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How Killing ‘McDreamy’ Shook ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ From Its Slumber

One of TV’s hottest shows is a 12-year-old prime-time soap.

Hospital drama “Grey’s Anatomy” has often been listed as “critical” over its long run — but then creator/mastermind Shonda Rhimes would take out the paddles and shock it back to life.

Last season she even killed off the iconic McDreamy, played by Patrick Dempsey. Many assumed the show wouldn’t recover from the loss, but “Grey’s” has bounced back, both in ratings and in quality.

“It’s amazing how much you get done without a penis,” star Ellen “Meredith Grey” Pompeo told “Ellen” host Ellen DeGeneres last month.

No kidding. Not only is the veteran series trouncing the newer Rhimes shows “Scandal” and “How to Get Away With Murder,” but it’s currently ABC’s top drama in the prized 18-49 demographic — and it’s the second-highest-rated drama among women 18-34, just behind Fox’s “Empire.”

This is doubly amazing when you realize that a good chunk of that last demo was in middle school in 2005, when the series debuted, turning “Grey’s” — like NBC’s “Friends” before it — into a cross-generational phenomenon.

No wonder ABC gave the series an early renewal in March, or that high-profile cast members like Pompeo, Chandra Wilson (Bailey) and Justin Chambers (Alex) are likely to re-up their contracts at the end of the season. Another star about to renegotiate is Sara Ramirez (Callie), who recently posted an ambiguous tweet that some have interpreted as a possible farewell. That seems unlikely, especially since Ramirez is currently benefiting from a Grade-A storyline involving a custody battle and possible complications with Callie’s new girlfriend, Penny (Samantha Sloyan).

That plot is typical of the re-energized show, and the way Rhimes keeps it fresh. For instance, a steady flow of interns always ensures new blood — hot, younger bodies regularly get added to the “Grey’s” cast.

Another stroke of genius is to retain divisive characters, like sanctimonious April (Sarah Drew) and mercurial Amelia (Caterina Scorsone). These two living car crashes make for great TV because they are not stereotypically “likable.” April is the rare committed Christian on TV, which is refreshing, but she’s also pigheaded and rash. Amelia is a mess but you can’t stop watching her.

The bottom line is that there’s still a big audience for a show offering solid storytelling, no-name, home-grown stars, the opportunity to watch characters evolve over many years and “shocking hookups” — pretty much the exact opposite of cable’s fancy anthologies.

 

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