Monday, March 28, 2005

The Definition Of "Spackle Television"

If my personal dictionary of television terms ever gets published, the term "Spackle Television" will contain the note "See Grey's Anatomy" together with a cast picture from the show. It is there to fill a hole and there's some hope that it will stick. On the whole I wouldn't bet on it, nor would I get to comfortable watching it.

It isn't that Grey's Anatomy is a bad show. It's a nice workmanlike production. Unfortunately it was a nice workmanlike production back in the 1970 season when it starred Broderick Crawford and Mike Farrell and was called The Interns, 1964 when it was a movie called The Young Interns, 1962 when it was a movie called The Interns, or 1961 when it was called Young Doctors. That is to say that in form at least it's an old form and an old format. The producers of Grey's Anatomy apparently do not feel the need to improve on it.

Grey's Anatomy isn't technically bad, and the cast is relatively sound. The trouble is they fit "types". There's the "beauty queen" type (Katherine Heigl looking good enough to make me wish yet again that I was 20 years younger and Hollywood handsome), the "nerdy" type (T.R. Knight), the "got here by hard work" type (Sandra Oh, who is the oldest of the four main cast member and also the best actress although she really doesn't get much opportunity to show it here), and the "privileged" type (Ellen Pompeo, playing Meredith Grey - the "Grey" of the title). The only innovative thing here is that all but one of the featured characters is female; in the old movies and TV show it was exactly the opposite. It does however give the opportunity for sex to rear its not entirely ugly head. In the pilot episode Meredith wakes up with a guy after a drunken one night stand only to discover - of course - that he's an attending doctor at the hospital where she works, in the area where where she works. Once the characters move in together - which happens in the next episode - you can bet there'll be the usual sex farce situations occur that are always arising when people of the opposite sex share living space.

That's not unexpected of course, because this series is recycling all the old situations. There's the usual "interns working 48 hour shifts because it tests them" situation, which is real enough but still a cliche. There's the "young doctor makes the terrible mistake of assuring someone that the surgery is a piece of cake only to have the person die" situation - also a cliche. There's the "lead intern makes a brilliant diagnosis despite never having seen the patient" situation. There is of course the "jerky intern gets his comeuppance" situation tied to that last one. And so on. There is nothing new here and the most innovative it got was that we got to watch Ellen Pompeo's character toss her cookies on the lawn outside the hospital. I thought that's what ladies rooms were for.

I didn't find Grey's Anatomy that bad, I just didn't find it to be that good. It's the sort of show that would probably do well on The WB if only because the cast is for the most part made up of attractive young people, although how you can reconcile casting Katherine Heigl and Sandra Oh as contemporaries is beyond me (but then I buy Rob Morrow and David Krumholtz as brothers despite the 16 year difference in their ages, so what do I know). The trouble is that it's not on The WB, it's on ABC opposite Crossing Jordan and the second half of the CBS movie, not to mention that it's filling in for Boston Legal which does seem to have built up a following. As it stands, Grey's Anatomy Isn't innovative enough to make it stand out. If you like it, enjoy it while you can, because I predict that this is one bit of spackle that isn't going to stick. In a way it's too bad too.

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