In 2005, a set of five interns entered into the world of medicine and our TV screens were never the same again. Bringing Ellen Pompeo into the limelight and casting former teen heartthrob Patrick Dempsey, Grey’s Anatomy was set to be the next big thing. But this medical drama grew bigger than anyone could have predicted as it’s now ABC's longest running scripted series and the longest running prime-time medical drama in history.
But just because everyone knows that this show is popular, it doesn’t mean we all understand how the show can keep going after 18 seasons. This series may have been a cultural phenomenon back when it first premiered, but there are reasons why this show continues to thrive when so many others have since dwindled.
One of the more unique aspects is the crazed storylines that surround the doctors as they try to do their jobs and face many obstacles along the way. Fans were riveted by the fast-paced and nerve racking episode “As We Know It” that put Meredith at risk when she encountered an active bomb. Since then, the series has been dedicated to shocking fans with heart-wrenching storylines like Meredith almost drowning, George being hit by a bus, and the shooting in the hospital that almost cost Meredith her two favorite people . But even though fans thought that the season six finale shooting was powerful, nothing could compare to the cultural reset of the plane crash that transformed Seattle Grace Hospital forever. More recently the series has even hit closer to home with the introduction of COVID and the beach scenes where they brought back beloved (and long deceased) characters we thought would never share the screen again.
One thing that set Grey’s Anatomy apart from other shows was its enticing ensemble cast. The original cast included Ellen Pompeo as the titular character Meredith Grey, Sandra Oh as Christina Yang, Patrick Dempsey as McDreamy a.k.a. Derek Shepherd, T.R. Knight as George O’Malley, Katherine Heigl as Izzie Stevens, Justin Chambers as Alex Karev, Chandra Wilson as Miranda Bailey, and James Pickens Jr. as Richard Webber. The show would later go on to lose some of its original characters but gain a wave of fresh new faces each season that would soon become fan favorites. The ever expanding cast and their chemistry allowed for romance (and friendships) to brew more organically on screen. Fans would go absolutely crazy for iconic ships like Calzona, Slexie, Jolex, Japril, and who could forget the iconic MerDer. And despite only three of the original cast left still standing, the show has continued to introduce new doctors for fans to idolize.
A tried and true method of our time with creations like the MCU and the Chicago franchise, fans love it when worlds collide. So it only makes sense that one of the longest running medical dramas has their own universe of sorts. After a backdoor pilot, ABC released Private Practice centered around fierce Dr. Addison Montgomery as she trades Seattle for sunshine in California. Not only did this popular show run for six seasons, but it brought forth the lovable Amelia Shepherd into Grey’s once the series ended.
Premiering in 2018, Station 19 centered around the Seattle Fire Department and integrated more frequently with Grey’s than Private Practice did, since both shows took place in the same city.
Grey’s has been nominated for at least 25 Primetime Emmy Awards, 13 Creative Arts Emmy, and 10 Golden Globes. The series has also won for Best Drama at the People’s Choice Awards on five seperate occasions. The actresses also always put their all into their performance as evident from Katherine Heigl’s win for Outstanding Supporting Actress and Loretta Devine’s 2011 win for her role as Adele Webber. Sandra Oh and Ellen Pompeo have also been highly praised for their acting chops, having both won a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress and Best Actress respectively. The series has won 16 NAACP awards and even got its soundtrack nominated for a Grammy in 2007.
Often shows tend to get canceled because they can’t bring in new viewers so the views diminish over time as old fans outgrow the series. But with the rise of streaming services, it’s easier now for old shows to develop new fans as it’s easier than ever to watch the series in its entirety. Grey’s Anatomy is the second most streamed series, falling right behind The Office but still securing 39.4 billion minutes streamed .
Currently in it’s eighteen season with over 380 episodes, Grey’s Anatomy almost seems endless as creator Shonda Rhimes states that the show is likely to keep going until star Ellen Pompeo decides she is done with the series. She continues to say ABC will likely air the series for a long time because it has stayed one of the most watched series on television. And despite a big ratings dropoff since the early seasons, the show's ratings have stayed consistent. In 2020, the show was the second highest-rated scripted show , tied with with procedural series 9-1-1. The most watched episode of Grey's wass season two’s bomb central episode “It's the End of the World” with 15 million views.
Next: ‘Grey's Anatomy’ Fans Talk Premiere And Wonder If The End Is Near