A surgical intern and daughter of a well-respected physician goes to work at a Seattle based hospital.
2005 - present
The title of this American medical drama is ironic in more ways than one. Not only does it refer to both the lead character and the famous reference book, but it can describe the way these doctors and nurses perform-both in the medical and sexual sense. And that, more than anything else, explains the tremendous popularity of "Grey’s Anatomy" in the States and around the world. It’s also a favourite show of a political power couple. In an interview with 'Time' magazine, former President Bill Clinton admitted he and wife Hillary shared the same passion: "We both love ‘Grey's Anatomy’ and did our best to watch it together whenever we could before (Hillary Clinton’s presidential) campaign began. In the new season, we'll have to TiVo it!" Politics aside, a number of 'Grey’s' fans are likely to share that same sentiment.
Shonda Rhimes (one of the few African-American women producing television these days), is the creator of "Grey’s Anatomy;" she wrote the screenplays for such films as "Introducing Dorothy Dandridge" for HBO, and "Princess Diaries 2" and "Crossroads" for Disney. In 2003, she wrote a proposed drama for about female war correspondents who worked in Iraq and-as Rhimes put it-were "out in the field having lots of sex." But executives didn’t think the premise could sustain itself and the pilot was turned down. Rhimes was given another chance, and this time, she took a similar theme-women at work-and set the series in a teaching hospital.
Originally called "Surgeons," Rhimes submitted the pilot too late to make it onto the fall 2004 schedule. But ABC executives ordered a number of episodes as a mid-season replacement. When the network’s comedy-drama "Desperate Housewives" became a smash hit for the network, ABC slotted the medical show-now retitled "Grey’s Anatomy"-to follow 'Housewives' on Sunday nights, hoping its female appeal would hold a large number of viewers. And 'Grey’s' didn’t let ABC down; it soared into the top ten immediately after its March 27th, 2005 premiere.
Set at fictional Seattle-Grace Hospital in Seattle, Washington, the show focuses on Dr. Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo), a surgical intern and daughter of a well-respected physician. She bonds with fellow interns Christina Yang (Sandra Oh); Isobel “Izzie” Stevens (Katherine Heigl) and Alex Karev (Justin Chambers). They must deal with tough surgeon Miranda Bailey (Chandra Wilson), whose nickname is “The Nazi;” intern George O’Malley (T.R. Knight) and Dr. Preston Burke (Isaiah Washington), the head of cardiothoracics.
Meredith’s love interest was chief of neurosurgery Derek Shepherd, played by actor Patrick Dempsey; he’s known as “Dr. McDreamy” by both the staff and audiences alike. (Other male characters are known variously as “McSteamy,” “McVet,” and other McDonalds-inspired phrases–all of which can be rather annoying at times.) The first season centred on the various romances, power plays and personal problems among the core cast members.
Season Two brought in several new characters and continued the various medical-related conflicts and relationship complications. Rhimes has long said "Grey’s Anatomy" was more relationship drama then medical drama (unlike shows such as "ER," which focus mostly on the medicine and make romance/relationships secondary to the workplace). Medical shows have long been favoured by women, but 'Grey’s' goes well beyond that. More than other doctor drama, this is one show that’s mostly about the romance and interpersonal relationships; it could be set in any type of occupation. And the characters are flawed, both professionally and personally-making them more relatable to the audience.
By the fall of 2005, "Grey’s Anatomy" was drawing more viewers than "Desperate Housewives," that audience only grew when a special episode was slotted in early 2006 after ABC’s Super Bowl coverage. For the fall of 2006, ABC decided to take a risk and pit 'Grey’s' in head-to-head competition against CBS’ formidable police forensics drama "CSI" on Thursday nights. (The move of 'Grey’s' forced NBC to pull its promising but eventually doomed Aaron Sorkin drama "Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip" and replace it with episodes of the game show "“Deal Or No Deal.") The move worked: "CSI" won in total audience numbers, but 'Grey’s' drew more younger viewers and women than the CBS show. Both shows were neck and neck in the top ten.
In May 2007, a two-hour "Grey’s Anatomy" episode aired, centring on neonatal surgeon Addison Montgomery (Kate Walsh, who was seen occasionally during the first season and became a regular in Season Two). The show was actually a pilot for a proposed spin-off series. It did well enough to give the new show, "Private Practice," a spot on the ABC schedule; it premiered in September 2007. (The new show also stars Tim Daly, Amy Brenneman, Taye Diggs and Chris Lowell.) But "Grey’s Anatomy’s" tremendous success--the tabloid magazine headlines, the endless websites and blogs devoted to the characters-was nearly derailed over an on-set controversy that became very public.
Rhimes takes pride in pointing out "Grey’s Anatomy" is cast in a "colour blind" fashion-each actor was chosen for his or her ability, and if they happen to be minorities, so be it. But the issue wasn’t racial; it was about sexual orientation-and it led to the involuntary departure of one of the show’s regulars.
In October 2006, it was learned Isaiah Washington allegedly used a gay slur (the one that begins with the letter "F") in referring to another cast member during an on-set argument with co-star Patrick Dempsey. Later, it was reported the target of the "F"-bomb was T.R. Knight, leading to speculation about Knight’s sexual orientation. Soon after the news reports made headlines, Knight told reporters he indeed was gay. Meanwhile, Washington denied making the remark but issued a public apology. And that, thought the producers and the network, was that. Not quite.
In early 2007, the "Grey’s Anatomy" cast celebrated its victory for best dramatic television series at the Golden Globe Awards. During the mandatory post-award interviews with reporters, Rhimes addressed the controversy, but Washington soon took the microphone and told the press "No, I did not call T.R. a f-----t." The debate ignited once again; co-star Katherine Heigl (who is best friends with Knight in real life and later won an Emmy for her role on the show) suggested in an interview that Washington "needs to just not speak in public. Period." Soon after, Knight himself appeared on Ellen DeGeneres’ syndicated talk programme and said he and other cast members heard Washington use the "F" slur. Gay rights groups immediately called for an apology. ABC ordered Washington to undergo counselling and issue a public statement, reading in part, "I can also no longer deny to myself that there are issues I obviously need to examine within my own soul, and I've asked for help." He also agreed to do a public service spot for the 'Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD).' Even though he complied with the network’s requests, ABC announced in June 2007 it would not renew Washington’s contract (Knight’s contract was renewed, and he was given a raise). Washington soon after lashed out, adopting a famous line from the 1976 film "Network": "I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore." Dempsey later told 'Entertainment Weekly' magazine "the whole thing is sad, a tremendous waste. (Washington’s) character of Burke was exceptional, and it’s too bad that character is no longer on TV." But the decision was final. Washington was later signed to guest on several episodes of NBC’s remake of the science fiction series "Bionic Woman." Fortunately, the off-screen publicity did not affect the ratings of the show; 'Grey’s' managed to weather through the bad press and rank as American television’s sixth most-popular series of the 2006-07 season.
Music has played a key role in the success of 'Grey’s.' The show’s title theme-'Cosy in the Rocket'-is performed by the British artists Psapp. Songs play a key role in the action; each episode is named after a song. Already, two volumes of songs from "Grey’s Anatomy" have been released; the exposure on the show helped such songs as 'Chasing Cars' by Snow Patrol and 'How To Save A Life' by The Fray’s race up the U.S music charts.
For all of its success, "Grey’s Anatomy" has its critics, such as the 'Center for Nursing Advocacy,' which is unhappy with the way nurses are depicted on the show. A form letter on its website urges critics to send e-mails to ABC, with this standard paragraph: "I urge you to minimize the damage done by "Grey's Anatomy" by consulting a nurse expert in creating your scripts. Having a nurse on the set to teach actors playing physicians how to convincingly do the work that real nurses do is not helping nursing--it is harming nursing. I also urge you to consider dramatic changes that would allow the show to provide a vision of modern health care that gives viewers at least some basic sense of the role of skilled nurses in modern care."
But "Grey’s Anatomy" is a fictional medical series, not a documentary on the profession. As entertainment, it has millions of satisfied customers around the world who want their regular dose of "McDreamy" and company. For the producers and the network, that’s all the feedback they need.
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