The ABC medical drama Grey’s Anatomy quickly became a hit when it first aired on Mar. 27, 2005, but after 16 seasons, fans are questioning what happened to the medical part of the show that made it worth the watch.
The creators behind Grey’s Anatomy have produced an astounding 16 seasons and 363 episodes and show no signs of stopping anytime soon. It is currently the longest-running medical drama on American television. Star Ellen Pompeo (Dr. Meredith Grey) has already renewed her contract for an additional season despite the creators giving her character less focus and screen time than normal. She is one of the only main characters from the original cast left on the show, along with Chandra Wilson (Dr. Miranda Bailey) and James Pickens Jr. (Dr. Richard Webber). Various supporting characters have also left throughout the years. To make up for the loss, the producers continuously bring new characters into the storyline.
The show began its initial decline at the end of season 8 when multiple fan favorite characters parted ways with the show. The loss of Patrick Dempsey (Dr. Derek Shepherd) in its eleventh season resulted in the loss of thousands of viewers as well. ‘‘It had been long enough. It was time for me to move on with other things and other interests. I probably should have moved on a couple of years earlier,’’ Dempsey told People Magazine when asked about why he left the show. He made it clear it was a mutual decision between him and the creator, Shonda Rhimes.
In addition to losing characters, Grey’s Anatomy has abandoned most of the medical aspects of the show. When the show started out, episodes contained an abundance of surgeries, complex procedures, and medical talk. In recent seasons, these concepts are being pushed to the background. Drama has become such a large part of the shows that surgeries rarely make an appearance anymore.
Despite veering in the direction of pure drama, Grey’s Anatomy has brought many important issues to light in hopes of bringing about social change. In 2018, the network aired a Grey’s Anatomy episode in which the police shot Eric, a black 12 year old boy, while he was trying to climb in the window of his home. Sadly, the doctors were unable to save his life. After Eric’s death, star Jesse Williams (Dr. Jackson Avery) performed a powerful scene while confronting the cops who shot and killed Eric. In a tear-jerking moment, he stated, “Bias is human. You have guns. You’re using guns. So yours is lethal.” This episode aired two years before the current Black Lives Matter Movement because it has been a long-standing issue that the producers decided to address by making this episode.
While it is admirable that the show addresses issues of social change, they have a limited number of ideas left and the creators just reuse old storylines with new characters. For example, Meredith Grey was very close with her little sister, Lexie Grey, and her best friend, Cristina Yang, before the two of them left the show one after the other. Shonda Rhimes attempted to replace them by bringing in Meredith’s half sister and sister-in-law. The replacements could not live up to the high standards set by the original characters. Long time fans of the show noticed the parallels and similarities between the characters and storylines rather quickly.
Over the course of its 15 years, the Grey’s Anatomy cast has had many talented actors whose talents are understandably difficult to replace when they leave. Character development is a tremendous part of the hit show, and with characters who come and go each season, it is nearly impossible to show character development. Grey’s Anatomy has had a remarkable 15 years on air, but now instead of a medical drama, it is just a drama with once-beloved characters.
(Sources: People, Milford Messenger, Good Housekeeping, TV Guide)