Grey's Anatomy: Season Five
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Grey's Anatomy: Season Five

A few years back a sullen darkness descended upon the fans of television. Due to several factor it appeared that most of the major networks were moving away from scripted television. The cost of producing an episode was skyrocketing and the now infamous Writers’ strike just exaggerated the dilemma. As always it was the fans who just wanted quality original TV programs that got the short end. That was until the ABC network decided to go against the trend and premier a couple of new scripted series; ‘Desperate Housewives’ and ‘Grey’s Anatomy’. Together they provided a much appreciated departure from immunity challenges, watching people eating disgusting items and general sick, greedy behavior. Both of these series shared something extremely important; they are both exceptionally well crafted soap operas. Now some may take that as a derogatory comment but it is actually intended as high praise. Consider the fact that there are soap operas running that started on radio some sixty years ago. There has to be some compelling elements in this form of storytelling that allows it to reach out and retain the loyalty of audience. When you combine this with setting the drama in a hospital where there is an inherent life or death scenario constantly being played out and you have a recipe for sure fire ratings. Although there has been some decline in the viewers over the five years the series has been on but it continues to draw a faithful group of fans. When considering a series from this genre it is important not to expect a lot in the way of realism. The doctors depicted here and afflicted with an almost super human libido and more importantly are never far from an isolated to express their overwhelming lust. Having work in a hospital for a long time I can attest that such a constant string of places to carry on such behavior is pure fantasy. Still, this is intended as a guilty pleasure not a look at a real hospital setting.

In several ways this was a rebuilding season for the series. Like many shows it was adversely affected by the notorious Writer’s Guild strike. The most notable affect was breaking the carefully planned story and character arcs intended for the season. Key episodes had to be removed to accommodate a shortened season. While much of this was directly involved with the previous season the series still was trying to recoup after this set back and high hopes from both the producers and fans were focused on the success of this season. Adding to the degree of difficulty was the escalation of the behind the scenes melodrama that was played out in every tabloid and trade magazine. After losing a key character over some alleged homophobic remark a very public feud broke out between leading Katherine Heigl, who publically blamed the writers for a bad season, refusing to submit her work for award consideration. The result was a storyline addition was would nicely explain her character’s departure if more amiable terms could not be reached.

Doctor ‘McDreamy’, Derek Shepherd (Patrick Dempsey) has come out of the romantic Quagmire that drove much of the last four years finally committing to making a relationship with Dr. Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo) work out. This drama is replaced by his finding the diaries that Ellen’s mother kept when she was a resident. Ellen and her mother were estranged before she died but the diaries disclosed mother and daughter had a lot in common including affairs with married co-workers. Some plot lines were pruned back to streamline the show. Dr. Callie Torres (Sara Ramírez) divorced Dr. George O'Malley (T. R. Knight) because he was in love with his fellow surgeon Izzie Stevens (Katherine Heigl). While George is busy trying to pass the certification exam he failed Izzie has been having extremely realistic hallucination involving energetic sex with her dead fiancé Denny. She is sure that she is going crazy but it may be a terminal brain tumor. Meanwhile Callie’s brief experimentation with a lesbian ends where her girlfriend cardiothoracic surgeon Erica Hahn (Brooke Smith) left the hospital sudden; the actress was not renewed. George can’t compete with a ghost breaking up with Izzie and becoming closer with Meredith’s half sister Lexie Grey (Chyler Leigh). She is one of the new group of resents being taught by the original group. During the course of the season they break numerous ethical standards and commit more than a few felonies during their training. One of the more notable is performing invasive procedures on each other. It would be nearly impossible the myriad of permutations the love affairs and relationships that are woven together here. Basically you need a data base to keep track of who’s doing whom. Of course as with any example of a soap opera there is an expectation of very salacious plots, at least what the network Standards and Practices will allow. The cast and crew made a realistic attempt at getting back on track and for the most part they succeed but there is going to be an uphill climb this coming season.

Posted 09/08/09

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