September 27, 2013

THE SKED Season Premiere Review: “Grey’s Anatomy”


GREY’S ANATOMY:  Thursday 9PM on ABC

In the miracle season of 2004-05, ABC launched three smash hits:  Desperate Housewives, Lost and GREY’S ANATOMY.  Ten seasons later, the only one still around is Grey’s, and its blockbuster days are past, with ratings last spring around a 3.0 that didn’t always carry its timeslot, and with the buzz machine moved over to series creator Shonda Rhimes’s new baby, the hybrid soap/thriller/lunacy Scandal.  But as tonight’s 2-hour Season 10 premiere confirms, Grey’s is still one of TV’s most accomplished traditional soaps.

The season premiere, with Hour 1 written by Executive Producer Joan Rater and directed by Rob Corn, and Hour 2 written by Consulting Producer Debora Cahn and directed by cast member Chandra Wilson, dealt with the aftereffects of the storm(s) that arrived at the end of Season 9.  The life-and-death stakes concerned Dr. Richard Webber (James Pickens, Jr) and intern Heather Brooks (Tina Majorino), both of whom were electrocuted by stepping into water in the hospital generator’s room.  Since Majorino, who was never a regular on Grey’s, had a commitment to join a new series on TNT, it wasn’t a major surprise that she didn’t survive the first hour, while Webber (and Pickens) made it, thanks to the instincts of Dr. Bailey (Wilson).  There was almost as much trauma in the break-up (for the moment, at least) of the marriage of Callie Torres (Sara Ramirez) and Arizona Robbins (Jessica Capshaw), after Arizona cheated on Callie last season.  Cristina Yang (Sandra Oh, entering her already-announced final season with the show) and Owen Hunt (Kevin McKidd) broke up seemingly for good, but that didn’t stop them from having sex together throughout much of the premiere.  April Kepner (Sarah Drew), after much fumbling soul-searching, appears to be marrying her paramedic fiancee after all.

Those were the marquee events of the premiere, along with the usual life-threatening surgeries for various patients, but what makes Grey’s such an effective soap is the smaller moments that it finds between the crises.  The show has been gradually developing the characters of the interns who will take over the next generation of the series, and after Heather died, a significant amount of time was given over to Jo Wilson (Camilla Luddington), Stephanie Edwards (Jerrika Hinton), Leah Murphy (Tessa Ferrer) and Shane Ross (Gaius Charles) bonding together as they tried–at Jo’s boyfriend but not quite yet lover Karev’s (Justin Chambers) suggestion–to find good memories of Heather they could share with her mother (not very successfully).  The group was even given the show’s iconic phrase “We’re our people” as they went off together after an exhausting shift to rescue more storm victims.  (Ticking away is a fact that none of the others yet know:  Shane is the one who sent Heather to the generator room so he’d have a shot at some of her surgery time.)  Similarly, the revelation that Webber had made Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo) the “next of kin” for his medical decisions allowed for interaction between Meredith, Cristina, Bailey and Webber’s girlfriend Catherine Avery (Debbie Allen) that served plot points, but was more important for what it illuminated about the characters.  Other TV soaps feel like machines, with every line and event serving only to lead to the next plot contrivance, but Grey’s knows that the breaths between the story beats are just as important.

After ten years, naturally everything that happens on the show feels like something else that happened on the show, and it may not be a bad thing in that sense for Cristina to leave and for Meredith and Derek (Patrick Dempsey) to move into elder-statespeople stature.  It’s unclear at this point whether Wilson, Edwards, Murphy and Ross will have the appeal of their forebears, but it’s time for the show to find out.  Still, Grey’s feels remarkably vital after so many emergency surgeries, so many unseemly couplings.  Sandra Oh got what will doubtless be many opportunities this season to hit a scene out of the park when she broke down after one of her interludes with Hunt (and a great little moment as well when Bailey forced her to awkwardly hug after she saved Webber’s life), and with two hours of territory, just about everyone in the cast had an opportunity to show his or her chops.  Depending on what happens with the newer characters, Grey’s may soon start to reach the limit of its copayment coverage, but it’s not on life support just yet.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."