I watched the pilot episode of Grey’s Anatomy in June 2020. I was six months pregnant and we were in an unprecedented pandemic. I’d just been diagnosed with gestational diabetes. A resident of Burlington not even a year, I hadn’t had time to make friends or find community and support before Covid hit. All of this to say: I was ripe for some escapist, bingeable television.
I found it in Grey’s Anatomy.
My love/hate relationship started firmly in love. The song that plays in the opening scene of that pilot episode is one of my all-time faves: Rilo Kiley’s “Portions for Foxes.”
I was hooked after that pilot episode. I spent the rest of my pregnancy counting carbs and watching Grey’s Anatomy in my air-conditioned bedroom. I finished season 16 (the last available season on Netflix at the time) with a newborn in my arms. My love/hate relationship still very much leaned into loving.
Grey’s Anatomy, a medical and romance drama, is the first hit series from Shonda Rhimes. It debuted on ABC in March 2005 as a mid-season replacement. It is currently in its 19th season.
The show rotates around its sun (iykyk), the titular Dr. Meredith Grey. She’s an intern at the fictional Seattle Grace Hospital when we meet her, trying to live up to the legacy left by her mother, Dr. Ellis Grey. She becomes friends, sometimes begrudgingly, with the other interns working under the tutelage of Dr. Miranda Bailey. Over the course of the series, we watch as these interns evolve and mature in their professional, medical, and private lives.
What makes great TV great? What makes Grey’s Anatomy so great? Why do I love it so much even when I also hate it?
Because I’m invested.
My love/hate relationship can swing from love to hate and back again because I’m emotionally attached to these characters. I need to see how Meredith and Derek’s relationship will fold or blossom. I need to see Cristina Yang’s steadiness and self-certitude time and time again in hopes I might learn something.
Throughout my life, in times of great upheaval, I have turned to television shows for comfort. This started in fourth grade when I would watch an episode of Arthur before the drive to school.
I turned to Jon and Kate Plus 8 when I moved to Boston, MA and my boyfriend dumped me not six weeks later after more than two years together. Sex and the City and The West Wing soothed me through various parts of my late teens and twenties.
And finally, I watched Fixer Upper as I packed my apartment after my husband and I decided to move from Boston, MA to Burlington, VT.
It’s no wonder that through a time of great uncertainty and fear, I turned yet again to a world on the small screen so very different from my own.
But by season 10, all my faves were gone. Some actors were fired and their characters killed off. Some quit and their characters went to Switzerland for the top cardiothoracic position in the country.
With every new character, I questioned how much I could invest emotionally. How could I care about Deluca or Maggie and Amelia when I was once so deeply invested in Derek and Cristina, and yes, even Lexie.
It’s like going through a breakup, my love/hate relationship with Grey’s Anatomy, and wondering, will I ever love again? And finding out yes, yes I will.
These early- to mid-teens seasons are when my love for Grey’s began to wane. But even though I was bored by Grey’s Anatomy in its mid-teens seasons, and my love/hate relationship was trending toward hate, I still could not help turning it on and watching each week.
My shift from love to hate might have also had something to do with a change in the writer’s room. Krista Vernoff, the head writer, left at the end of season 7. She returned as showrunner for season 14, finding what had happened in her absence to be “dark as hell.” Those seven seasons are the ones where my loving relationship strains to hold on. It’s nice to know there’s an actual reason for the downshift in my affection.
I struggled with how much Grey’s Anatomy asked me to suspend my disbelief.
In the course of 19 seasons, Meredith survived the following: a bomb, a near-drowning, her mother’s death, her father’s death, her husband’s death, her sister’s death, a plane crash, and COVID, too. Am I missing anything? I feel like I’m missing something. How can one character experience so much trauma? And she’s – what? – okay?
And another thing. Grey Sloan is a huge hospital. But we only see the same handful of doctors. No nurses or other attendings, unless it’s convenient for the plot. No residents. Like, where are all the other resident cohorts? We only know four or five when new intern classes start every year.
Maybe I’m too literal for primetime television. When I think of these plot holes my love/hate relationship turns to hate. Or at least a very strong dislike.
It’s always bothered me how much mothers on Grey’s Anatomy talk about how they’re mothers.
Bailey does this constantly in the early seasons. But now I realize Bailey and Meredith do this because we never see them mothering. Meredith brings up her “three kids” as a reason not to be with Riggs so that we remember this is not dark and twisty Meredith again, playing a game of will she or won’t she? She’s got major responsibilities now, shaping the lives of three little humans, one of whom was born after her husband’s sudden and tragic death.
Through it all, I stan for Grey’s Anatomy. My love/hate relationship will still somehow always be full of love, even when tinged with disbelief, irritation, and laughter.
What about you? Do you love or hate Grey’s Anatomy?
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