I don’t watch much television, but when I do, it’s on Shonda Rhimes’ TGIT (Thank God It’s Thursday, obviously) primetime takeover of ABC. I’ve seen every single episode of Grey’sand Scandal—and even kept up with a few seasons of Private Practice. I know several Shonda monologues by heart. I even read the comments sections on promo videos, because they’re full of amazing fan theories.
All of this is because Rhimes just knows how to glue you to the screen, no matter how implausible the plot. It’s a marvel. So, when I heard that she was going to give away all her secrets in an online television writing masterclass, I signed up immediately. Is it possible to learn that kind of genius?
The 30-lesson package of video lessons, worksheets, and peer forums launched this month. Beyond the practical career advice Rhimes gives to writers—and if you’re a lover of Shondaland, it is well worth taking the full course—she also lets you into her beloved TV shows like never before. In particular, Grey’s Anatomy fans will find it a satisfying source of show trivia. She shares original and early drafts of Grey’s Anatomy scripts, alternative scenes, and the Grey’s “story bible.” We even get a peek at the original pitch Rhimes wrote for Grey’s Anatomy back in 2004.
Here are some of the most fascinating, little-known facts I picked up about Grey’s Anatomy.
1. The title was once very different: The title of the original pitch is simply “Surgeons.”
2. Seattle Grace Hospital almost didn’t exist: The location was originally going to be Boston, Philadelphia, or New York City. “This is not a small town life. Big city, big medical center, big surgical opportunities,” Rhimes wrote. Of course, the show would eventually take place in Seattle, Washington.
3. Rhimes was certain what kind of tone her show would set: “I don’t believe in melodrama and I don’t believe in EARNEST SAPPY MOMENTS,” Rhimes wrote of the show’s dramedy tone (caps lock and all).
4. Rhimes knew her characters so well she even stocked their lockers: In her character descriptions, Rhimes included the contents of all the main characters’ hospital lockers to flesh out their personalities. Among them, Meredith Grey has “stacks of old birthday cards she was planning to mail but never got around to” and “three alarm clocks because she’s terrified of oversleeping on her breaks.” George O’Malley’s contents “come from fear—med journals, old text books,” while Cristina Yang’s include “a Palm Pilot featured with the latest research articles….high heels to go out in after work, condoms because you never know.”
5. There is no Alex Karev in Rhimes’ original pitch: He was added in after the pilot was shot. Meanwhile, 13 seasons later, he is still a central character in Grey’s.
6. The Grey‘s doctors all had one very unhealthy habit: Smoking was a big thing among all the doctors, especially Meredith.
7. Can you imagine Cristina falling for Denny? Cristina’s plotline included her falling in love with a dying patient (a story that would eventually go to Izzie Stevens) and her father becoming a major donor to the hospital.