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February 18, 2010

Why I still watch Grey's Anatomy

The Shonda Rhimes empire

(There are some spoilers for recent episodes Grey's Anatomy and Private Practice below. You have been warned.)

Practically everyone I know who used to watch Grey's Anatomy gave up on it, maybe when people started talking to dead people or Addison left and got her own show or George died or Derek and Meredith got married on a post-it. And yes, I will readily admit that the plots are often completely ridiculous. But I'm still watching, and I'm watching Private Practice too, and I will probably watch Shonda Rhimes' new show (also about doctors). And it's not just because these shows are full of pretty, pretty men, although they are, and that certainly doesn't hurt. But the actual reason I watch is because, however silly the plots may be, the actual characters are more real than practically anyone else on TV. As a friend put it a few years ago when she was convincing me to start watching the show, and I'm paraphrasing here, the characters are all messed up, but they deal, and get on with their lives, and it's presented as though it's okay that they're messed up, because we're all messed up.

More specifically, I was thrilled with this piece of dialog from last week's episode, because I feel like I've been waiting for years for someone to say this:

"I said that I love you and it's out there and I know that I can't unring the bell but I'm unringing the bell. I take it back. . . . I miss my friend Owen more than anything. I miss my friend. The rest I can deal with, I can deal with it . . . I'm gonna be fine. You and I are going to be friends. . . ."
"You can't unring the bell."
"I know. But I'm going to try like hell."
I realize that my experiences are probably somewhat unusual, but this, from Teddy to her ex, in front of his new girlfriend, strikes me as far more realistic than practically any other way the dissolution of relationships has been shown on TV. I spent years thinking (and occasionally saying) this. I don't care who you date. I can get over it. I need you to be my FRIEND. And hey, Teddy, it worked for me! I'm over him. We're friends. You can do it too. Good luck! (And apparently, like Teddy, I now have no qualms saying this in front of everyone involved. Hi Caitlin!)

The same night, on Private Practice (the Grey's spinoff), Addison said something I had said almost word for word to someone earlier in the day: "I don't want to be that girl who only comes to you for whining." The longer this show goes on, the more I identify with Addison. I don't know. Maybe it's just that she's from Connecticut. But something about the way she thinks just seems real, in the midst of her highly ridiculous and unrealistic life. And this line from one of the first season episodes remains one of my favorite lines in all of TV: "I'm not a prude. It's just . . . I'm from Connecticut." (Before anyone gets the wrong idea, I should mention that, unlike Addison, I have never cheated on anyone, and my parents are orders of magnitude better than hers.)

Meredith's voiceover at the end of the episode perfectly encapsulated what I think is the actual theme of the show, and my reasons for watching it:

"We have to constantly come up with new ways to fix ourselves. . . . So we change. We adapt. . . . We create new versions of ourselves. . . . We just need to be sure that this one is an improvement over the last."

Posted by Kat at February 18, 2010 11:00 AM

I'm still faithfully watching Grey's and I'll be with it till the end. But other shows are competing for my Private Practice attention--I think it's because the themes of late have been extremely sad. But I love Grey's.

Posted by: Jeanne B. at February 19, 2010 11:25 PM

Ooh, yeah that describes it well. You're right, despite the incredible implausibility, they are still so real. Also: I only watch crossover episodes of PP due to my undying hatred of Addison (well, you know) but even I admit that she is much more likable than she used to be.

Posted by: alissa at February 20, 2010 11:07 AM
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