Grey's Anatomy: Season Three
For many television series that get this far the third season is often a perilous one. The challenge for the producers and writers is how you can build on two years of success balancing between the elements that made the show a hit and giving the audience something new. ABC had a double hit of this dilemma in the 2006-2007 season when both of their flagship scripted series, ‘Desperate Housewives’ and ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ embarked on season three. The creative teams of both series rose to the occasion very well. One thing both had going for them is the fact that fundamentally both series are soap operas. In the particular case of ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ this gave them the leeway to go a little crazy. In classic oldie medical shows like ‘Ben Casey’ the patients would have personal problems, the doctor would grunt a bit, cut them up and both medical and personal problems would be alright. With the surgical staff at Seattle Grace hospital there is a bit more drama due to the complex relationships than any post operative infection. The characters here have moved on from romantic triangles to polygons; some bordering on multidimensional constructs. While normally surgical residents strive to improve their skills in the operating room this group appears more concerned with who is sleeping with whom and positioning themselves for the next step up in their careers. Ultimately the series is enjoyable; fun to watch. What draws millions to soap operas is at work here at the master class level. Even with some far fetched plot lines the quality of the writing, direction and acting carries this series upward during this third season.
Dr. Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo) has always lived in the shadow of her bigger than life, famous surgeon mother Ellis (Kate Burton). In this season Meredith and her friends are starting their third and final year of their surgical internship. While this is normally a stressful time under the best possible circumstances Meredith is also torn between two men; Dr. Derek Shepherd (Patrick Dempsey), also known as McDreamy, and another surgeon, Dr. Mark Sloan (Eric Dane); McSteamy. In this season Sloan would move on from Meredith and go after Shepard’s ex-wife, a neo-natal surgeon, Dr. Addison Montgomery-Shepherd (Kate Walsh). McSteamy also had a brief affair with the wife of Dr, George O’Malley (T.K. Knight). George is the perpetual nice guy who although he is married to Dr. Callie Torres (Sara Ramirez), chief resident in Orthopedics, he still carries a flame for his former roommate and co-worker Dr. Isobel "Izzie" Stevens (Katherine Heigl). Izzie just lost her fiancée, Denny Duquette (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), who died after a heart transplant. Izzie loses her place in the surgical rotation after it is discovered that she fabricated some test results to make sure Denny got the heart. He leaves her $8.7 million dollars but Izzie takes months before she was able to cash the check. Also in this tangle web of relationships is another friend of Meredith, Dr. Cristina Yang (Sandra Oh) who is fiercely competitive and living with surgical resident Dr. Preston Burke ( Isaiah Washington). Both Shepard and Burke are rivals for the position of Chief of Surgery currently held by Dr. Richard Webber (James Pickens, Jr.). He is having trouble with his health and is due to step down. He also had an affair with Meredith’s mom for many years. Overseeing this madhouse is the head resident and teacher to the interns, Dr. Miranda Bailey (Chandra Wilson). She may he short in stature but she certainly lives up to her nickname of the Nazi. This description only scratches the surface of the personal lives of the staff of Seattle Grace Hospital.
One of the pervading themes in this third season is coping. Each of the main characters, and there are a lot of them, have to cope with the extreme amount of stress in their lives. True to soap opera construction the methods used is, shall we say, some what unorthodox. Izzie takes to dealing with the grief over losing Denny by baking. She doesn’t just make a few cakes, she fills the home she shares with Meredith with enough baked goods to fill a store. While she is doing this the check for millions of dollars lies un-cashed nearby. Eventually her friends gather around and get her to reclaim her position in the hospital. For Cristina life is more complex than usual. She is the queen of the type ‘A’ personalities always having to be in control and the best around. Now she has to contend with problems in her personal life. Burke suffered a serious injury that has left his hand with a tremor, not a good thing for a surgeon. There personal relationship is strained but eventually they get engaged. George gets a visit from his overbearing family who look at him as the least manly of the clan. He also discovers that his wife is rich. They have been scraping by but she is heir to a fortune. Meredith is trying to make a relationship work with Shepard but he sis still in love with his ex-wife. Meredith also has to deal with her mother’s degrading mental condition due to Alzheimer's disease and her eventual death due to heart failure.
What makes this series special is the way things work visually. If you just read what goes on you would miss the incredible attention to detail that the cast and crew provides. It works because of the talent involved. The use of musical cues and popular songs has been done many times but here it is done with expert precision. The way each scene is lit and framed is more like a feature film than the typical television show. The many complex plots are woven together and pull the audience in. Even more important is the series keeps the audience. Many shows wax and wane over the course of three years but this remained consistently one of the better on television. As outrageous as some of the story lines are you will find yourself watching because you get into to the lives of the characters on an emotional level.
Ellen Pompeo plays Meredith with empathy. She is basically a lost little girl who needs to be loved and accepted. Her drive to doing her best in surgery is as much to the attention of her emotionally distant mother as it is for self satisfaction. In an ensemble cast like this you need a heart and Pompeo delivers. Over the three seasons so far the writers have given Katherine Heigl a chance to grow with her character. In the first season she was the beautiful former model who was trying to fit in with the highly competitive group of surgeons. In this season Heigl adds another layer to Izzie. She is emotionally damaged and neither baking nor sex can fill the emptiness. She can blend comedy with drama in a way few actresses can. I have been a fan of Sandra Oh for years, mostly in her Indy film work. This is an actress with talent to spare. She also gives her character a very human and sympathetic feel that draws the audience in. One of my favorites in this case is T.K. Knight. He plays George as the every day nice guy who doesn’t really deserve the drama in his life. He is the male counter part to Meredith, a lost person who needs to be loved.
If there is one thing that ABC and Buena Vista/Disney knows, it is how to keep the fans happy with a DVD season set release. This season box set is billed as ‘Grey's Anatomy: Season Three - Seriously Extended’ and consistent with the previous sets lives up to the name. First of all the anamorphic video is near reference quality. The colors pop off the screen. The contrast is perfect. The Dolby 5.1 audio is clear and gives a workout to all the speakers. The channel separation is better than average. What really shine here are the extras. Selected episodes have audio commentaries where the cast and crew muse over the production of the season. There are clips and highlights of the cast’s favorite episodes. It is interesting to see what those most involved in the series feel is the best the season offered. There are some extended scenes to add to the enjoyment. There are two featurettes. The first is a tour of the sets with Patrick Dempsey and the second is concerned with the recurring character, Jane Doe, who was in need of massive facial reconstruction. This is fun and enjoyable and worth adding to your collection.