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Grey’s Anatomy went stale nine seasons ago. But I’ll never stop watching it

The medical drama has returned with its 19th season, but let’s be honest, writes Inga Parkel, it’s been flatlining for a good few years now

Friday 18 November 2022 09:08 GMT
Ellen Pompeo looking fed up in ‘Grey’s Anatomy’
Ellen Pompeo looking fed up in ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ (ABC)

Yes, Grey’s Anatomy is still running. And no, you haven’t missed anything. In fact, ABC’s once fan-favourite Emmy-adorned medical series – which premiered its 19th season last month – has only continued its steady decline since Sandra Oh’s heartbreaking exit signified its expiration nine seasons ago.

When Shonda Rhimes’s serial drama began in 2005 with its core cast of Seattle-based surgical interns, including determined Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo), caustic Cristina Yang (Oh), irritating Alex Karev (Justin Chambers), innocent George O’Malley (TR Knight) and underdog Izzie Stevens (Katherine Heigl), it shattered viewing records. With its harmonious balance between fascinating medical mysteries and the consistently chaotic personal lives of the doctors, Grey’s Anatomy was simply brilliant.

I was 13 when I first binged its initial six seasons. Immediately, I was in love. Between its impressive character development (Alex’s surprising shift from obnoxious to charming and Meredith’s evolution from dark and twisted to slightly less dark, still twisted) and captivating surgical cases (a bomb in a stomach, need I say more?), the show even had me considering a career in medicine. Thereafter, I religiously watched each new episode live – as we did back then – every Thursday night.

However, things quickly spoilt by the end of season 10 when Oh hung up her scrubs for the last time. By that point, the show was already in trouble, having ripped our hearts out in earlier seasons when George was wiped out by a bus and Lexie Grey (Chyler Leigh) and Mark Sloan (Eric Dane) tragically died in that plane crash. But once Cristina left, the dynamic of the show was never the same. Meredith may be the lead, but any devout fan would agree Cristina softened her hard edges, making her more bearable.

Suddenly, Grey’s Anatomy seemed like it was desperately trying to chase its former greatness. Yet, nine seasons later, I’m still sticking around for more. Partly it’s pure nostalgia, but I also have a sliver of hope that it’ll surprise me, and find its way out of the endless loop of clichés and recycled storylines. There has to be a better way to spice up the show than another tireless love triangle and Meredith’s constant juggling of what’s more important: her love life or her career.

Before the newest season, Pompeo made headlines when she announced she was stepping back from her role and reducing her screentime to work on other projects. The last couple of seasons have seen less and less of Meredith, so this was no surprise. But, when your leading lady has one foot out the door, shouldn’t that mean something?

And while it’s an ongoing joke among fans that the writers have run out of ideas for affairs, scandals and bizarre medical emergencies, it’s true that we’re the ones who are perpetuating its slow death by continuing to tune in. Maybe we should’ve turned off the life support a long time ago. But now that we’ve devoted almost 300 hours to these doctors… what’s a few more?

‘Grey’s Anatomy’ airs on Thursdays on ABC in the US and on Wednesdays on Disney+ in the UK

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