Commentary: Is ‘Grey’s’ On The Mend?

by | October 29, 2009 at 8:14 AM | 42-Inch Television, Grey's Anatomy

Grey's Anatomy (ABC)

Grey's Anatomy (ABC)

For much of the past few seasons, ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ has been a series whose viewers fit neatly into two categories: those who loved the show and those who hated it with a white-hot passion. By the time Ghost Denny was running around the halls of Seattle Grace last year, my bonafides of dislike had been solidified to the point that there was no doubt where my allegiances lied.

‘Grey’s,’ like many other long-running series, had fallen into obligation-watch territory for me. Having spent so much time with the characters, I had to see the story through. Think of it like a can of Pringles: once you start, you can’t really stop. So no matter how grating and infuriating the series got (have I already mentioned Ghost Denny?), I kept watching to see what would happen next.

But a funny thing happened this fall during my weekly hate watching of ‘Grey’s Anatomy:’ I stopped hating. Seemingly against all odds (and without many contributions from Katherine Heigl, Ellen Pompeo and Patrick Dempsey), ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ has once again become a show that I’m not embarrassed to say I watch.

Dare I say: I’m starting to like it again.

I assumed this year would continue the trend, especially after the lackluster two-hour season premiere that disposed of George (T.R. Knight for life!) with the subtly and aplomb of a wrecking ball. But then, things started turning. Free from the soap opera that had put the characters through the ringer for the last few seasons—and free from some of those characters themselves—‘Grey’s Anatomy’ went back to the basics of storytelling.

Watch a clip from tonight’s episode:

This all culminated with last week’s much talked about Rashoman-structured gem that dealt with the unnecessary death of a random emergency room patient. But since the premiere, every episode has been of the more stand-alone variety (expect the trend to continue tonight with an episode about McDreamy and a controversial surgery), and less concerned with who’s-sleeping-with-who-and-will-they-break-up.

As Shonda Rhimes exclusively told Fancast earlier this week that “We had come into this season already thinking of ways to change how we tell stories, to make it new and fresh and richer for the audience … This season the ‘events’ are the episodes themselves.” Amen to that! In a nutshell, that’s why ‘Grey’s’ has been so rewarding. It’s not the new cast members or the lack of Izzie Stevens—though both are welcome—but the fact that the episodes are becoming more important than the surrounding drama.

Perhaps all this show needed to get enjoyable again was the departure of so many key players. Instead of lazily writing the same clichéd character moments over and over again, Rhimes and her writers actually have to tell interesting stories.

For now, it remains to be seen what will happen once Pompeo, Heigl and Dempsey all return to more significant roles, but in the meantime, I’m just going to enjoy the ride. I had wondered if ‘Grey’s’ could become the next ‘ER,’ happily sustaining long after it’s original cast had turned over completely. Based on the early portion of season six, it appears that the answer is yes.

Three More Inches

Casting Leonard Nimoy as William Bell on ‘Fringe’ was cool at first, but if Nimoy is already bored and actually plans on backing out of the show, then it might turn into a disaster. Perhaps it would have been wiser to cast some a bit less fickle and more available in such a central and mythology-heavy role.

The ease with which Zack Galifianakis, Jason Schwartzman and Ted Danson get laughs on ‘Bored to Death’ is borderline criminal.

And finally… NBC is giving me six reasons to get excited today: they’ve ordered six additional episodes of ‘Chuck,’ pushing the third season order to 19. That means the rumors of ‘Chuck’ returning to televisions sooner rather than later appear to be true.