Grey’s Anatomy fails to maintain its appeal after the original cast left the show


Samuel (Sammy) Minioza

Grey’s Anatomy’s viewership has been declining for over a decade.

Warning: This article contains spoilers from various seasons.

Grey’s Anatomy’s success can never be achieved again. Churning out one dry season after another has made us tired of what they bring each season. 

Grey’s Anatomy, a hit American medical drama series, is the longest running show on ABC television. In fact, it’s one of the longest running American primetime shows ever, clocking in at the eighth longest series ever, the sixth longest of any show still currently in production.

In the show’s early days, the story was centered around Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo) and her journey navigating the hospital doors as an intern. Watching her experiences, millions around the world grew a personal connection to this show. A generation of viewers grew up with Meredith Grey and soon enough, she became more than just a character. She was the face of American television due to her charming personality.

Watching Grey dedicate her life to saving patients in the hospital while cultivating relationships around her at the same time, it inspired many to lead a similar life and pursue a career in the medical field.  

Both of us, Shreya and I, being fans of Grey’s Anatomy, watched it religiously. I, Ekroop, started watching the show during quarantine after a few Netflix recommendations from my friends and I instantly became hooked. It was a struggle to hit the “pause” button and resume my day. But as I zoomed through the seasons, I was disappointed to see the later seasons lose their attraction. 

In addition to the connection between the characters, the show’s main gravitas was the viewer’s relatability with the characters. The original characters carried a complexity that kept us intrigued. For instance, Miranda Bailey (Chandra Wilson), is initially a cold, dictatorial figure, which led her to receive the nickname “The Nazi”. As we progress through the episodes, Bailey matures into a motherly figure for the interns at the hospital by helping them navigate through their work-based and personal hardships. From her strained marriage in Season 5 to being diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) in season 10, Grey’s Anatomy successfully projects the supporting characters as people rather than as lifeless side actors taking up screen time.  

This depth of personalities portrayed is what made this show remarkably impressionable to us. In more recent seasons, the overload of struggles from a strained relationship, a misscarriage, and the constant horrific events is solely depressing and hopeless. The message behind the struggles of these characters is lost and each season is a cycle of pointless deaths. While Grey’s Anatomy addresses many social concerns such as race, class, and religion, their importance diminishes as new characters are inserted.

But the reality is that times change. Maintaining the original cast for decades is not an easy task, and when they do leave, it makes sense to bring in new characters. However, the success of the new cast in maintaining the quality of the performance is truly what differentiates a show from being exceptional. Take Criminal Minds, for example. The show ran an impressive 15 seasons, maintaining its viewership throughout the entirety of its runtime. While there were many cast changes, the appeal remained strong throughout the course of the show because a majority of the original cast remained on the show. Spencer Reid (Matthew Gray Gubler), Aaron “Hotch” Hotchner (Thomas Gibbson), and Jennifer “JJ” Jareau (A.J. Cook) are great examples of this casting consistency.

This made the removal of supporting characters who weren’t as influential in keeping the plot of the show moving seem a less of an ordeal. 

The cast inconsistency is one of the major factors behind the plummeting Grey’s Anatomy’s viewer engagement. According to Quartz, the greatest number of viewers reached to a whopping 25 million people in 2006 and the viewership plunged to six million people in 2020.

After watching the doctors treat patients and be more focused on achieving being the best doctor they could be, we became used to feeling the adrenaline rush they felt. But with the poor performances of characters, it seems as if the content plateaued and our interest in the show declined.

But with the poor performances of characters, it seems as if the content plateaued and our interest in the show declined.

Zander Perez, a new character who joined Grey’s in season 16, is an example of a character that doesn’t bring the same chemistry to the show. In season 17, Perez tries to add humor and a sense of relatability to uplift the audience before viewing the heavy scenes that are set in the COVID era. One phrase he used while talking to Dr. Webber was “OMG, Dr. Webber. You look great. Hearts” while talking to Dr. Webber, such a phrase that is more common while texting. With this, his acting not only proves to be lackluster, but also shows how the wordplay is catered to attracting the teen audience, rather than enhancing the quality of the show. 

However, a majority of the audience still love the show because it allowed them to have something constant throughout the years. One example is Cristina Escobar, who wrote in an article for the LatinaMediaCo, “It’s this radical vision of what humanity can be at its best that keeps me tuning in. And I’ll watch for another 300 episodes if they let me.” 

For them, Grey’s Anatomy has become a comfort show in which they can sit down on the couch and watch with friends. After watching the show for so long, they feel that they can keep going especially after being so invested in it. 

Though the show’s success can be attributed to its earlier seasons that set the stage for the remainder of the show, the repetitive storyline of multiple deaths wasn’t as monotonous because the plot placed equal importance on the personal lives of the main characters, unlike the recent seasons. 

With bad acting and a farcical plot, the newer seasons of Grey’s Anatomy is an unsatisfactory blight of the quality American television it once was. Therefore, to anyone who’s looking forward to watching quality television production, Grey’s Anatomy’s newer seasons will leave you frustrated.