Grey’s Anatomy used to be appointment TV for me – I couldn’t get enough of Meredith, Derek, Cristina, Bailey, Alex, and the rest of the gang. But as the storylines got increasingly absurd and over the top (Izzie is having ghost sex with her dead fiance? REALLY?), I watched less and less often. It has gotten to the point where I just catch clips on Hulu a couple of days after an episode airs or let a friend who watches this show give me a verbal update about the few remaining characters I like. But the news that Patrick Dempsey, aka Dr. McDreamy, is planning to leave after next season, is actually refreshing. Eight years of a series is impressive for any actor, and the show is in need of a major shakeup if it wants to remain on the air.
Although I like Meredith and Derek as a couple most of the time, their storyline is coming to a close. Grey’s operates on the principle that there is no such thing as a happy couple and that content equals boring. Creator Shonda Rhimes has said that she believes the show illustrates the principle that it’s impossible to “have it all,” and she has shown that again and again – Bailey’s marriage broke up because she spent too much time at work, Alex and Izzie finally got married only to nonsensically break up (this was largely due to Izzie’s portrayer, Katherine Heigl, leaving the show in a hurry), Meredith got her man but is unable to have kids. In order for Meredith and Derek to finally get their marriage on track for good, they will have to leave the show. If they do leave the show, I hope it will be together – Ellen Pompeo (Meredith)’s contract reportedly expires the same time as Patrick’s, and in the past she has alluded to leaving after the eighth season. Fans who have rooted for “MerDer” since day one won’t enjoy watching Meredith mope around about her marriage breaking up. This season, Meredith and Derek started the process of adopting Zola, a Malawian orphan, and I could see the next season ending with the McDreamys finally having a family, a house (the painfully slow construction of their dream house has been an ongoing joke among fans), and a new life together with considerably less drama. I could see them being offered jobs at a different hospital and deciding to move, or the show could create a different fictional hospital in the Seattle area where the McDreamys could go work while still leaving room for them to do occasional cameos.
But if Meredith Grey leaves the show, what happens to Grey’s Anatomy? Meredith’s sister Lexie (played by Chyler Leigh) has been getting more and more screen time during her tenure on the show. As other regular cast members have left the show, Lexie became a more integral character. Since most of the show’s current storylines revolve around “2.0″ cast members who weren’t part of the original lineup (like Callie, Arizona, Owen, Teddy, and the former Mercy West gang), it makes sense to move forward with the younger Grey leading the charge. And since everyone on the show is apparently required to be in a relationship with another character at any given time, there are plenty of twosomes who could take over the MerDer fanbase.
I think McDreamy leaving Grey‘s could be the best or worst thing ever to happen to the show. If Derek and Meredith leave, they could take all their fans with them and put the final nail in the coffin. (To be fair, I think the musical episode did its own part to drive fans away, but that’s just me.) But if played properly, Derek’s departure could be a “passing of the torch” to the second generation of a show that desperately needs a transformation.