Diagnosing ‘Grey’s Anatomy’s’ Ailing Symptoms

by | November 5, 2009 at 11:23 AM | Grey's Anatomy

Grey's Anatomy (ABC)

Grey's Anatomy (ABC)

‘Grey’s Anatomy’ is suffering from a chronic illness. Once upon a time it was television’s hottest show, dominating Friday morning watercooler chatter. Its combination of quirky medical stories, close friendships, romance and humor made it must see television.

Catch up on full episodes of Grey’s here

Now, in its sixth season, it is still one of television’s highest rated shows. But viewers seem to be watching largely out of habit and a hope that the show will magically return to the glory of its first two seasons.

Season five’s improbable storylines and dark tone turned a lot of people off. This year people willed themselves to tune in with the comforting thought that it would be impossible for the show to come up with anything worse than last year’s Denny The Sexy Hallucination storyline.

Read our interview with Shonda Rimes

Indeed, this season has been 100% ghost sex free. Unfortunately, that does not mean it has recovered. Watching the ill-conceived merger storyline, it is hard to shake the feeling that the show has strayed so far from its original premise that it has lost its identity.

We may not be Dr. House, but we at Fancast think we can diagnose what is ailing ‘Grey’s Anatomy.’

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1. The Cast Is Fleeing This Show Like It’s The Titanic

Either the Grey’s set is the seventh circle of Hell or the show went out of its way to hire primadonnas. Actors on longrunning shows often long to spread their wings, but there has never been a number one show whose cast members are do desperate to give up a seven figure paycheck. Half the original cast is gone right now. Isaiah Washington was fired for conduct unbecoming an actor. T.R. Knight left in a snit because he did not feel he was getting enough airtime. Katherine Heigl demanded a multi-episode leave of absence so she could film a movie. Ellen Pompeo — who puts the Grey in Grey’s — is barely on the show thanks to her maternity leave. Unlike pure procedurals which can move cast members in and out easily, viewers tune in to see the characters they have grown to love. Without them, Grey’s is just another medical show.

2. The Merger Storyline Is A Textbook Example of How To Jump The Shark

Shonda Rhimes’ solution to losing so many cast members at once was not to delve deeper into the lives of the core characters who remained on the canvas. (Alex’s family background is woefully underexplored.) Nor was it to slowly introduce an interesting replacement for George. It was, instead, to throw together a contrived hospital merger storyline and introduce half a dozen new residents in the space of fifteen minutes. Who are these people? Well one of the guys is kind of a jerk, another is cute and then there’s the woman who was already gone. The Seattle Grace residents likely regard the newcomers from Mercy as unwelcome invaders. Why should the audience think any differently?

3. Resident Evil

The show began as an in depth exploration of what it is like to be a surgical intern. It was thrilling to watch the characters learn to become competent doctors. We saw them go from doing blood tests and writing charts to performing vital roles in major surgeries. Once they became residents, their progress should have continued. There could have been so many great plots about them teaching interns and picking specialties. Instead, their teaching responsibilities were treated as jokes. The new interns were universally portrayed as incompetent. The only resident who seems to have settled on a specialty is Christina, not that she gets to pursue it since Seattle Grace no longer has a cardiac surgeon.

4. Lexi Is Still Grey’s Version of Cousin Oliver

Long lost siblings are great on the daytime soaps, but in primetime they are almost always annoying. Lexie ranks right up there with Buffy The Vampire Slayer’s Dawn, and Gossip Girl’s Scott in terms of annoyance. From her photographic memory, to the way other characters constantly praise her, Grey’s is constantly instructing the audience to love and admire her. It has not worked. Whether she is guiltripping Meredith into donating a piece of her liver to the father she hates, or ripping off her clothes and begging Mark to teach her, Lexie is almost always unlikable and downright inappropriate. Though she has been part of the cast for longer than Owen she still seems like a tacked on newbie. Yet she is always front and center. Most episodes she has more to do than Derek. That is just plain wrong.

5. McDreamy is McAbsent

America fell in love with Derek Shepherd right along with Meredith. He was smart and quirky and gorgeous. It looked like he would be front and center this season, with an arc that suggested he would become the new Chief of Surgery. Instead, he has gotten less screen time than the annoying new residents. Patrick Dempsey is a bankable movie star. It is baffling that a show would not keep its popular leading man front and center. Last week’s episode focused on Derek. It was by far the season’s best. Let’s hope it’s the start of a trend.

6. The Drama 101 Monologues

Grey’s used to have great, albeit highly stylized, dialogue. Its linguistic influence was so great that everyone started saying, “Seriously,” and “Mc-blanky.” Now the creativity has turned into a cliche. At least once an episode a character launches into a soliloquy filled with repetitive declarative statements like, “You’re the guy who used to pour my cereal in the morning. That’s it. It’s all I remember about you. You’re not my father, you’re just the guy who used to pour my cereal. ” It’s cheesy, artificial and irritating.

7. The Growing Medical Incompetence

Seattle Grace used to be a great hospital. That was why nationally renowned doctors like Derek and Mark chose to work there. Patients received state of the art treatment from doctors who really cared. Those days are over. Today it is a hospital where the care is so shoddy that an entire episode was devoted to the numerous mistakes that let to a patient’s death. A show about a lousy hospital is not a light drama. It’s a horror story.

8. The Ruined Couples

Grey’s has a knack for creating rootable couples: Meredith and Derek, Alex and Izzie, Christina and Owen, even Callie and Arizona. Unfortunately, once they get together they become dysfunctional and unlikable. Izzie and Alex are not celebrating her miraculous survival. They are too busy resenting each other. Christina helps Owen through his PTSD only to have him treat her shabbily at work. Unrelenting misery is not entertaining. Grey’s needs to learn to write happy functional couples.

9. Lack of Memorable Patients

Remember the woman who swallowed the dolls heads in season one? How about the train crash victims who were impaled on the pole? They were interesting, likable, three dimensional characters unlike those on any other medical show. They made indelible impressions in just a few minutes of screentime. They were all in the first couple seasons of the show. Now all of the patients seem to exist solely to provide heavy handed parallels to the doctors personal lives. They are no longer distinctive, another symptom of how this show has lost its way.

10. Fail To The Chief

The Chief used to be everyone’s dream boss. He was a strong leader and mentor who was tough yet compassionate. When George failed his residency exam, he created a special Chief’s intern position to soften the blow. Now, he is completely incompetent. He hides in his office to avoid dealing with the problems his lack of leadership has created. He did not even bother to come up with a transition plan for the merger. It is difficult not to see him as a stand-in for series creator Shonda Rhimes, who is feeling the pressure of running two shows. Nobody sympathizes with a leader who refuses to step up and do his job.