It is hard to explain why we have such a fascination with medicine, doctors and death. Maybe its the vicarious thrill in seeing things that we hope we will never have to experience, or maybe its a desire to try and educate ourselves as much as we can on an infinitely complex and difficult subject, but either way, medical shows consistently perform well in terms of ratings. All you have to do is Google ‘Medical Drama’ and you are shown exactly how popular the genre is. ER, Scrubs, House MD, even the soap like Holby City all brought in the audiences, and so its easy at first to dismiss Grey’s Anatomy as just another medical show. It is not.
The show is broadcasting its tenth series in America currently, with it set to return to UK screens at some point in the new year, and has been consistently one of the highest rated shows in the US. In 2012, it was named the fifth-highest revenue earning show, (when considering revenue as advertising revenue per half-hour). All these things point to a very successful show, and after starting it on a whim after watching an episode of it with a housemate, it is easy to se why.
The show focuses on a group of first year surgical interns at Seattle Grace Hospital as they move from the safe educational world of med school into the real world of surgery. Central characters include Dr. Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo), Dr. Cristina Yang (Sandra Oh), Dr. George O’Malley (T. R. Knight), Dr. Izzie Stevens (Katherine Heigl) and Dr. Alex Krev (Justin Chambers), the five interns who are assigned to the service of different residents and attendings through the course of the show. It charts their progress as they become travel through their internship at the hospital, dealing with extreme medical situations and emotional dramas. Part of what makes the show engaging is the fact that it doesn’t shy away from the realities of being a surgeon. Bad patient outcomes are shown in full emotional colour, and people don’t survive just because you really want them to
Stand out episodes of the first season include the show opener, ‘A Hard Days Night’ and ‘If Tomorrow Never Comes’, which tells the story of a woman who has a tumour of record breaking size. Every season builds on the strength of the first, exploring the interns relationships with each other and the other members of the hospital. The development in the core group of characters in the show is shown most clearly in the season six concluding story arc which ran over ‘Sanctuary’ and ‘Death and All of His Friends’. As well as bringing a dramatic cliff hanger ending, the show didn’t shy away from the long term affects of something so dramatic. The season eight closer had me in tears. Episodes that also stick in my mind include the season two closing episodes ‘Deterioration of the Fight or Flight Response’ and ‘Losing My Religion’ which showcases some spectacular acting from Katherine Heigl.
Grey’s Anatomy was Heigl’s ‘break out’ role before she moved onto romantic comedies and movies, and through the show you get to see her show her acting ability, and demonstrate exactly why she won an Emmy for the role. Similarly, Pompeo’s turn as Meredith shows a mature acting ability, as she deals with a complicated relationship with her mother a renowned surgeon who is suffering from Alzheimer’s alongside the gruelling internship programme at Seattle Grace.
Grey’s Anatomy returns to screens in the UK 8th January 2014 at 10pm. Seasons 1-9 are available on DVD, and also on Sky’s on demand service currently.