Dear “Grey’s Anatomy,” Sincerely Me: Why I Jumped the Shark After the 10th Season (SPOILERS)

THE SPECS:

Who: “Grey’s Anatomy” currently airs on network TV, specifically on ABC, Thursdays at 8:00 PM.

What: “Grey’s Anatomy,” a medical drama narrated by central character Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo) that meditates on the journey to becoming a doctor–and a good doctor at that–as well as on the web of personal and professional relationships in a hospital. The hospital in this show is currently called “Grey Sloane Memorial” (for a more detailed Synopsis, read here:http://www.aceshowbiz.com/tv/grey_s_anatomy/summary.html).

When: The show is currently airing its 12th season, which premiered on September 24, 2015.

Where: The show is set in Seattle, Washington, at the aforementioned fictitious hospital, which has gone through several name changes since the series began.

Why: I initially passed on this show when it first aired, being typically uninterested in medical dramas (I ignored ER and similar shows for most of their runs).  However, two co-worker friends of mine and a couple of other friends in my life pretty much peer pressured me into watching this show due to all of the then-described “ridiculously hot doctors” populating the cast.  When my mom bought the first two seasons on DVD, I devoured them and became a convert at or around the season 3 premiere.  I have stuck with it, for better (Post-It Note weddings) and for worse (Izzy and her fling with the ghost of Denny), since then.

Dear Grey’s Anatomy – or, more appropriately, Shonda Rimes,

I didn’t want to watch you at first.  They made me.  They all made me.  Mostly women and some men encouraged it too.  They made me watch this show.  Well, they presented some relatively convincing persuasive points as to why I should be watching this show. They said, “Hot men! McDreamy! McSteamy! McMack!”  No, you’re right, they didn’t say the last one.  The eye candy comprised the primary argument of persuasion, though.  The hot men alone were worth it, they said. It’s not just a medical drama, they said.  The medicine is really kind of secondary, they said.  Or something to that effect.

Thus, I felt considerable peer pressure to watch this show, the likes of which I had only ever periodically before experienced.  The same peer pressure convinced me to check out Buffy, so I thought maybe I should listen to that peer pressure – cave, in other words.  Peer pressure had been right before.  Buffy remains one of my all time favorite shows, after all, though I watched nearly all of it in syndication, after its primary run had ended.

I watched Grey’s first two seasons very quickly after borrowing my mother’s DVDs.  She had become somewhat obsessed too, so I figured there must be something to this program.  I quickly came to realize that all of those “they” people were right. Hot men!  Patrick Dempsey, Justin Chambers, Eric Dane, etc.  They were worth tuning in, without question.  I mean, just look at Dempsey’s hair. His hair alone is worth a sneak peek and a channel surf every week.  Oh, Derek!  Plus, the fictional drama, though ultimately centered in a hospital, was fairly compelling.  And the non-fictional drama that became the show’s backdrop didn’t pick up until several seasons had aired. Katherine Heigl hadn’t become annoying yet.  Isaiah Washington hadn’t yet made public homophobic slurs against T.R. Knight (oh…George…).  Life in the wards and halls of the hospital formerly known as Seattle Grace made for bona fide addictive television.  What’s more, I even followed Kate Walsh, playing Dr. Addison Montgomery then Shepherd, to Private Practice and watched that entire series.

But: things started to happen as the seasons wore on and progressed.  I started to grow to understand some things about this show. Though Shonda and company have written some fairly interesting story situations for our ever evolving carousel of characters, some hard truths began to seep into the proceedings and color my otherwise hitherto unquestioned enjoyment of this long-running series. These truths became self-evident: not all seasons of Grey’s Anatomy are created equal, and that became only more true as the seasons approached double digits in number.  In fact, the story threads seemed so repetitive and uninspired to me, from episode to episode and from year to year, that I made a decision – right around the time Lexie and Mark exited stage left to the great surgical wing in the sky.  I decided to quit this show, once and for all, when my favorite character, and favorite actress on the show portraying that character, left it. Because I knew it was only a matter of time.  Because I knew she, who had something of a film career before this program became popular, would no doubt want to explore other acting options after a time.  I mean, how long could Grey’s Anatomy really last? Is it actually that popular?  Of course, the answer is yes, as the show continues to pull in tens of millions of viewers each week.

Then, without surprise, it actually happened.  Sandra Oh, the favorite in question, decided, intelligently, that she wanted to do something different after ten seasons.  So, too, did her character, Cristina Yang, choosing to join her former love Burke and run the cardio research wing of a cutting edge hospital in Europe.  And with that, my interest in Grey’s Anatomy stopped, cleanly and without regret.  I made like the Fonz and jumped the shark, water skis in tow.

Let’s face it – Grey’s is this decade’s answer to ER.  Why are medical dramas so long-lasting?  I tuned into that latter program on occasion, but it never held my attention for more than a season or two at a time, and I could not fathom sticking with it for 15 or however many seasons the pioneering medical drama ultimately lasted.  I realized that I also could not do the same for Grey’s, which promised to recycle similar tropes and expect viewers to foster loyalty with an ever changing roster of new characters – though I did not know what made me believe that Oh’s departure would end my involvement in the show, since I’m most prone to sticking with shows, no matter how much of a downhill slide they might be on, until their grisly ends.  Why wouldn’t I do the same for a drama that netted some Emmy nominations and wins in its heyday and allowed for some actors to create some high profile careers, until they self-sabotaged via various inflammatory public comments in an age of paparazzi and viral social media fan reaction?

First, there is the fact of that ever evolving carousel of characters.  Aside from the mainstay of Dr. Meredith Grey – and, really, if Ellen Pompeo leaves, the network should consider ending the show because it is named after her character and relies most often upon her narration – most of the original cast have moved on. Knight left on the heels of Washington’s inappropriate remark; George died. Washington was somewhat dismissed from the show because of that remark; his character, Burke, left Cristina Yang (Sandra Oh) at the altar.  Katherine Heigl made like an ungrateful child and ran for the door, while her character, Izzy, disappeared without a trace. Mark Sloane (Dane) and Lexie Grey (Chyler Leigh), add-ons after the first season, also met fatal ends thanks to a plane crash in inclement weather.  Interns come and go. Residents come and go.  Attending physicians come and go.  It’s like a real hospital as far as turnover, but for long-term loyalty for viewers and fans who started from the beginning, trying to replace some actors with others doesn’t help to cultivate said loyalty.

Case in point: one of the elements I loved most about Grey’s was the “twisted sister” dynamic between Meredith and Cristina.  They were two driven female best friends in the medical profession, dedicated and passionate about their craft, but with ambition that tended to substitute for and sublimate other human condition commonalities, such as interpersonal finesse. They are good doctors, even if they are works in progress as women and as human beings, and their faults and failings are similar but different, allowing them to be each other’s “person” in that heartfelt, non-“gross” way.  I’m sure post-Cristina Grey’s is all fine and good, but I can’t even bring myself to watch the show without this dynamic because it fueled so many of the dramatic devices used by the show’s writers and producers.  It was a perfect juxtaposition: Yang, the career-driven woman less concerned with family; Grey, the career-driven woman more concerned with family, given her own dysfunctional upbringing following in the footsteps of an equally career-driven mother who failed Meredith in all of the important ways.  There were many more facets of this lifelong friendship to explore, and for me, the heart of Grey’s was this friendship.  Without it, a show with lackluster and diminishing storytelling potential, given the roads it has traveled so far and with the years it has on it, would fall flat, since so many characters reacted to this dynamic and did so more than other relationships and situations on the series.

Second, Grey Sloane Memorial is not exactly like a real hospital; this hospital has experienced more catastrophic tragedies than any other hospital in the nation, real or fake.  It’s a wonder that the hospital hasn’t been splashed over the national news within its fictitious world for the audience to see more often. Bombs, plane crashes, boat crashes, doctors hallucinating relationships with ghosts; Grey’s Anatomy has subjected its character doctors to more than the usual share of medical trauma, leaving many of them patients or corpses themselves.  It got to be so much – typically for season-end cliffhangers or ratings sweeps weeks – that the character of Cristina actually made tongue-in-cheek meta jokes about it, scripted and filmed, in prior seasons.  Rimes and company have relied too heavily on these devices.  Last I checked, Richard had been electrocuted and was recovering after the fallout of a wicked storm and ensuing power outage.  How many more catastrophes can one hospital take?  It’s a wonder it’s still open or standing!  As I watched over the years, I felt myself less angst-driven by these dramatic devices and more induced to groans that yet another such incident was being depicted.  It strained credulity; it hampered suspension of disbelief.

Third, so many of these characters have slept with each other.  Are real on-call rooms typically so easy to get a quickie in?  In order to keep the “will they or won’t they” aspect of many of the active relationships alive, the writers have had to kill off characters or divorce them or drive them into forced catastrophes that severely affect their relationships.  Last I saw, Yang and Owen had sort of given up, and Callie and Arizona were trying to recover from the fact that Arizona had cheated on Callie, when suffering the loss of her leg in a plane crash strained their relationship.  What I heard but had not seen (because I did not watch any of the eleventh season) is that McDreamy himself, Dr. Derek Shepherd, also died.  The central love affair to the show is no more. I don’t care how it happened or why.  I don’t even care if the situation has forced the writers to reinvent the wheel.  This bold move, no doubt driven by Dempsey’s need to also leave the show, presumes that the characters remaining are well developed enough to entice viewers to continue watching.  Or, that the hospital itself is the real character while the people who staff it are only incidental. Perhaps, the only character that matters is Meredith Grey.  Unfortunately, I never liked her enough by herself; I liked the people around her, who made her better, more.

It’s fiction, and I get that it’s all a story.  It seems like it’s a never-ending story, though. What is the endgame?  How far am I supposed to follow these characters, particularly with so few of the original cast left: other than Meredith, only Alex, Richard, and Bailey remain.  Everyone else joined the show after the first season, and none of the original characters offered story lines that held my interest at the end of season 10.  I think Alex was becoming a “butt doctor,” and Meredith and Derek were fighting over Derek possibly doing work for the President of the United States.  I can’t even remember what Bailey was doing because none of the story lines left a significant enough impression on me.  Maybe she had some interpersonal struggle with Richard – it’s all so convoluted in my memory.

In short, I couldn’t bring myself to keep going with this drama because it’s not a story I see having a true and natural end.  Shonda and her team of writers do a good job of manipulating emotions when watching any of the shows she’s produced, but Grey’s is limping along, still watched by millions but with less of the impact and interest it sustained in its earlier seasons.  I feel like it’s forced, like it’s well past its prime, and that it’s been on longer than it should ever have been.  And without Cristina, I am hard pressed to find a new favorite character because none of the characters in service engage me the way she did.

So, you see, Grey’s Anatomy and Shonda Rimes, I must necessarily break up with you. I would say it’s not you, it’s me, but I would still mean it’s you.  There’s just no passion anymore, no drive.  You are stuck in a rut, and I couldn’t see any possibility of shaking up the routine in a way that would have left me feeling satisfied.  Our relationship was lifeless and, therefore, meaningless.  Believe me, I considered my options carefully: I don’t like breaking up with shows before they’re finished and do so rarely – the last time I ended my relationship with a program before its series finale was with Desperate Housewives, and I never looked back.  At the same time, there are so many other fish on the airwaves these days, I don’t think it’s unreasonable for me to ask that you live up to some higher expectations, and that I be free to go when you fail to do so.  Others may still find you an attractive way to spend their Thursday evenings and may even still be compelled by Meredith, Alex, Richard, Bailey, Jackson, April, Callie, Arizona, and all of the new interns that keep running through the place, but I just don’t. Feelings change, unfortunately.  We can still be friends, though.  I ain’t mad at’cha.  I’m just…over you.

In fact, any lingering questions I had about story lines and character arcs have sort of fizzled and died on the vine.  I don’t care enough to find out the answers.  I’m ready to move on with my life.  I hope you can do the same.

As a result, COUCH POTATOES UNITE! will no longer cover Grey’s Anatomy in either blog or podcast form.  BUT! If you have any interest in seeing the show be covered, feel free to send an email to couchpotatoesunitepodcast@gmail.com, or message me via the Facebook page, and express whether or not you would like to write blog articles or moderate a podcast focused on Grey’s Anatomy.  We are always looking for new participants and into expanding our operation.  For now, unfortunately, this is the last blog entry on CPU! related to this show.  Sorry, Grey’s Anatomy, Shonda Rimes, ABC, et al.  The only chance of us getting back together is if someone I know convinces me…and no one I know still watches this show.

Sincerely,

Kylie
The Chief Couch Potato

PARTING SHOTS

Grey’s Anatomy used to be compelling television, but the decline in quality since the earlier seasons is unmistakable.  Sandra Oh left; her dynamic with all the rest of the characters typically provided impetus for story, so this viewer saw no reason to continue watching and donned the water skis and leather jacket.  I still implore ABC and Shondaland to end this one while it’s still going strong, so that it doesn’t flounder and deteriorate to mediocrity or worse like others of its creed – though that descent is apparent as I type this (season 11 aside, as I’ve watched none of it).

LOOKING AHEAD:

Grey’s Anatomy was automatically ordered for a full season, given the fact that it remains a ratings juggernaut.  Season 12 currently airs Thursdays at 8:00 PM on ABC.

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