|Grey's Anatomy: Season One (2005)
Starring: Ellen Pompeo, Sandra Oh, Katherine Heigl, Justin Chambers, T.R. Knight, Chandra Wilson, James Pickens Jr., Isaiah Washington, Patrick Dempsey
Medical dramas just aren’t my cup of tea. The characters are generally boring stereotypes of what networks think of as the real thing, and the overdramatic plotlines feel regurgitated year in and year out. So, when news surfaced last year that yet another doctor show would be filling in one of ABC’s open primetime slots, I unconsciously rolled my eyes, shrugged my shoulders, and went on with my life. Boy was I missing out. Not only did “Grey’s Anatomy” successfully convince 20 million weekly viewers of its prominence, but it also caught the eye of a stubborn couch potato who gave in to this hour-long guilty pleasure. Okay, so the overdramatic plotlines still exist, but it’s not the medicine that makes the show interesting. Rather, it’s the unique characters and their ability to suck you back in every week as if they were childhood friends. Just think of the predicament when the entire first season (comprised of nine episodes) arrived at my doorstep just begging to be placed in the DVD player.
As a mid-season entry for ABC, the first season of “Grey’s Anatomy” is only nine episodes long, but it’s the perfect introduction to what should be a great show to watch develop over the next few years. Ellen Pompeo stars as the title character, Dr. Meredith Grey, a new surgical intern at Seattle Grace Hospital who’s just discovered that the nameless man she slept with last night is actually her new boss, Dr. Derek Shepherd (Patrick Dempsey). And while Shepherd is keen on forming a relationship with the new intern, Grey has far too much on her mind, including learning to cope with the fact that she lives in her famous mother’s shadow. Once a great surgeon working at SGH, Grey’s mother now resides in an assisted living home where she is being treated for Alzheimer’s, a fact that no one knows but her, and one she plans to keep that way.
Also joining Grey in her surgical residency at SGH is Dr. Christina Yang (Sandra Oh), the resident kiss-ass on constant lookout for her big break; Dr. Izzie Stevens (Katherine Heigl), a former lingerie model seeking the respect of her peers; Dr. Alex Karev (Justin Chambers), the asshole know-it-all; and Dr. George O’Malley (T.R. Knight), the unconfident everyman who also happens to have a major crush on Grey. The person in charge of the new residents include Dr. Richard Webber (James Pickens Jr.), the Chief of Surgery; Dr. Preston Burke (Isaiah Washington), a top surgeon vying for Webber’s post; and Dr. Miranda Bailey (Chandra Wilson), a bossy, by-the-book surgeon in her final years as a resident. With so many characters to keep track of (ten, in case you were counting), it’d be crazy to think that everyone gets fair treatment, and while that might be partially true, the audience still learns more about each character in the first season alone than I know about a majority of my extended family members.
The series has a strange way of making you care about what’s going on without even knowing it. A great example of this is in the way each episode makes use of its many surgical procedures without revealing too much. It’s as if the creators knew it was important to include the medical-related detail, but not important enough to surrender valuable screen time for too much of it. Even more noteworthy is in the casting of the lead characters, which don’t include your run-of-the-mill TV actors. Pompeo is pitch-perfect as Grey, exhibiting a sort of Renee Zellweger-like girl-next-door beauty, while both Oh and Washington’s film experience transfer nicely to the small screen. By far the best of the principal cast, however, is T.R. Knight, a relative unknown who is sure to become (if not already) an audience favorite as the series matures.
The two-disc DVD release for “Grey’s Anatomy” features all nine originally-broadcasted episodes in a 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen video transfer and a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track, but the special features provided are a bit lacking. Aside from only one audio commentary track for the pilot episode (“A Hard Day’s Night”) with creator/exec producer Shonda Rhimes and direction Peter Horton, as well as with actors Sandra Oh, Katie Heigl and T.R. Knight, there are no other bonus features on disc one. The second disc fairs only a little better, with a brief behind-the-scenes featurette (“Under the Knife”) running just over 11 minutes, a scene-by-scene dissection (“Anatomy of a Pilot”) with optional commentary, and five unaired scenes (“Dissecting ‘Grey’s Anatomy’”). Also included on disc two is an alternate main credits sequence, as well as an “Avant-Garde Trailer” that features clips from the show edited into a black-and-white montage complete with French subtitles and music.
Despite the shoddy turnout of special features, the first season of “Grey’s Anatomy” is definitely a must-see for fans of good television. With a majority of today’s best shows getting the ax, calling it quits, or just running out of steam, it’s nice to see some fresh meat with potential. And while the show isn’t without its faults, the less-desirable moments are few and far between the good ones. Plus, with a season one caseload consisting of a 40-pound tumor, a nailgun to the head, a rapist with a bitten-off penis, and a hospital staff breakout of syphilis – just to name a few – why wouldn’t you come back begging for more?