Change is hard, as Meredith Grey has observed more than once in her narrating Grey's Anatomy quotes. After the show's strange slide late last season, the Los Angeles Times notes, everyone, including Shonda Rhimes and Patrick Dempsey, said a certain creative downturn, an earnestness, would be rectified.
"We're bringing the fun back," Shonda Rhimes said.
Indeed, the first episode of Season 4 was entitled "A Change Is Gonna Come." And millions of fans breathlessly waited ... and waited.
Eight episodes in, things have happened, of course. George (T.R. Knight) told wife Callie (Sara Ramirez) that he cheated on her, so the marriage is over and George is officially in love with former best friend Izzie Stevens (Katherine Heigl).
Single Callie moved in with jilted Cristina (Sandra Oh). Derek (Dempsey) and Meredith (Ellen Pompeo) continue their dance of longing and leaving.
But the only real change so far is that Isaiah Washington is gone, and the fabulous Brooke Smith, playing the dynamic Dr. Erica Hahn, has taken his place.
Dr. Erica Hahn is a terrific character, sassy and professional, with an appropriately acerbic view of the various romantic shenanigans at Seattle Grace. She also seems to be a carefully considered stand-in for viewers choking on the soapy silt of last season, a way to move forward without messing with the brand.
Don't get too nervous now, Brooke Smith, but the future of what was once TV's highest-rated drama may be resting increasingly in your hands.
Changing a big hit TV show is a tricky business. It's easier to tinker, if often not as effective. And while Grey's Anatomy remains a big hit, its ratings continue to slide; a few weeks ago, they hit an all-time low.
A major concern? While viewers like the romance and character development, they need to have their medical shows rooted in, well, medicine.
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