November 14, 2005Feature
I was going to spend several eloquent paragraphs prattling on about the ambiguous joy of that latest addition to hospital show history, ABC's Grey's Anatomy. My initial review was going to depict the show as a fair-to-middling schizophrenic dramedy that might be able to make it only if it stops waffling and commits itself to being a quality network TV show (few and far between, indeed).
After all, despite being able to stay on the air for two seasons with its unlucky time slot after smash hit Desperate Housewives (a grievance for another time, I fear), it's made a barely noticeable mark. I even had a clever opening sentence all ready to go: "Wedged tight between the bleak black drama of ER and the blinding white wit of Scrubs, there's ABC's Grey's Anatomy." Well, I thought it was clever, anyway.
Then a truly wonderful episode, "Something to Talk About", aired November 6th, and the whole plan almost went to crap. It went something like this:
Dr. Derek Shepherd (Patrick Dempsey) and his ultra-tough senior resident wife Addison (Kate Walsh) are bickering in their marriage counselor's office. Shepherd has put the breaks to his tumultuous affair with first-year surgical intern and "main character" Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo), who spends a good amount of time fluctuating between broken-heart catatonia and chin-up pride as the rest of Seattle Grace Hospital stares and whispers about her behind her back. In the words of chief resident Miranda Bailey (Chandra Wilson), "She's a human traffic accident and everyone's slowing down to look at the wreckage."
Grey's pals Cristina Yang (Sandra Oh) and Isobel "Izzie" Stevens (Katherine Heigl) have stolen a patient from a rival intern who can only be described as a medical anomaly — a pregnant man named Mr. Herman. Meanwhile, terminal jerk Alex Karev (Justin Chambers) is wheeling around an eighteen year old girl desperately in need of both surgery and freedom, while George O'Malley (T.R. Knight) and Dr. Preston Burke (Isaiah Washington) are tending to a badgering old woman and her put-upon husband in for the woman's 5th open-heart surgery, during which her heart spontaneously combusts. The two bond over the mutual absurdity of the situation (the husband's final speech is pure gold), but not before the socially inept O'Malley sticks his foot in his mouth about Burke's relationship with Yang.
|Please don't think that all doubt has been shaken in just one shot. On the contrary, I still have plenty of complaints — both general and specific — to work my way through.|
The first grievance is less grumbling and more bass-ackwards compliment. Based on excessive voice-overs and camera time — not to mention title — Grey's Anatomy is supposed to revolve around Meredith Grey. They failed. Miserably. Perhaps it's because I haven't been watching the show from the beginning. Perhaps it's because I'm not thoroughly engrossed enough in the series to see it. Or perhaps it's Grey's Anatomy itself. What is purported to be a show devoted to the trials and tribulations of one lovelorn lass actually turns out to be a fairly decent ensemble hospital series.
|Now, the horrific and bizarre cases I can totally believe without a doubt. People are stupid unfortunate creatures who get into stupid unfortunate situations involving mutated tumors with teeth, pick axes and explosive chest cavities.|
Yet how many hospitals are that filled with that much backstabbing and melodrama? How is there time? Wouldn't they be just too tired to have all the free time to devote to gossip and extramarital affairs? And how likely is it that this gaggle of go-getters would have time at the end of almost every episode to plunk themselves down on a barstool and toss a few back? Wouldn't they have to... oh, I don't know... WORK?!
Grievance #2? Pop culture overdose. The episode, much like this year's Mr. and Mrs. Smith, starts and ends in a marriage counseling session with a sexy, stubborn husband and wife team; unlike the blockbuster film, however, the couple has gone from passionate fighting to complacency, squelching their problems instead of resolving them.
If that weren't enough, there are the unavoidable waves of pop music. Once safely relegated to the background to establish mood, TV shows have become little more than vehicles for cross-promoting the blaring soundtracks that, more often than not, feel completely inappropriate. The one exception would be the show's clever insertion of "Chewing Gum", by Danish dance pop sensation Annie into an overt high school analogy.
Sadly, Grey's Anatomy is also guilty of another crime — vanity. In my opinion, all television doctors (except the folks on ER) look too tidy, well-rested and sane to ever pass for the real thing, and the first-years of Seattle Grace Hospital are no exception. I want my TV doctors stressed, haggard, frazzled, not toned, pretty and pumped to the gills with enough collective silicone and Botox to have Pamela Anderson making a special guest appearance in their ER.
Here's to hoping that Rhimes can stop skating that thin line between treasure and tripe with Grey's Anatomy.
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