Private Practice: Complete Third Season Review

Ah, Private Practice…now into its fourth season, this inevitable Grey’s Anatomy spin-off continues to reel viewers in weekly. Looking at the third season, its almost laughably easy to see why – the show is comfort food bathed in sunny California tones and fitted with a cast of beautiful people who have problems (just like the rest of us!). The show gambles on its audience, assuming that people will tune in every week for easy watching, a liberally-minded drama with just enough tantalizing TV sex appeal to make it work. When it pays off, you are provided with satisfying and involving B+ grade television. When it doesn’t…

I must take a moment to mention an absolutely brilliant feature that will immediately cement me in the mind of PP fans as an unreliable source. Under “Episode Selection”, the DVD features a "Private Practice “starter kit””, a summary of the last two seasons and the premise of the show in less than five minutes. Truly prescient – either the makers of the show want to comfort people jumping in mid-show…or…the show is so repetitive and simplistic that a summary tracing who’s jumping out of whose bed is adequate enough to familiarize you with the show.

The third season certainly opens well – the first episode is a gripping-enough conclusion to the cliffhanger that ended the last season. After a former patient attacks Violet (Amy Brenneman) and removes her child in a nightmarish off-screen C-section, Violet is found in critical condition and her (spoilers!) eventual recovery forms a major subplot this season. Suffering from constant breakdowns and unable to so much as hold her child at times, Violet relies on potential father Pete (Tim Daly) to take care of the day-to-day activities.

Meanwhile, the rest of the PP cast does well to give Addison Montgomery (Kate Walsh) most of the spotlight, slipping on and off-stage at a moment’s notice so that Ms. Walsh’s character can rear her ever-present, lightly-sarcastic, sassy-sexy personality. Despite her medical expertise, most of our time spent with Addison sees her trying to decide between two budding suitors – Pete, who, despite a commitment to Violet, still expresses an interest, and Sam Bennett (Taye Diggs), former husband of Naomi Bennett (Audra McDonald).

The third season certainly spends more time on relationships and character arcs, leading to a decent season finale that almost overcomes the show’s key problem – for all the well-made, well-acted, sunny drama, it’s just not very compelling. It’s hard to explain just how removed it feels to watch TV-safe temper flares – aside from the opening episode and the season finale, the stakes remained at an all-time low – you never genuinely fear or care for these people’s well-being. Private Practice’s doctors look great even when faced with life-changing decisions and while that’s a TV staple, we’re a long way from ER or even Grey’s Anatomy here. Private Practice is content to be comforting and easy to slip into – and out of. While the cast holds up their end and the production values are top-notch, that doesn’t make up for plots that sometimes skate just above daytime soap opera antics. The third season of Private Practice comes recommended for fans of the show – more selective viewers are welcome to give it a shot but frankly, it’s a competitive market and there’s better television out there.

The video and audio are not exceptional but definitely very good, fleshing out details and dialogue.

DVD Bonus Features

The “starter kit” definitively pushes the grade up a notch, but its supplemented by a blooper reel, a collection of deleted scenes, and “Kate's Top Eight”, a generic featurette with Walsh enumerating some very general favorites from this season.

"Private Practice: Complete Third Season" is on sale September 14, 2010 and is rated PG13. Drama, Television. Directed by Donna Deitch, Mark Tinker, Michael Zinberg, Tom Verica. Written by Shonda Rhimes, Jon Cowan, Robert Rovner, Patti Carr, Lara Olsen, Dana Baratta, Kathy McCormick, Ayanna A. Floyd, Fred Einesman, Steve Blackman, Elizabeth J.B. Klaviter, Craig Turk, Sonay Washington, Krista Vernoff, Kathy McCormick, Jon Cowan, Dana Baratta, Jesse Zigelstein, Deborah Cahn, Elizabeth Klaviter. Starring Amy Brenneman, Audra McDonald, Kate Walsh, Paul Adelstein, Taye Diggs, Tim Daly.

Mark Zhuravsky • Staff Writer

I'm a prolific blogger, writer and editor who loves film.


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