Why I’ll never stop watching “Grey’s Anatomy”

When I tell people I still watch Grey’s Anatomy, I’m met with one of two reactions: the excited “Me too!” of someone who has also stuck with Meredith through her long, fraught journey, or a “That show is still on?” from someone who obviously hasn’t. I understand both of these reactions. I almost stopped watching a few times, not necessarily out of anger the way a few fans did (like when certain characters died, or left the show), but simply because I wondered just how much they were going to put Meredith and the rest of the gang through before they called it quits. But I could never actually find it within myself to stop; every Thursday (okay, let’s be real — every Friday on Hulu) I found myself tuning in to find out just what disaster, emotional or otherwise, Shonda had schemed up for them this week.

I’ve binge-watched the series twice, once when there were only six seasons and again when there were nine. I’ve watched while my dad was sick, while I dealt with my own depression, and while dealing with heartache. When there’s nothing new on TV, I’ll occasionally watch three or four random episodes in a row, just because. This show, for me, is the TV drama equivalent of comfort food. While many of the scenarios these beloved characters play out in front of me are decidedly not comfortable, I have learned to trust them, and trust that even if they don’t make it okay by the end of the episode, or even by the end of the season, they will eventually — and that gives me hope, especially because the things they go through on any given day are usually mountains, compared to my mole hills. They’ve been through a plane crash, a bombing, and car accidents (yes, multiple), and they’ve also dealt with break-ups, divorce, and the loss of loved ones and friends, all while holding the lives of others literally in their skilled hands.

It’s actually kind of scary, if you think about it: the fact that our doctors, the people called in to save our lives when things go horribly, horribly wrong, have lives of their own, too. It’s a realization akin to the one you have when you’re young and you go to dinner with your family, and you see your first grade teacher sitting a few tables over; you’re forced to contend with the fact that the person who is responsible for shaping your tiny mind has other responsibilities, too, and that this life they have outside of the school walls might affect their interactions with you the next day in the classroom. It’s also kind of freeing. You are reminded that we are all people, on the same playing field. We should all be allowed grace, we should all be allowed mistakes, we should all be allowed to have bad days. The surgeons at Grey-Sloan Memorial are fantastic at their work, and undeniably so — and that’s not what makes things go wrong for them. What trips them up is human error. The things that are leftover from their real lives, the things they couldn’t shake off before they scrubbed in.

While I’m nearly positive that some of the ridiculous things that happen in the show’s operating room might not happen in real operating rooms (from hookups, to loud exclamations of love, to inappropriately juicy gossip), I’m not a surgeon, so I can’t confirm this with certainty. But I do know that surgeons in the real world are people, too, with urges and desires and libidos not unlike those on Grey’s, albeit with perhaps a touch more professionalism and without a writer sculpting the nuances of their lives. Grey’s, like almost all TV, is real-life elevated to a level worth watching in your underwear when you want to escape real life — when you want to believe that other people’s lives are more fantastical than yours, or perhaps that your problems are boring, and that other people have it worse than you do.

So, yes — the show is a little bit ridiculous at some times, and there are many moments they could have wrapped it up in a nice little bow and called it a day, but I’m glad they didn’t. These characters, old and new, are like my friends now. While there are many things that happen on Grey’s that I hope never happen to me (plane crash, anyone?), it’s the nuanced relationship and friendship stuff, the portrayal of workplace anxiety, and the other things we all understand on a basic human level that keep me coming back. Because the best thing about the show isn’t necessarily any one character, it’s the way it forces us to recognize that these doctors are people, and that they deal with things that we all deal with, too.

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