TV Series Review
In 2010, the Association of American Medical Colleges said the United States faced a shortage of 150,000 doctors over the next 15 years. Here's a plan to stop the bleeding: Why not recruit the cast of ABC's hit dramedy Grey's Anatomy? They seem young, smart and really driven—despite their sophomoric spats, occasional heavy drinking and manifold sexual exploits. And the interns and doctors at, first, Seattle Grace Hospital, now Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital, sure look like they know how to practice medicine, dealing hourly—and usually brilliantly—with life-or-death situations.
Grey's Anatomy's cast is broad, varied and worthy of a soap opera (which, of course, is exactly what Grey's is). Meredith Grey, Cristina Yang, April Kepner and Alex Karev are all surgeons who have battled their way through various professional and personal trials. Dr. Owen Hunt, a trauma specialist and Iraq War vet, is Cristina's ex-husband and still sometime lover. Callie Torres and Arizona Robbins are orthopedic surgeons and lesbians who recently married. Dr. Derek Shepherd, Meredith's husband, is chief of surgery. Dr. Miranda Bailey, an attending surgeon, and former hospital chief Richard Webber try to keep everyone in line.
Between rounds, this motley yet highly telegenic group grapples with friendships, romance, dysfunctional families and conundrums about their own competence. (In fact, they often struggle with these things during their rounds.) And when they're not agonizing, they find time to swap innuendo-laden banter, engage in quick couplings with one another (and sometimes patients), and mull the muddy meaning of life and love.
These interns aren't just learning how to operate on patients, then, they're trying to figure out how to operate in life—crafting community, balancing work and play, and seeking happiness in a demanding profession. But their choices often lead to ethically impaired life lessons and disastrously misinformed spiritual beliefs. In other words, the word Grey in the show's title could easily refer to its characters' morals as well.
And then there's the gore, shown up close and in living (or deceased, as the case may be) color. Mangled body parts—be they torn, punctured, bitten off or atrophied—are pictured in grisly detail. Rare diseases sometimes manifest in horrifying ways. Similarly dreadful are the ways doctors address these situations with sitcom-style yuks.
That's not to say Grey's Anatomy doesn't have some serious points to make. It does. But it seems every time the show tries to make a poignant statement about self-sacrifice or forgiveness, that heartfelt moment gets derailed by flashes of partial nudity or explicit sexual humor involving masturbation, erections or vaginas.
Creator and executive producer Shonda Rhimes chalks it up to a "realistic" portrait of doctors. "Some medical shows keep them as heroes, and some medical shows go with pure adrenaline drama," she says. "But Grey's Anatomy is trying to walk the line in the middle and give you a little bit of both."
The result is a perennial hit, and many of Grey's Anatomy actors have gone on to impact other shows or films. Katherine Heigl, for instance, played Dr. Izzie Stevens for years before making a splash in the world of cinematic romcoms. Sarah Drew, who plays the Christian doctor April Kepler, also took a starring turn in the 2014 Christian comedy Moms' Night Out. In both roles, Drew—a Christian herself—says that she's done her best to portray Jesus-followers as real, genuine people, not preconceived notions of what sitcom fans might expect or sometimes see on the news.
"I know in our mainstream culture, the loudest voices and the most shocking voices are the ones that get the noise," she told Fox News. "But the problem is, people think that's how all Christians behave if they don't know any Christians."
As nuanced as she might try to make her character, though, the shock she talks about also rules on her own show. Sex, gore and bad behavior are everyday occurrences in the workaday world of Grey Sloan Memorial. And that's far from a healing environment.
Crude or Profane Language
Drug and Alcohol Content
Other Negative Elements
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Drama, Comedy, Medical
Ellen Pompeo as Meredith Grey; Patrick Dempsey as Derek Shepherd; Sandra Oh as Christina Yang; Chandra Wilson as Miranda Bailey; Eric Dane as Mark Sloan; Kevin McKidd as Owen Hunt; James Pickens Jr. as James Webber; Sarah Ramirez as Callie Torres; Justin Chambers as Alex Karev; Sarah Drew as April Kepner; Chyler Leigh as Lexie Grey; Jessica Capshaw as Arizona Robbins