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Dr. G: Medical Examiner - Season One

Echo Bridge Home Entertainment // Unrated // October 27, 2009
List Price: $19.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Tyler Foster | posted November 19, 2009 | E-mail the Author
A month or two ago, I watched "Crime Scene University", a Discovery Channel show about forensic investigation. Some of it was pretty interesting, but a good portion of the show was overproduced and clearly hacked to pieces in order to create dramatic arcs for each episode. Now, we have Discovery Health's "Dr. G: Medical Examiner", following Orange County medical examiner Jan Garavaglia as she investigates the bodies that are brought in for autopsy. Once again, the show is fairly interesting, but the voice-over narration, bumpers, and editing are all somewhat desperate grabs for viewer attention. "Dr. G" also introduces an all-new factor: the inability to show the majority of what the show's actually supposed to be about.

IMDb shows that these episodes are surprisingly old: "Dr. G" has been on the air for five years, and this first season set collects 12 episodes that were first broadcast between October 2004 and June 2005. Since then, the general tolerance level of what's okay to air on television has probably loosened, since I've seen fictional dramas with more (literal) guts than "Dr. G", but anyone interested in medical examination or criminal investigation should know going in that there isn't a single internal organ or legitimately investigated body part shown on camera. Occasionally, Garavaglia will go through the motions on an actor's body, indicated by on-screen "dramatization" captions, but that's as close as we get. Of course, it'd be a fine line to walk. How much would be too much? It's hard to gauge the level of appeal the show would have if Garavaglia was holding internal organs up to the camera, or whether there are varying degrees of Nielsen tune-outs to be considered, but even if the idea of looking at dead kidneys and infected livers isn't necessarily appealing to me, the show seems kinda stunted without it. Perhaps this has been handled differently in future seasons of the show, but each episode is filled with shots of Dr. Garavaglia assessing cadavers that are below frame, pointing out all sorts of important evidence that the audience can't see. The show's solution is computer-generated diagrams, which is a reasonable compromise, but it's still impossible to know how much more informative actual organs might have been.

With a show like this, devising a reliable draw could be complicated, which is clearly why the producers have chosen to make it about Dr. G rather than a series of medical examiners across the country. Garavaglia is a perfectly nice, charismatic woman, and her friendly demeanor certainly goes a long way towards picking up the slack from the show in the nuts-and-bolts of forensic science department. I may have been drawn to the show through my passing interest in criminal science, but even when the show tries to play up the drama of Dr. G's investigations, she remains perfectly at ease in front of the camera, even during those pesky "dramatization" segments. Garavaglia has such an easy rapport with the audience that it's almost surprising she's not a physician or some other medical position where she'd form bonds with the patients.

Not all of the "dramatization" segments consist of Dr. G examining fake bodies; in fact, the majority of this footage is used to recreate the final moments of the various cases Dr. G investigates. As far as recreations go, they're perfectly average, with amped-up cinematography and lighting, and dramatic dutch angles left and right. As far as the actual content goes, I felt it was pretty tame -- really, the most blood you see in the show is one of the intercut bumpers, swirling down the drain of a medical sink, so I'm not sure a parental content warning was really necessary not just at the beginning of the episodes but after the show comes back from every single commercial break. Frankly, I'd be surprised if Dr. G was more than a TV-PG, so this is fairly excessive.

All in all, "Dr. G: Medical Examiner" is a lightly entertaining show, and it's certainly not doing anything wrong, but it's hard to judge how long its mild charms will prove worthwhile. Given that the show is apparently still running, it's more than possible that they've made improvements to the format, but it'd be a coin toss for me, having seen just this first season, whether or not I'd want to keep tuning in. I always thought that if I were rich and had all the free time in the world, I'd probably be engrossed in the Discovery Channel, but so far, the three shows I've checked out for DVDTalk have been a tad on the underwhelming side. "Dr. G" keeps things mostly in check, but sometimes I wonder if the people who produce these shows have ever considered that their subject might be interesting enough, and the electrified artifice they've piled on top might not actually be necessary.

"Dr. G" comes in a standard "Red Tab"-style 2-disc keepcase with a flap tray. Most online retailers have a slightly different cover art posted, which shows that Echo Bridge decided to go with a somewhat more glamorous -- and then heavily Photoshopped -- photo of Ms. G at the last second. Anyone who's seen the show will probably be taken aback, the resulting image looks more like a 23-year-old Maxim model than the average American mom the show actually follows. The two double-sided discs have no artwork aside from two rings on the inside of the disc indicating the top side, and there is no insert.

The Video and Audio
Echo Bridge provides some okay-looking 1.33:1 full frame transfers for this DVD set. Overall, they look how a shot-on-digital TV show would be expected to look, although the cameras in question aren't high definition, so the image is covered by a sheet of digital grain. In addition, some of the colors might be slightly boosted in darker shots, blacks are generally a muddy gray, and I also spotted a jagged edge or two. Most of these defects don't appear to be a result of poor compression, so no strikes against the DVD; just don't expect the show to be an eye-popping experience (and it will likely look extremely poor on projection setups). The audio is Dolby Digital 2.0, which, like the image, sounds perfectly fine but enitrely unimpressive for a modern television show on a no-frills DVD. The only real disappointment is the lack of any subtitles on the disc, plus no sign of the "closed captioning" logo on the DVD packaging, suggesting that the discs might not even include captions that viewers' television sets can decode.

The Extras
None. This is a strictly no-frills affair; the DVD menus only have two options ("Play" and "Chapters").

"Dr. G" is a pretty straightforward true-life TV show, and this DVD is a no-frills affair -- even though this is a two-disc set with double-sided discs, there's really not a whole lot to write about the content included here. Since the DVD's picture quality is no better than reruns would provide, and there are no extra features to speak of, fans of the show and newcomers should probably rent the discs from Netflix if they're interested in Dr. Garavaglia's first few cases.

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