Thursday, September 13, 2007

Grey's 2.0: Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.

Most of the time, you can pretty much judge an entire series based on its pilot. Which is a good thing, considering that network executives are paid to judge entire series based on one episode.

Aaron Sorkin is particularly skilled in the craft of the pilot, with his medias in res approach to cable sports, the White House, and sketch comedy. Sam Seaborn having awkward morning-after conversation with a prostitute was witty enough before she mused on the curiosity that is POTUS.

Laurie: “Tell your friend POTUS he has a stupid name.
Sam: “I would, but he’s not my friend, he’s my boss; and it’s not his name, it’s his title.”
Laurie: “POTUS?”
Sam: “President of the United States...I’ll call you!”


So lovely. In addition to the Sorkin pilots, I’ll add Lost, Alias, and Desperate Housewives to the pile. They set up the entire premise of the series, without giving me too much backstory and boredom—in fact, leaving me clamoring for lots more. A good pilot can be a work of art, a real promise. There’s a feeling attached to first glimpses that tells you that you can follow this show.

I felt it pretty strongly after watching the first episode of Friday Night Lights. Man, that show had me from the moment we saw Matt Saracen take the field for the first time.

It’s a good feeling, especially when you focus on appointment television as much as I do. Good TV is hard to come by, and when it does, it’s super great.

The Grey’s pilot is just okay. Obviously, it was good enough to make it on air and to grab people’s attention, which is more than 99% of writers can say about their screenplays, but Grey’s really caught its stride later in the first season, if not at the beginning of the second.

Though I definitely enjoy the awkward post-coital Derek and Meredith, “007” George O’Malley, and everything that is Miranda Bailey, it’s nothing special.

Flash forward two-and-a-half years to today, when we were treated to a short but very sweet sneak peek of the upcoming season premiere of Grey’s Anatomy. If you’re a fan of the show, the first thing that should have struck you was the throwback to the pilot episode: specifically, the first meeting of Bailey and her interns. She rattles off a speech that lays out the five rules of the hospital and serves as a guide to how much interning sucks; in this sneak preview, we see our four new residents (Alex, Cristina, Izzie, and Meredith) rattle off these rules to their interns. (For Meredith, her gaggle includes George; for Cristina, Meg’s half-sister.)

Aside from the obvious precious factor (look how they learned from Bailey!), this also serves a nice display of continuity throughout the passage of time. It’s the equivalent of ER’s “You set the tone,” which passed from William H. Macy to Greene to Carter. Eventually, I’m sure it will pass to me in my role as Carter’s sassy-but-brilliant niece. (Hey, I’ve already got the name, people.)

The idea of harkening back to the pilot is also a great way for Grey’s Anatomy to begin the season. It connotes a new beginning, something that Grey’s desperately needs and that Shonda Rhimes promises is around the corner.

The passage of time—or lack thereof—has always been the Achilles heel of Grey’s Anatomy. Three seasons covered only twelve months, which wouldn’t be a problem if it wasn’t so damn ridiculous. (Lost has covered only 93 days in its three seasons, yet I have no problem with that.) For example, we’re supposed to believe that in the course of one year, Izzie broke up with her hockey player boyfriend, slowly moved into a relationship with Alex, ended that, fell for Denny, got engaged, lost her fiancĂ© to a pulmonary embolism (man, those suck), got over that, slept with Alex again, realized that was a mistake, and then fell desperately in love with George?

Dude, that much hasn’t happened to me in my entire life.

Seriously.

In this premiere of Grey’s, we get a sense (finally!) of the insane (and ultimately unsatisfying) cycle completing itself, beginning anew, and looking forward to the next cycle.

Though I’ve spent the summer occupied with other matters—you know, The Office and the office—I will at least tune in for the premiere of what we’ll call Grey’s 2.0.

Who knows, maybe it will fill me with that happy pilot feeling that eluded me so long ago.

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