“Grey’s Anatomy” is one of the most notorious medical dramas in the history of television, a phenomenon in the TV industry. After 11 seasons, the show is still a sensation to its millions of viewers, making it one of ABC’s most popular shows, and as of season eight, the second-highest-rated TV show. It is also one of the highest-grossing shows, pulling in $2.75 million every half hour.
“Grey’s Anatomy” can attribute its success to characters who fans can’t help falling in love with. The show’s main protagonist is Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo), who we meet as a surgical intern at Seattle Grace Hospital (later known as Grey-Sloan Memorial Hospital. Meredith is known for her “dark and twisty” personality and is relatable to viewers despite her ample intellect. At this hospital Meredith meets fellow interns and future best friends Cristina Yang (Sandra Oh), Izzy Stevens (Katherine Heigl), Alex Karev (Justin Chambers), and George O’Malley (T. R. Knight).
As time passes, some characters we are attached to depart and the once overwhelmed interns evolve into au fait doctors. Each episode is inaugurated with a profound voice-over by Meredith or another significant character foreshadowing the episode’s theme.
Each season signifies another academic year for the doctors as they rise in the surgical field. Each culminates in an intense and heartbreaking finale, usually involving either the departure of a character or a tragic event.
The show follows the surgeons’ everyday lives, but their personal lives play a big part too. Relationships are highlighted more than their lives as surgeons, which is why the show is slightly unrealistic. In reality, no hospital has as many love interests and romantic pairings as Grey-Sloan. The friendships among the physicians, notably Meredith and Christina, are due to the camaraderie formed from hours in the operating room. So too for the love stories, such as the on-again-off-again relationship between Meredith and Dr. Derek Shepherd (Patrick Dempsey). These connections – both romantic and friendly – cause clashes in the lives of the characters.
Becoming a surgeon is survival of the fittest. Their incentive is driven by fierce competitiveness. Every surgeon is brainy, gifted, and insanely bright, so proving one’s capability is tough and may burn some bridges along the way. The surgeons begin each morning with an argument over who gets to take which emergency, and the episodes shift back and forth from the doctors treating their patients to their interactions with their coworkers. Often the patients pose a moral conflict for their doctor, which can relate to that doctor’s life at the moment. Each episode closes with another Meredith voice-over, which usually contrasts with her opening monologue.
“Grey’s Anatomy” is a life-changing show that never ceases to amaze viewers and pull in a huge fan base. But this show is no longer at its zenith of popularity, when each episode drew 15 million viewers. This could be due to the departure of many favorite characters, such as Christina and Derek. Or perhaps it is due to the fact that the days of sneaking around in the on-call room and wanton behavior of the once-youthful interns have morphed into the mature lives of adults who have different priorities. “Grey’s Anatomy” might not have as big an audience as it once did, but fans who have invested so much time bonding with these characters will be loyal to the end.
“Grey’s Anatomy” is like a family. Watching these characters struggle and succeed inspires viewers to follow their dreams, because becoming a surgeon is about as impossible a career choice as you can find. But in the end, it’s always a beautiful day to save a life.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.