DVD Review: Catch Up With Hit ABC Shows ‘Castle,’ ‘Grey’s Anatomy,’ More

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CHICAGO – Before the new fall season really gets underway, we thought we’d take a look back at several of the shows recently released or about to be released on DVD in season sets from ABC Studios and Buena Vista Home Video including the first season of “Castle,” the third season of “Ugly Betty,” the second season of “Private Practice,” and the fifth season of “Grey’s Anatomy”.

“Castle: The Complete First Season”

Castle will be released on DVD on September 22nd, 2009.
Castle will be released on DVD on September 22nd, 2009.
Photo credit: ABC Studios/Buena Vista

HollywoodChicago.com DVD Rating: 4.0/5.0
DVD Rating: 4.0/5.0

My personal favorite among the shows recently released by ABC Studios in a move designed to get viewers excited for the fall schedule again is easily “Castle,” a clever murder mystery that got better as the weeks went along and that I truly expect to become a massive hit in season two. I could be wrong, but people ask me about “Castle” a lot and the show displayed such improvement that I think it will come back very strong and people will catch on.

Nathan Fillion and Stana Katic have some of the best chemistry on TV as the leads in “Castle”. Fillion plays the title character, a murder mystery writer paired with Katic’s police officer to solve New York crimes. More consistently witty and clever with every episode, “Castle” is one of the fall shows that I’m most excited to see return.

Until then, catch up with a well-rounded release for a mid-season show that only produced 10 episodes (430 minutes) in its first installment. The ten episodes are presented on three discs with a widescreen presentation (1.78:1) and a Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound track.

Special features include “Misdemeanors: Bloopers & Outtakes,” “Whodunit: The Genesis of Castle,” “Write-Along With Nathan Fillion,” “Castle’s Godfather,” and Audio Commentaries.

I wrote in my review of the series premiere of “Castle” - “…shows like this almost always grow as the writers figure out how to best play their cast’s chemistry to support each weekly mystery.” That’s exactly what happened over the course of the first season and I expect it to continue in the second. Jump on the bandwagon early (and come back on Monday for a review of the second season premiere of the show).

“Castle: The Complete First Season” will be released on September 22nd, 2009.

“Grey’s Anatomy: The Complete Fifth Season”

Grey's Anatomy was released on DVD on September 15th, 2009.
Grey’s Anatomy was released on DVD on September 15th, 2009.
Photo credit: ABC Studios/Buena Vista

HollywoodChicago.com DVD Rating: 3.0/5.0
DVD Rating: 3.0/5.0

What more is there to write about “Grey’s Anatomy”? The show essentially came out of nowhere to become a massive hit and has already created at least one household name in Katherine Heigl (and arguably more in Kate Walsh, Sandra Oh and T.R. Knight. But there’s been a bit of a struggle in the popularity of the show over the last few years. I know a few people who have left Seattle Grace for good and the show seems to get more press for its behind-the-scenes struggles than the writing or acting of the actual program. Another year without an Emmy nomination for Best Drama and the lowered ratings could be a sign that this once-juggernaut of a series is on its way down.

Something tells me that we haven’t heard the last of “Grey’s Anatomy”. Even if it has fallen out of the top ten, this is a show that still brings in an amazing amount of viewers every week (14.52 million a week in season five) and could ride that level of popularity for a very long time despite the turmoil on the set.

The 24 episodes (1,032 minutes) of season five of “Grey’s Anatomy” are presented in widescreen (1.78:1) and accompanied by Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound tracks. It would be repetetive to praise the video and audio on all four of these sets but suffice it to say that Buena Vista and ABC Studios titles always look and sound excellent for standard DVD.

It’s a little ironic that a show that has had so many people talking about its behind-the-scenes politics and problems is so light on special features. Maybe they couldn’t get everyone to be civil long enough to do an audio commentary. No, all fans who pick up season five will find are some unaired scenes, outtakes, a behind-the-scenes look at the 100th episode of the series, an extended episode, and a featurette in which the great Jeffrey Dean Morgan talks about the popularity of his character, Denny Duquette. It’s not a bad collection but a little light for such a big box set and the lack of one single audio track is disappointing.

“Grey’s Anatomy: The Complete Fifth Season” was released on September 15th, 2009.

“Private Practice: The Complete Second Season”

Private Practice was released on DVD on September 15th, 2009.
Private Practice was released on DVD on September 15th, 2009.
Photo credit: ABC Studios/Buena Vista

HollywoodChicago.com DVD Rating: 2.0/5.0
DVD Rating: 2.0/5.0

The spin-off of “Private Practice” that took Kate Walsh from Seattle Grace to her own series had its first full year in 2008-2009 and somewhat surprisingly will return for a third season on ABC this month. The show has never reached the ratings heights of its premiere and has struggled to find an audience, finishing 52nd for the last broadcast year.

It’s a shame because the cast of “Private Practice” is undeniably talented. Tim Daly, Taye Diggs, Amy Brenneman, Audra McDonald, KaDee Strickland, and Chris Lowell are all veterans of other series and should bring a spark to this medical drama that has just had a tough time clicking. Personally, I think the writing is weak and Walsh is not a charismatic enough actress to carry her own show. She worked better as a supporting player. But ABC thought the show had enough of a following to renew it for a third season. Catch up with season two and see what you think.

The 22 episodes (946 minutes) of season two of “Private Practice” are presented in widescreen (1.78:1) and accompanied by Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound tracks.

Like “Grey’s Anatomy,” the release of “Private Practice” is a little light in the special features department. The set includes the standard deleted scenes and bloopers along with extended episodes, but includes not one audio commentary. Featurettes include “Patient Confidentiality: Examining Season 2” and “Life Through the Lens: The Pictures of Chris Lowell”.

“Private Practice: The Complete Second Season” was released on September 15th, 2009.

“Ugly Betty: The Complete Third Season”

Ugly Betty will be released on DVD on September 22nd, 2009.
Ugly Betty will be released on DVD on September 22nd, 2009.
Photo credit: ABC Studios/Buena Vista

HollywoodChicago.com DVD Rating: 3.0/5.0
DVD Rating: 3.0/5.0

Another bubble show that was somewhat surprisingly given a reprieve by the powers that be at ABC is “Ugly Betty,” a show that went from phenomenon in its first season to “meh” by its second and is now shuffled off to the graveyard of Friday nights for the fall season. Even if the key demo (18-49 viewers) fell by almost 25% from the second to third season, there are still a lot of “Ugly Betty” fans out there who will love to own this colorful show on DVD in a very complete set.

Despite its flaws, “Ugly Betty” is a show with a talented ensemble (especially the Emmy-nominated Vanessa Williams and charming America Ferrera) and a lot of heart, two things that make for devoted followers.

The 24 episodes (1,032 minutes) of season three of “Ugly Betty” are presented in widescreen (1.78:1) and accompanied by DOlby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound tracks.

Special features include “Look Who Keeps Popping Up” (a pop-up video commentary by Michael Urie and Becki Newton), “Coming Home to New York City” (about the show’s move from LA to the Big Apple), “Mode After Hours” Webisodes, “Betty Bloops,” Deleted Scenes, and Audio Commentary.

“Ugly Betty: The Complete Third Season” was released on September 22nd, 2009.

HollywoodChicago.com content director Brian Tallerico

By BRIAN TALLERICO
Content Director
HollywoodChicago.com
brian@hollywoodchicago.com

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