The production of many films and television series came to a halt early this year during the beginning stages of the pandemic. Over the past few months, with new protocols and guidelines in place, many shows have slowly resumed production, as fans across the world awaited the return of their favorite shows. Sitting near the top of many people’s lists was ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy.
The longest running medical drama in television history, Grey’s Anatomy, aired its Season 17 premiere on November 12, racking up over 5.7 million viewers, according to Variety. In keeping up with present day reality, this season is set in pandemic times, telling similar stories to those of the past fifteen years but in ways that attempt to reflect the coronavirus’s impact on the world of healthcare.
As reported by The Hollywood Reporter, with the show now streaming on platforms like Netflix and Hulu, the general audience of the show has become increasingly diverse over the years, with prime viewers between the ages of 18 to 49 years old. Like fans all over the world, some students at HBA have grown up with the series. Some HBA staff were young adults when the first season of Grey’s Anatomy was released in 2005. HBA physics teacher Isaac Duncklee recalled, “I watched season one of Grey’s Anatomy in college. We had a mechanical engineering lounge at UH Manoa where we would sometimes work on homework together but frequently killed time playing Mario Kart & Smash Bros. When Grey’s Anatomy came out a couple of our classmates would record the episodes and save them to play in the student lounge.” Though Duncklee did not follow the show after college, he recalls liking “the balance the show struck between action, drama, and humor” and “the way the main characters were both impressive as doctors but also vulnerable as individuals.”
High school teacher assistant Nicole LaBarre, on the other hand, has continued to follow the series ever since it premiered in the spring of her senior year of high school. LaBarre said, “When it first started, Netflix wasn’t big and TVs didn’t really have DVRs so I had to watch it live or else if you missed episodes you had to wait till the end of the season to buy it on DVD to watch it.” Looking back at how the show has evolved over the past 15 years, LaBarre said, “There are times or seasons when I have felt like the show was getting old but the overall appeal is the characters now. I have been following their story for so long that I feel invested in them.”
Long-time fans like senior Kellie Takai have grown up with the show. Since she became a fan in the seventh grade, Takai has rewatched the entire series twice on Netflix. “I enjoy watching the different medical or trauma cases and character storylines. The episodes always keep you on the edge of your seat because the series is so unpredictable,” she said. Takai, who intends to pursue a career in the medical field, has become increasingly intrigued by the medical setting of the show. She shared, “This show allows me to dive deeper into what the medical field might look like. The characters are portrayed to come from different backgrounds and it reminds me that I don’t have to be in a stereotypical position to pursue this type of career.”
While the show takes place in a hospital, what mostly attracts audiences to the show is the personal lives of the characters. Senior Joy Maehara, who first watched the show in her freshman year, summed it up this way: “The [show’s] ability to give each character their own storyline and allow for growth and development really makes the viewers come back for each episode and season. We love seeing an arrogant and rude medical intern grow up and humbly earn the position of chief of surgery.” Presently, with Season 17 in its early stages, the show has received many positive reviews from its fans, according to Entertainment Tonight. The biggest news of the season thus far has been the return of McDreamy, the character played by Patrick Dempsey, who left the series in 2015. The iconic character appeared at the end of the first episode in main character Meredith Grey’s sleep as she lies in a hospital bed battling the coronavirus. Longtime fan Nicole LaBarre wrote in an email, “AHHHHHHHHHHHHH! That was pretty much my reaction and maybe [there was] a little tearing up. I mean…McDreamy!”
In addition to this pleasant surprise, many fans were drawn to the show’s attempt to keep up with the current reality of the coronavirus pandemic. After watching the premiere, Takai reflected, “Usually, our society only views the statistics and numbers of our current reality, so it was eye-opening to see a visual representation of this global health crisis.” The premiere addressed realistic situations that healthcare workers face, such as the lack of proper PPE and having to adjust to new protocols and guidelines. Maehara shared, “A glimpse into their daily struggles and routine, even if it is a fictional and dramatic show, gives us monumental respect for those who risk their lives to take care of others.”
The show’s wide appeal might have something to do with the breadth of issues covered over the years. Sophomore Zoe Lorica shared, “The show acknowledges and points out real social issues in America that people may experience every day.” Similarly, Maehara says she finds a lot of show material to be applicable to real life. “Grey’s Anatomy shaped my perspective and opened my eyes to real life situations outside of my sheltered and comfortable life. The show covers topics of mental illness, sustenance abuse, racism, women in the workforce…through these characters and their journeys, I gain sympathy and understanding (for others.)”
With the unexpected start to season 17, Maehara shared that, even though it is unlikely to happen, she wants to see all the characters who have left the show return in Meredith’s COVID dream. She predicts, “Meredith will recover from COVID, but she’ll never be the same, while a couple of other doctors might die. I would also want to see more of the impact the pandemic had on the doctors careers and personal lives and how they manage; the show is doing a great job already.”