On May 22, 2005, jaws dropped around the country as Addison Montgomery Shepherd (Kate Walsh) entered Seattle Grace Hospital and told a bewildered Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo), “You must be the woman who’s been screwing my husband.”
My jaw was perfectly intact, however, as on that day I was just five years old, completely oblivious to the pop culture phenomenon that is “Grey’s Anatomy.” This column will take a look back at TV of all facets, each edition giving a spotlight to a different show of an A&E writer’s choice. There will be light spoilers of course so if you’d prefer to go into the show with unadulterated eyes, exit now.
To kick off a column on television appreciation with a primetime soap opera may be to the chagrin of some readers. To those, I say: I’m shocked you’re even reading this. But, starting with the often-disrespected genre of a primetime soap only makes sense.
“Grey’s Anatomy” is a monolithic force in the television industry. The show has birthed so many iconic moments, including the phrase “my person,” which has been colonized by ultra-Christian influencers and sorority girls to express love for their country bumpkin husbands.
People often rag on primetime soap operas and relegate them to “guilty pleasures” or fun little distractions. “Grey’s Anatomy” may be a show that often tosses realism out the window — after all, you’d be hard-pressed to find a hospital whose doctors have undergone a bomb scare, a mass shooting and a plane crash all within five years. Even then, the fantastical nature of “Grey’s Anatomy” has rarely lessened its sheer quality.
I’ve already given my two cents on the whole guilty pleasure title. I’m not guilty, nor should anyone be, about appreciating the iconic nature of “Grey’s Anatomy.” For eight glorious seasons, showrunner Shonda Rhimes took us on an epic ride of affairs, unexpected pregnancies, love triangles and so many more salacious storylines.
Yes, I did say eight despite the fact the show is still running, having wrapped its 16th season this past April. Unfortunately, despite the fact that I will watch every episode — probably twice at that — hell would have to freeze over for me to pretend that the show has had any business existing beyond its eighth season. The quality fell off a cliff, much like Meredith in season four. Okay, that’s a joke, but honestly, crazier things happen in the dystopia of Seattle Grace.
And ultimately, that’s the price of success. But eight seasons and almost 200 episodes of pure quality followed by eight seasons of merely watchable TV is nothing to scoff at.
With quick-witted dialogue and multi-dimensional, relatable characters, “Grey’s Anatomy” is easily accessible to a variety of audiences. Despite the immense drama, the show is pure comfort. The impeccable soundtrack to the show has cutesy, sedative songs that transport you to a department store during the Christmas season.
The ever-growing ensemble cast has someone everyone can relate to. Messy, failed romantics can see themselves through Izzie Stevens (Katherine Heigl); career or school-oriented people who keep others at an arm’s length may identify with Cristina Yang (Sandra Oh); those who find themselves working with both of their long lost sisters at different points in their life might identify with Meredith.
If that last blurb is any indication, the storylines of the show are often far-fetched. Season three features a three-parter surrounding one of the main characters drowning, which concludes with an episode in which said character is in a heaven-like place as they wander between life and death. So, if for some reason, you were under the impression “Grey’s Anatomy” is some ultra-realistic, sensical show, you’re wrong.
At the same time, the drowning three-parter is a television masterpiece. The shooting two-parter? Immaculate. The aforementioned bomb episodes in which Dr. Miranda Bailey (Chandra Wilson) is giving birth while her husband is in the operating room unbeknownst to her as Meredith Grey has her hand shoved in a man’s abdomen in order to prevent a bomb from blowing up the hospital? That’s some masterful TV.
The “Grey’s Anatomy” crew has enough drama for multiple lifetimes, so live vicariously through that. No, none of us want to be at death’s door every May but that’s the thrill of experiencing it from the comfort of our couches while our biggest drama is whether a professor will email us back or not (please, email me back). Seattle Grace must have a magnetic pull to drama because these doctors go through some heavy ordeals in their seemingly normal lives.
And of course, the patients-of-the-week often give insight to the cast. When Lexie Grey (Chyler Leigh) is lovestruck between Mark Sloan (Eric Dane) and Jackson Avery (Jesse Williams), her patient — the author of a love triangle book series herself — provides some on-the-nose advice. It’s ridiculous but it’s entertaining, and that’s what “Grey’s Anatomy” is all about.
“Grey’s Anatomy” is available to stream on Netflix, while Hulu features the latest season — but feel no need to rush to watch season 16; it’s not good.