Truth be told, there’s no better network on television than ABC. PBS is a real close second. Masterpiece Cinema is coming hard with masterfully produced dramatic miniseries like Downton Abbey and really intriguing documentaries that have always been its mainstay. Everything I need to know about former U.S. Presidents, world news, the Amish, the Mormons, and how Americans celebrate holidays and weddings based on their religious, ethnic, or regional background I learned from PBS. Thank you viewers like you.
But even with shows like The Bachelor and its spinoffs, ABC more than makes up for its trashy reality television programming with shows like Modern Family and Scandal, Grey’s Anatomy and right up until last night, Desperate Housewives. From the very first episode I was hooked. Sunday nights I joined my roommates et al. to Desperate Housewives and Grey’s Anatomy then called one of my best friends who lived in Maryland at the time and we’d do a quick recap on G.A. and whether we thought Shonda and the writers were completely losing their wits. This tradition of post Grey’s phone calls continued even after I moved to Virginia and my friend moved out to California. It was quite amusing to express my frustration/outrage/love for the storyline without giving anything away to my friend. I’d just have to tease him with very non-nondescript sentences like, “You won’t believe what Shonda did today!” or “I just can’t deal with Meredith anymore. She’s on a slow suicide mission, I swear.” or “Wow! Trust me! This latest episode was so good! Makes me realize how much I love this show all over again.”
I fell out of love with Grey’s much like the way I fell out of love with ABC’s TGIF. Granted, I was just a kid back then and expected television programming to stay exactly the same. I couldn’t foresee myself ever not wanting to stay at home with my family watching Full House, Family Matters, Boy Meets world, Step by Step, and Perfect Strangers. But then a funny thing happened. I grew older and my preferences changed. Similar television programs just didn’t interest me like the above classics. The same thing happened with The Secret World of David the Gnome, Inspector Gadget, Babar, and Madeline as I transitioned out of cartoons into more sophisticated programming like Wishbone and Ghostwriter. (I’ve always loved PBS.) And it happened against as I transitioned out of only watching shows like TRL, 106th and Park, Rap City and Real World on MTV and BET.
I thought I had reached a level of maturity where I was done growing out of my favorite shows. Guess not. Because as much as I loved Grey’s Anatomy seven years ago, I couldn’t tell you anything about my once beloved characters since before Izzy left Alex. For reasons out of my control (because of a hardship created by the nominal Americorps*VISTA stipend) I stopped watching television altogether and realized my life was none the worse from it. It was a temporary hiatus, but when I came back into the Grey’s Anatomy fold, I felt like the show had changed even though deep down I know it had always been completely over the top and filled with the most ridiculous dramatics. It hadn’t changed. I had changed.
When cataloging all the major events that had changed my sentiments about the show, it wasn’t enough to say that I was disappointed that all the best characters had left. Yes, Burke is gone and his replacement didn’t even fill one of his shoes but the ensemble nature of the cast made it so that even if Meredith up and died the show could have been successful. In fact, many times I’ve wanted Meredith to up and die. Her level of self-destruction takes functional crazy to another level.
Remember when Burke left Yang all alone at the altar looking like the most pitiful creature from this side of Discovery Health? And I bawled like none other when I realized that the man mangled and disfigured in the OR was George O’Malley, writing 007 into Meredith’s palm. Or when Denny died on the night of the hospital prom and Alex swooped in and carried Izzy out because he couldn’t bear to see her like that, I knew they would get married. I knew he loved her. It was the only story line I’d ever rightly predicted. I’m usually very good and predicting outcomes on Lifetime movies but I never knew what direction the writers at Shondland would travel. I never saw Izzy’s brain tumor coming. Her visions of Denny indicated to me that she was losing her mind, not her life. And I rooted for Izzy and George to make it, even though that’s right around the time one of my friends stopped watching because she could not support fictitious infidelity. But I should have known that no one on Grey’s Anatomy is ever happy for very long and ultimately I think that’s why I had to leave it alone.
I’ve finally arrived at the place in life where I believe that not only do I deserve to be happy but so does everyone else, even self-absorbed, sex-crazed surgeons. And an escape from the hardships and monotonies of life to a world where not even brain surgeons and heart surgeons can figure out how to successfully navigate romantic relationships, or families or their careers just felt like a huge anchor on all my hopes and dreams. I’m not like any of the characters on the show, though I always had a special likeness for Izzy and couldn’t bear to see any more of her cards. No matter how she played them, it seemed she’d never win. I don’t always expect a happy ending but it’d be nice if I could rest easy for an hour each week knowing that
something anything would work out for Meredith or Christina or Bailey or Izzy. Maybe if she comes back, I’ll peek back in.
But that’s a big maybe. I miss the characters. I miss their lives. But I don’t miss the ups and downs, the emotional rollercoaster I experienced on a weekly basis for people who aren’t even real. It’s an emotional investment I don’t care to make with another series again. It’s why I stopped reading Jodi Picoult. I’d spend hours bawling through the first 300 pages or so and then want to rip the book apart during the last chapter. None of it can be good for my temperamental blood pressure. The show can never go back to the way it was before Burke left and George died and Izzy had a brain tumor and Addison left for California. Maybe that’s what the writers at Shondaland are insisting we learn with each season of changes. It’s the exact same thing with life. As much as we miss the past, we can never go back.