As I sat down and tuned into ABC on Sunday, March 27th, 2005 to watch a mid-season replacement show about a group of young doctors, 14 years later nobody would’ve guessed that it would be making history as the longest-running medical show in primetime history. Tonight at 8/7c, Grey’s Anatomy will surpass NBC’s ER as TV’s longest running medical drama.
Even though I haven’t watch Grey’s since season 7 (Callie and Arizona’s wedding), I still appreciate the show for what it did for television, and its creator and writer Shonda Rhimes is the person to thank. Rhimes broke many rules in creating Grey’s Anatomy. She was one of the first creators to introduce “blind casting” into the television industry by not writing her characters with any race (and sometimes gender) in mind. In 2005, this lead to one of the most diverse casts on television with multiple characters of color and sexual orientations. In a multitude of ways, Grey’s Anatomy ushered in the diversity renaissance that we see on TV today.
Rhimes was is also the first African-American woman to have an entire night of primetime programming dedicated to her when ABC started “TGIT” in 2014, the Thursday night block that consisted of Grey’s Anatomy, and her other hit ABC dramas Scandal and How to Get Away with Murder.
Fifteen seasons and 331 episodes later, there are no signs of the doctors at
Seattle Grace, Seattle Grace Mercy West, Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital slowing down. Grey’s Anatomy is still ABC’s #1 most watched series overall ahead of Modern Family and The Good Doctor, and the #2 drama series overall on television behind NBC’s This Is Us in the targeted demographic of 18-49 year olds, and has the distinction of staying in the top 10 rated dramas over its entire run. Not a bad track record for a show that has been on the air through four presidential terms.
Even though I’m not an avid fan of the show like I used to when it premiered, because of Netflix, new fans have been able to discover the show on the streaming service and tune into episodes on ABC to keep the doors at Grey Sloan Memorial open. To those fans, I want to say thank you.
And thank you Shonda Rhimes, for giving us amazing characters that viewers can connect with, relate to, and feel compassionate about. Thanks for giving us. Dr. Meredith Gray (Ellen Pompeo), Dr. Derek “McDreamy” Shepard, Dr. Izzie Stevens (Katherine Heigl), Dr. Cristina Yang (Sandra Oh), Dr. Addison Montgomery-Shepard (Kate Walsh), Dr. Miranda Bailey (Chandra Wilson), and the countless other characters that she’s created that we’ve loved, hated, and lost over the last 15 seasons.
More importantly, if it weren’t for the success of Grey’s Anatomy, we wouldn’t have the aforementioned Shondaland series Scandal, How to Get Away with Murder, or the two Grey’s spinoffs Private Practice and Station 19 (along with Rhimes’ other ABC series For The People). As these shows succeeded with their diverse and multi-faceted characters, it showed network executives that America wanted to see complicated and flawed characters on television so matter what they looked like on the outside, and no matter who was behind the camera.
Even though Rhimes’ time at ABC is almost done after 15 years (she signed a multi-million dollar deal with Netflix), Grey’s star Ellen Pompeo has hinted that season 16 may be its last, possibly bring the show to an end in 2020.
Tonight as it passes ER to become the longest-running medical series on television, let’s just sit back and enjoy the amazing universe that Shonda Rhimes has created and celebrate her success in doing so over the last fourteen years!