Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Squawk Box: Meditations on Early 'Grey's'

The Missus has been making her way through Grey's Anatomy on Netflix for a couple of months now. In general, after McDreamy died I was pretty much done even remotely caring about that show (and sure enough, recent episodes seem to involve a lot of the characters shouting at each other about things that I didn't really care all that much about- either because the show is going through a bad stretch of writing (doubtful, but possible given it's longevity) or because I lack the context to understand why I should care about the hospital politics they're all wrangling about of late.) But what sucked me back into Grey's was not the newer episodes, but the older ones. And that got me thinking and remembering a (seemingly, but really not that surprising given my taste in television) surprising thing: once upon a time, Grey's Anatomy was appointment television for me.

Like Picasso, I had something of a Blue Period in the latter days of my undergraduate experience. Weirdly, that was also the semester/year that I probably came closest to becoming a runner. I would walk myself over the the Field House, pound out a mile and walk home. I'm not sure what drove me to do that, but I did. On a semi-regular basis. It was relaxing. It was briefly, my 'thing' and the closest I came to embracing my inner 'runner.'

Then there was Grey's. I'm not sure what drew me in- I want to say it was the fact that the writing centered on the people and not the procedural aspects that you usually see in a lot of medical shows. (My experience at that point in my life consisted of ER. I've never seen an episode of Hill Street Blues, do I have no idea what that was like.) The drama of that first season was soapy and delicious. Meredith navigating her relationship with Derek. Burke and Christina. George going from the dude who damn near botched an appendectomy to the guy who's doing heart surgery in the elevator. Izzy and Alex. It all just worked. It was good. Really, really good.

The gut-punch came at the end of the first season with the 'Holy Shit, he's married' reveal and the introduction of Addison. And then Mark Sloan. And then Callie Torres. Meredith slept with George. George slept with and married Callie. George slept with Izzie. Alex Karev slept with absolutely everyone. At it's height, it was gloriously deliciously soapy. It was a soap dish. A gallon jug of Ivory Dish Soap. It was this batshit loony YouTube video. The dysfunction of the American health care system, I thought, could be easily explained by the fact that these Doctors seem to do little else except sleep together and argue about it.

But then Denny happened. Like most of America, I blubbered and ugly cried over fucking Chasing Cars and that goddamn LVAD wire. Thinking back on it though, it was what was going on with Meredith that was really interesting. Between the strain of keeping her Mom's Alzheimer's a secret, struggling to deal with the whole 'married' boyfriend thing, it's no surprise her baggage bubbles up to the surface. The whole thing with the bomb in the body was cool. But I remember being annoyed at a certain point about Meredith's wishy-washy behavior. The whole on-again, off-again aspect of Mer-McDreamy seemed incredibly annoying the first time around and, in fact, turned me off to the show entirely for awhile. (Seriously: there are whole reams of the 4th Season and the 5th for that matter I don't remember. I don't remember the damn post-it note, that's how annoying I got.)

The 4th Season finale is really what made me take a second look at the early period of Grey's- not because of the whole house outline in candles thing- that was epic, that was romantic- but it was a couple of scenes before that when Meredith finally figures out why her mother tried to kill herself- or in this case, didn't try to kill herself. I had never noticed the moment my first time through, by the second time, it was...  man. I don't know if it was the writing or the acting or a combination of both, but the whole build up to that moment- with Meredith fighting kicking and screaming not to go to therapy and then finally going and then getting more and more frustrated with it until she finally, finally puts it all together- the payoff for all that- was an incredible piece of television.

(Of course, I didn't remember the part where Derek had his breakdown after lobotomizing someone and getting all haunted and woodsman like for awhile. But it was nice to see that the see-saw in the relationship went both ways- that Meredith could push him back up when he was down.)

I cut myself off early in Season 6. George was dead. Izzy was on the way out. Owen 'Ginger' Crazy Pants had shown up and they were starting the whole merger storyline with Mercy West which sort of you know, bored me a little bit. So I stepped out for awhile. I became a casual viewer- keeping up with the shenanigans when and where I could. Watching the plane crash with the tragic end for Lexie Grey (one of the best characters on the damn show) and Mark Sloan and Arizona's subsequent struggle about her losing her leg*. I'm nowhere near as into this show as I used to be.

Early 'Grey's' though was something else. I think of fondly from time to time and it was a pleasure to jump back into the soapy pond once more.

*Okay. I have all my limbs. I can understand that losing a limb might be painful. It might be a struggle to learn how to handle a prosthetic. There would, I imagine, be  world of suck associated with losing a limb of any kind. HOWEVER (and this may well make my sound like a gigantic asshole) Arizona went overboard with this damn leg business IMHO. I get it. You can't wear Heelys** around the Hospital anymore. But you're also, what's the word, still fucking alive with a woman and kid who both love you. I recognize the suck and the struggle, but damn girl. Take a breath. Get a little perspective. Count them blessings.

**They don't make Heelys in my size. I've checked and am forever resentful.

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