Grey’s Anatomy: Are ABC & Rhimes Running Scared?

Editor's Note:  My new project is writing for "Constant Content."  I wrote this and submitted it, but it was rejected as "newsy" or "dated" content.  Well, my blog is the PERFECT place for this content!  Y'all will have to let me know how it goes -- I won't be watching Grey's, but I have been watching, with great interest, the FRANTIC promo for the upcoming season.........

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McDreamy died. Did ABC’s Thursday night lineup die with him?

McDreamy was the nickname of a doctor on Grey’s Anatomy, a TV show on ABC. Shonda Rhimes created it and then she created Scandal and How To Get Away With Murder. The trio forms ABC’s blockbuster Thursday night prime time lineup. McDreamy, Dr. Derek Shepherd, was the romantic lead on the show, opposite Dr. Meredith Grey, the female lead, played by Patrick Dempsey and Ellen Pompeo. After a feud that made headlines, Derek Shepherd died on the April 23rd episode. 67% of the show’s fans say the show died with him, according to a poll cited by The Daily Gazette.

TV actors get written off and their characters die, but McDreamy is different. On March 27, 2005, the first scene of Grey’s showed the morning after between two strangers who hooked up the night before at a bar. Those strangers were Derek and Meredith, famously known as MerDer.  Their romance launched and anchored the show until Dempsey’s character met an undignified end. McDreamy backed across a highway and grabbed his cell phone. A speeding semi struck his car.

Fans took it as a betrayal by Rhimes. Loyal viewers followed the romance through his divorce, her drowning, explosions, gunshots, separations, and reconciliations. After the couple, at long last, wed in a sticky note ceremony, Rhimes promised a happily ever after. She kept the promise until trouble developed. Rumors of Dempsey having an affair with an intern followed his separation from his wife. Other gossip claimed Dempsey’s behavior on set had alienated everyone. Rhimes kept him out of many episodes last Season after sending Dr. Shepherd to Washington. She brought him back long enough to kill him.

Fans protested Derek being killed instead of sent back to Washington or to Zurich where Cristina (played by the departed Sandra Oh) runs a high tech medical clinic and lab. The manner of death disturbed them since the traffic accident was a swipe at Dempsey whose involvement in auto racing is well known. Fans denounced the lack of a real memorial. Former colleagues not attending Derek’s funeral diminished his death in the eyes of viewers. Fans concluded that Rhimes showed little regard for McDreamy and less regard for them. 67% of them vowed not to watch again.

Vanity Fair quoted Rhimes calling McDreamy “incredibly important” and an example of what “young women should demand from modern love.”  But Rhimes emphasized that “the carousel never stops turning.”  Fans didn’t find it a fitting memorial, but it sufficed for Rhimes until polls showed that the carousel stopped for many viewers. ABC President Paul Lee said that Rhimes decided Dempsey’s death “was the way to go.” The Season premiere approaches with the network laying blame at her door, so Rhimes developed a two-pronged strategy: rewriting history and paying late tribute.

Although Dempsey’s contract, like Pompeo’s, extended through the upcoming Season, Rhimes ended Dempsey’s run early. In the Entertainment Weekly exclusive posted the evening of the death episode, April 23rd, Dempsey said he was “surprised” at how the story unfolded and didn’t find out he’d be written out and killed off until February or March. In a piece posted August 7th, The Daily Gazette quotes Rhimes that Dempsey wanted to leave after 11 seasons so, “For God’s sake, let the man go.”

Rhimes eulogizes McDreamy on the Season 11 DVD set for release on August 18th. E News spoke with Rhimes who said the choice came down to death or leaving Meredith “high and dry.”  If Derek left, Rhimes said, it meant that “the love was not true, the thing we had said for 11 years was a lie, and McDreamy was not McDreamy.”  Rhimes did not discuss the mutual contract terms designed to allow McDreamy and Meredith to leave together.

According to the poll, 67% of former viewers will not watch Meredith’s solo journey.  That number has execs casting blame and the show runner writing a new script. Time will tell whether Ms. Rhimes’ fans continue to “Thank God It’s Thursday” or turn to another channel. All 3 of Rhimes’ shows – Grey’s, Scandal and How To Get Away With Murder – premiere on ABC on September 24th.