After starting its 19th season – yes, that’s 1-9 – on primetime TV this month, Grey’s Anatomy it long ago established itself as a reliable hit, commanding not only a spot on ABC’s primetime schedule, but time slots elsewhere in reruns. And part of what made it successful from the start, was the relationship between the main character, Dr. Meredith Gray from Ellen Pompeo, and Patrick Dempsey’s character, Dr. Derek “McDreamy” Shepherd, who left the cast in 2015.
On Tuesday, GreyCreator Shonda Rhimes explained that the way the relationship between Meredith and Derek began — they went home together after meeting in a bar — was a problem for some. At least Meredith’s actions were. And they were not at all charmed as she discovered the next day that Derek was her new superior at the then named Seattle Grace Hospital, where he was a new resident.
“I remember being called into a room full of old men,” said Rhimes on the 9 to 5ish With the Skimm podcast,” and they brought us in to tell me that the show was a problem because no one was going to watch a show about a woman who would sleep with a man the night before her first day of work. And they were dead seriously.”
In fact, they asked, after reading the pilot episode, who would do such a thing, like get drunk and have a one night stand with a stranger the night before starting a new job?
Betsy Beers, who is Rhimes’ production partner on that show and many others, volunteered that she would. Apparently the answer to the rhetorical question stunned the men and sent them scrambling.
“They couldn’t call me a slut to my face,” Beers said. “They didn’t know what to say.”
The whole point was that Beers and Rhimes, who have since worked together on shows including Scandal, How to Get Away with Murder a Bridgertondon’t see women like themselves on TV.
“There weren’t even that many shows with a girl in the middle,” Beers said. “That in itself was surprising.”
Rhimes said she later realized why they had such a reaction.
“It feels very obvious now, I think. But at the time, you have to remember that there had never been a show where there was a main character who owned her sexuality on network television,” Rhimes said. . “There weren’t shows where you saw three or four people of color in a room talking unless it was a sit-down comedy, with no one else in the room. You didn’t see a lot of the things we were doing. And I was didn’t really think of them as revolutionary. I thought, like, ‘We’re making a show that I want to watch.'”
Four Emmys and countless other awards later, they’re still at it.
And that Meredith-Derek pairing that the men in Rhimes’ story didn’t approve of has gone down in television history as one of the most fan-favorite. Last month, the actors behind the characters, Pompeo and Dempsey, happily reunited at the D23 Expo, where they swiped the Yahoo Entertainment mic for a few laughs.