality shows when the scripted, "based-on reality" events of hospital dramas such as Grey's Anatomy are so much more compelling?  Think what you like about surgeons, but in a way, yes they are superheroes.  Surgery is the one field of medicine in which treatment can lead to instantaneous improvement for a patient; all other forms of medicine take time.  Small wonder that some surgeons have a God complex.  Grey's Anatomy has its share of deity-wannabes, but it also has its share of warm and caring personalities, and this balanced mixture of colorful characters is what will ensure that this hit television show is here to stay for some time.

Video ****

Grey's Anatomy is presented on two single-sided, dual-layered DVDs.  The format is anamorphic widescreen.  Video quality is excellent, and the transfer doesn't stumble even during the television show's more frantic and action-packed moments.  Coincidentally, many real x-rays and surgical footage clips are briefly glimpsed throughout the show.  Squeamish people, consider yourselves forewarned.

Audio ****

Sound is Dolby Digital 5.1.  English subtitles are available for people who don't speak medicinese.  A medical dictionary is not included for people who still don't understand the big words with many funny letters.

On a side note, many songs are sampled for the Grey's Anatomy soundtrack, and turning on the subtitles will reveal the names of those performers and song titles.

Features **

The eight regular season episodes are spread evenly over two discs, with the first disc also containing the pilot episode.  The first DVD opens with marketing blurbs for various television shows, old and new, including Lost, Scrubs, and Desperate Housewives.

The pilot episode comes with two optional commentary tracks.  Katherine Heigl, T.R. Knight, and Sandra Oh participate in non-stop candid banter for the cast commentary and aren't afraid to point out as many continuity errors as possible.  The second commentary track features the series creator Shonda Rhimes and the pilot director Peter Horton mainly discussing the structure, pacing, and editing for the pilot episode.  They also describe aspects of the show which differentiate it from other medical dramas on television.

Several short featurettes are also available on Disc Two.

Anatomy of a Pilot (11 min.) showcases numerous deleted scenes from the pilot with optional commentary by Shonda Rhimes and Peter Horton.  The scenes are edited together and include an expanded orientation tour, more scenes involving a girl with seizures, funny scenes with whining and tired interns, and other background stories for various interns and attending physicians in the hospital.  Many of these scenes are interesting but needed to be cut for purposes of pacing.

Dissecting Grey's Anatomy (5 min.) has five further deleted or alternate scenes from the first three regular season episodes.  These scenes involve a CT scan of the brain, Meredith and her mother talking, Meredith's new roommates moving in, an expanded sequence with the construction worker, and a hallway chat between Bailey and Shepherd.

Behind the Scenes of Grey's Anatomy (11 min.) is fairly self-explanatory.  Cast and crew discuss the characters and the show's appeal.

Lastly, there is an alternate main title sequence (30 sec.) and a bizarre "French" trailer (2 min.) for the show.  Voulez-vous couper avec moi se soir, indeed.

Summary:

Check out Season One of Grey's Anatomy stat!  The drama will give you palpitations, and the comedy will make you dyspneic with laughter.

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