THE SHOW "Grey's Anatomy"
WHEN | WHERE Thursday night at 9 on ABC/7
REASON TO WATCH A major sweeps episode - "That's Me Trying" - hoping to reverse the 3 million to 4 million viewer drop from this time last year.
WHAT THIS EPISODE'S ABOUT Residents are pushed through a trauma certification drill, while poor, muddled Christina Yang (Sandra Oh) faces another test of her own. The episode was not available for review.
MY SAY There aren't many jobs harder in TV than refreshing a prime-time soap that has drifted from mega-hot to mega-not. There's a temptation to shake things up, and boldly go where no viewer has gone before - until viewers tell you they don't want to boldly go anywhere.
Fans pretty much want the same old stuff - in "Grey's" case, that'd be the forever-fraught tie binding Derek (Patrick Dempsey) and Meredith (Ellen Pompeo). But at the end of last season, "Grey's" yielded to temptation. A mad gunmen stalked the halls of Seattle Grace, shooting patients and doctors - 11 were killed in all - while shattering whatever complacency viewers may have started to feel about their "Grey's" habit. Assuming this wasn't a bald-faced ratings stunt - and "Grey's" has been known to yield to that temptation - ABC and creator Shonda Rhimes were faced with a grim reality. How to avoid a Columbine-like pallor draped across the seventh season?
Unfortunately, they've settled on far-too-easy and facile answers for the most part. The funeral meats were hardly cold, and Sloan (Eric Dane) was bedding Derek's sister, or Torres (Sara Ramirez) was bedding Robbins (Jessica Capshaw). A childless Mere started to fret about her "hostile uterus." Naturally, a new McSteamy doctor - James Tupper's Andrew Perkins - was added to help everyone through their post-traumatic stress disorder.
A faux-documentary camera crew rolled through Seattle Grace last week for a cinema verite episode to check on the staff's progress. It found everyone much improved - with the exception of a comically inept new security system. Only Yang (Sandra Oh) is still moping around, waiting for that miraculous November sweeps moment when she'll snap back to old form.
BOTTOM LINE In a rush to get back on track after their brush with Columbine, characters - with the exception of Yang - have been turned into parodies of themselves. Worse, the stories surrounding them feel airless, forced and manipulative. Maybe the finale was a stunt after all, and in retrospect a costly one, because it's done this fading franchise a world of hurt.