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STUDENT BLOG #5: Rolling with the Ups and Downs of "Grey's Anatomy"
May 5, 2010  | By David Bianculli
[Bianculli here: Once a term, I try to discover a student with enough obvious writing and critical ability to give him or her a shot at writing a guest column about TV -- and give us a chance to see things from a younger generation's perspective. Today, Rowan University junior Eve Patzlaff evaluates the shifting effectiveness of a long-time favorite. Please welcome her..]

greys-thanksgiving.jpgSounding Off, But Not Giving Up, on Meredith and Company

By Eve Patzlaff


I've been watching ABC's Grey's Anatomy (9 p.m. ET Thursdays) since its premiere in 2005. I'll admit, I was one of those people who gasped when I learned Derek Shepherd was married, cried when Denny died, and cheered when Meredith built the house of candles. But for the past season and a half, I have yet to feel any overwhelming emotions of any sort -- besides disappointment.

What are intended to be "twists" feel more like desperate attempts to entice the viewer rather than advance the plot. Meredith in the afterlife? Izzy and George? Callie becoming a lesbian?


The problem is the show sets up each "twist" in such a way as to make you believe that huge repercussions will occur and a lot of characters will be affected. But Meredith just goes back to work, Izzy and George call it quits, and Callie seems to adjust relatively well to her new sexuality, and finds no shortage of female partners.

There also are random subplots that are never revisited. How about that kiss shared between Yang and Avery? Whatever happened to that Mercy West intern, Reed, who obviously liked Karev?


Instead, we are left with Webber's continued (and, frankly, tiring) tantrums over not being chief any more, and Sloan's womanizing ways. Sloan was temporarily redeemed and humanized during his romance with Lexie -- a romance I did not see coming, but found believable nonetheless. After their breakup, he was convinced that he wanted a wife and children, but eventually went back to sleeping with nurses in on-call rooms, and currently is sleeping with Teddy.

I can't tell whether this is supposed to be another "twist" or if we're actually supposed to care. Now Sloan has returned to the same, boring, stale character he was before.

Any attempt to add to a character is taken away two steps later. Bailey's foray into the dating world, for example, is overshadowed by her worries about her "surgical space."

The show is just asking too much of its viewers to be trusted. It feels like new romances, such as George and Izzy, are contrived, and are used as a last-ditch effort to pull the audience back into the show.

However, I will commend the show for writing in the character of Owen Hunt. He's more than just a trauma surgeon: He's a trauma surgeon with a tortured and relevant past, and how Christina and Owen decide to handle that will be fascinating to watch.

greys-Cristina-Owen-greys-a.jpgDr. Avery also seems to be an interesting character. We know he has the hots for Yang, but there seems to be more to him than meets the eye. We got a taste of that when we learned he had a famous doctor for a grandfather, a fact he tried to keep hidden from everybody.

But overall, I'm disappointed -- and the reason that I am so disappointed with the show is that it set suchhigh standards when it first began. Still, I can't help but hold out hope that greatness can be achieved again. So I'm still watching.

And hoping.


Eve Patzlaff is a junior Radio/TV/Film major, and Creative Writing minor, and currently writes for Venue, a student publication at Rowan University.



Rich said:

Interesting. The problems discussed reminded me of why I lost interest in "Heroes" on NBC. All I know about "Grey's" is that Katherine Heigl was causing a ruckus and dissing her writers or something and that there was some guy named McDreamy.

It seems like they took the time to build up a fine show and now they've left you holding the bag. How are you supposed to care if THEY don't? I don't even watch this show, but I could tell you have clear-cut questions and gripes. Hopefully, someone connected with get your review passed to them and fix the next season for you.

After all, we're not just critics, we're often the most loyal fans. Welcome to the critical couch!

Comment posted on May 6, 2010 7:58 PM

ceolaf said:

Very good opening paragraph, and a good idea for a column. But don't think that you quite carry it through.

I am looking for an argument and a point of view carried all the way through the piece. You are close, but I don't think you are quite there. Most of this piece feels choppy. You've got a lot of examples, but you are missing the argument that holds them together. I think that you could have carried the "twist" argument through, perhaps by being a bit more explicit, and offering a prescription.

"Huh?" Well, I mean offer the reader a twist that worked well, how the show *used* to handle this. Sheppard is married!? THAT was a twist, and it set up the entire second season, right? Furthermore, it was set up in such a way that it was entirely unexpected. Contrast that with how these more recent developments have occurred (i.e. the ones you list here), how quickly they pop up (randomly?), and how insignigicant they end up being. Oh, yeah, and how numerous.

You've already done most of that, right? You just need to set up the good one -- which you've already cited as a "gasp" moment -- and explain why it worked so much better than these do.

I would also suggest that you use the word "writing." You are not talking about acting, direction, set design or other aspects of the show. You are talking a decline in the quality of the writing, by which you mean the stories/storyline/plot/character development (but not the dialogue).

With that in mind, I think that your point about Hunt does not fit in with this piece. You are right, he is an interesting character and is well acted. But your piece is not about whether the characters are interesting as much as it is about the sequence of events and what it does to them. Hunt started interesting and has remained so. In many ways, he and the actor who plays him do not fit on the show. He actually *IS* dark, unlike Merideth. (Of course, acting alongside Sandra Oh probably makes things a lot easier for Kevin McKidd.) But this point is about acting and original character, rather than the central points about writing storylines. (Heck, give that character enough time and show and maybe he'll suffer the same problems as all the others. He's only been around 1/3 as long as the original crew, and half as long as Sloan and Callie.)

I think that this show has other stregths and other weaknesses, but you make an excellent point about the show's major weakness -- a interesting point because it is something that has *changed* about the show. I wonder if there have been changes to the writing staff that would explain this? Could you investigate that (perhaps on IMDB?)? You might also quickly point to other shows that have suffered similar problems, some that have died for it and others that have recovered. By doing that, you would be sticking to your original argument to close up the piece, rather than switching to another element of the show.

You see, you don't want simply to list faults and strengths, and you haven't. You've rightly left a lot out. But you could focus more tightly on that aspect of the writing that you think so important (i.e. developments over time), explain a bit more about how that can work (and has worked), where (and why?) it has failed more recently, and what might come of it. It's an opportunity to show that you don't know the show as a fan, but that you appreciate the show as someone who understands the craft of putting a show together.

Yeah, that's hard. It takes time to understand everything that goes into a show, but you've made a great start here, focusing as you are on a particular aspect of the show. That's the only one you need to show you know to seem like a real expert in this piece.

Comment posted on May 12, 2010 1:33 AM
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