Editor’s note: Peter Lewis, who since November 2008 has written about the culinary and cultural aspects of the Fort Smith/Van Buren region, continues to write for The City Wire from his new address in Austin, Texas. As he did with his previous delicious essays, Peter humbly attempts to move beyond the conventional and expose, entertain and enthuse. If anything Peter proffers in this space results in the expansion of cultural awareness of the world around us, we apologize in advance.
Several years ago I started watching Grey's Anatomy. In the intervening years, this admission was usually met with a dismissive response. Whether I was met with laughter, incredulity, or shock, I never had problems admitting that I was a habitual viewer of the hit show. That is, of course, until recently.
The story of how I began to regularly watch Grey's Anatomy is a bit innocuous. Like many of my life endeavors, my viewership began because of a girl. Winter had long since crested and spring was slowly coming to life. I was in a new town, broke nine days out of ten, and living alone in a cave-like abode that always seemed to be 20 degrees cooler than the weather outside. My proximity to night life and a tendency to spend too much on cocktails seemed (at least in my mind) to romanticize my existence. It all seemed so very Hemingway to me at the time. Loaded on bourbon, I would find my way home and diligently work on a novel. In retrospect, it all seems so very decrepit. Yet broken as the existence may or mayn't have been, in that retrospective light, I can see how I would be prone to the alluring nature of companionship. It is, of course, those of us who are alone that are truly susceptible to the influence of others.
There was nothing overt that wouldn't tether me to this person. She was a nice, earnest, and engaging gal, but we were worlds apart. Had my life taken a different path, I may have been capable of seeing something more in it. In reality, however, there was nothing that truly connected us beyond the fact that she was friends with one of my best pals. And as many are want to do, something that seems easy and acceptable becomes the path of choice.
Prior to that spring, I had never seen a single episode of the television show. Much of popular culture is often lost on me, it seems to drift above me in a different level of existence completely. Despite never seeing an episode, like the rest of the nation I was not safe from the mania it created. I would hear people talk about “McDreamy” and see magazine covers at the checkout line.
We had a pod of four and would meet on Thursdays, drink some wine and view the latest happenings in the ongoing dramas at Seattle Grace. I was a bit uncertain of what to expect on that first viewing. Though it was rather melodramatic, the story and characters were compelling. I wasn't immediately hooked by any means, but I could immediately tell why people were so drawn to the show. With each subsequent Thursday, I was drawn further and further into the world of Seattle Grace. Eventually, life moved me to another town and even without the impetus of female companionship, I continued to watch the program, although with growing dismay.
As with any long running prime time television drama, a constant infusion of fresh tension is assumed to be necessary to maintain the show itself. Unfortunately, it is this infusion of new tensions that turns a compelling and plausible show into pure spectacle. As melodramatic plot lines are fleshed out to keep the audience on the hook, the characters themselves lose out and the show begins to seem false.
It has nothing to do with the improbability of plot lines. As we all know, truly anything can happen in this world. What makes a show become unbelievable is the constant infusion of improbabilities into the lives of the characters. A desire to create fresh bait for the audience drives a show from tightly coherent stories into a free-for-all of emotions and unlikely scenarios.
Over the years, I weathered the storms of Seattle. I've seen Meredith fight past her abandonment issues, Alex open up, and McSteamy turn from Lothario to doting boyfriend. Yet, with each subsequent season I watched, I became more and more disillusioned with the show. There is a laundry list of reasons. From Izzie's hallucinatory relationship with a dead man-cum-medical messenger to Meredith's miraculous revival after being dead/unresponsive for hours, the shape of the show has become increasingly centered around dubious plot lines that are an affront to intelligence. The writers more and more seem to exist on an entirely different plane from reality, one that says just because it's unbelievable doesn't mean it won't be believed by our audience. And unfortunate as it may be, it is this tendency towards ludicrousness that has stopped me from watching Grey's Anatomy for the first time.
As a result of my defection, I now have attachment to only one prime time drama from the (former) stalwarts of television programming, ABC, NBC, Fox, and CBS. I, like many of my ilk, instead tune the dial to alternate dramatic choices like Showtime (Dexter, Californication, Weeds, Brotherhood, The Tudors), AMC (Breaking Bad, Mad Men), or FX (Damages, Sons of Anarchy, Rescue Me). It is there that viewers are rewarded for their patronage not only with a more coherently defined vision for the programming, but with smart and insightful writing. They exist for a purpose while the programming on main channels exist simply to exist for as long as possible.
Despite all my issues with what Grey's Anatomy has become, I do not for a second regret the time I spent watching the show. As ridiculous as it may sound, it helped facilitate my own stunted personal growth in many ways. Decrepit as it was, that lost spring has proved to be a subtle boon even though my attachment to Grey's Anatomy has now run its course.
There is no guarantee that he’ll respond or care, but feel free to send Mr. Lewis your thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org
You can also track Peter at his Twitter site.