TV Talk: Grey's Anatomy
Starring: Ellen Pompeo, Sandra Oh, Katherine Heigl, Chandra Wilson, Justin Chambers, T.R. Knight, James Pickens Jr., Patrick Dempsey, Isaiah Washington, Kate Walsh, Sara Ramirez, Eric Dane
Series Creator: Shonda Rhimes
My feelings on this show are mixed: its not my favourite show, I can see that it is a fairly frivolous piece of entertainment, and I'm weary of any show that is the most popular on TV. However, I don't think there's ever been a bad episode of the show, it is often highlighted by some great performances, and what it does, it does really well.
The turning point for this show came near the end of the first season (a nine episode replacement season), when the show shifted from a character-study centred on Ellen Pompeo's waifish Meredith Grey, and became a true ensemble piece focused on all the doctors of Seattle Grace, the interns and their superiors. Sure, Meredith still narrates the show (except for the end of the most recent episode, when Sandra Oh's Cristina Yang closed the episode with commentary, marking a further shift from the Meredith-centric nature of the show), but the creators correctly recognised that she isn't a strong enough character, and Pompeo isn't a strong enough performer, for the show to feature her so strongly. Instead, they made better use of Oh, Isaiah Washington, the delightfully-arrogant Justin Chambers, and added the fantastic Kate Walsh, and the show became markedly better.
The high watermark for the series was the post-Super Bowl two-parter, "It's the End of the World"/"(As We Know It)", which were two of the best episodes of the TV year. The show has been able to capitalise on the attention it got from the Super Bowl episodes to cruise along to strong performances since, using its blend of melodrama and soap opera sexiness to deliver solid entertainment. Understand, this show is not high art, but it's not Melrose Place either. True, another medical drama is hardly ground-breaking entertainment, with the show coming off as a sexed up version of ER, or a dramatic version of Scrubs. But it does have solid characters with actors who know their roles and writers who know how to manipulate the emotions of the viewers to give them the cathartic experience they crave.
It's definitely an emotionally-manipulative show, rare is the episode that goes by that doesn't have my wife reaching for her kleenex. But the emotive nature of the show underlines the heart at the core of the show, and how well the show has been able to connect its characters with its audience, be it Izzie's (Katherine Heigl) foolish love affair with Terminal Denny (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), Cristina and Burke's (Washington) eternal battle of wills, Bailey's (Chandra Wilson) struggles with being a working mother in the competitive world of surgery, and, yes, even Meredith and McDreamy's (Patrick Dempsey) on-and-off-and-on-and-off relationship.
My personal favourites on the show are Alex (Chambers), Addison (Walsh, who made a character that was supposed to be a villain into a well-rounded, sympathetic character. Credit goes to her and the writers for that), Bailey, Cristina, and yeah, Meredith and Derek. I'm lukewarm to Izzie, mostly annoyed by George (T.R. Knight), indifferent to the Chief (James Pickens Jr.), and feel that Burke comes off too much like ER's Peter Benton to really get into. But, I think as a whole, the entire ensemble really works, delivering different personalities and different motivations to keep the stories rolling (well, maybe not Eric Dane's McSteamy character, but its too soon to judge how he'll fit in).
Ultimately, Grey's Anatomy is never a show I feel like I HAVE to watch, and is probably not in my top five favourite shows on TV... but it never fails to deliver that which it does well.
Questions? Comments? Disagreement? I'd love to hear your thoughts.
ER: Season Two
Scrubs: Season One
TV Talk: Weeds