Grey's Makes its Mark in Canada, Too

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If a recent column in the Ottawa Citizen is any indication, Grey's Anatomy is winning over audiences north of the border as well as here in the U.S.

Katherine Heigl as Izzie Stevens
The proliferation of fine programs such as The Sopranos, Rescue Me and The Shield on pay-TV and such specialty cable channels as HBO, FX and Showtime -- and in Canada on TMN, Movie Central and Showcase -- has raised the bar in terms of what viewers expect from dramas.

Audiences have gotten smarter and forcing networks to pay closer attention to what viewers really want. This past year, what they wanted was Grey's Anatomy.

It's easy to see how much the program has evolved, even since the episodes which aired last week, "If Tomorrow Never Comes" and "Shake Your Groove Thing." In its early stages, Grey's Anatomy was a long-shot, a temporary mid-season replacement for Boston Legal, following the smash hit Desperate Housewives on Sunday nights.

It was the dreaded "serialized drama," a show that demands faithful viewers tuning in every week, lest they be lost in the plot lines.

In March of 2005, when it debuted, Grey's Anatomy was a hospital show at a time when hospital shows had become passe. It was a show written by, about, and largely geared toward women, at a time when networks are obsessed with chasing young male audiences. It was to be a fill-in companion for Desperate Housewives. ABC ordered just nine episodes, assuming it would never make the following fall schedule.

The rest is history.

By Spring of 2006, Grey's Anatomy actually surpassed Desperate Housewives in popularity. The same, many argue, can be said for quality. This month, it won the Television Critics Association award for Program of the Year, topping a field that included Lost, The Office, The Sopranos and 24.

This fall, it will settle in its new home on Thursday nights as one of the most hotly anticipated return shows of the fall season. What makes this all so exciting for anyone who cares about network TV is that, just five years ago, the emergence of a Grey's Anatomy on a mainstream, commercial network like ABC or CTV would have been unthinkable.

Sandra Oh & Isaiah Washington
Conventional wisdom was that, 24 aside, no one had the time or the energy to commit to watching a TV drama week in and week out. Stories had to be neatly wrapped up at the end of each episode, a la CSI or Law & Order.

Viewers also expected to see big names in their TV dramas, the reasoning went, not former stars like Patrick Dempsey or lesser-known actresses such as Ellen Pompeo.

And, if they wanted to see Canada's own Sandra Oh (with Isaiah Washington, left) in anything, they would rent an indie movie or take in a play.

Only someone forgot, thankfully, to tell viewers at home about this thinking. Here's looking forward to Season 3!

Steve Marsi is the Managing Editor of TV Fanatic. Follow him on Google+ or email him here.


Grey's Anatomy Quotes

Lexie: [narrating] Grief may be a thing we all have in common, but it looks different on everyone.
Mark: It isn't just death we have to grieve. It's life. It's loss. It's change.
Alex: And when we wonder why it has to suck so much sometimes, has to hurt so bad. The thing we gotta try to remember is that it can turn on a dime.
Izzie: That's how you stay alive. When it hurts so much you can't breathe, that's how you survive.
Derek: By remembering that one day, somehow, impossibly, you won't feel this way. It won't hurt this much.
Bailey: Grief comes in its own time for everyone, in its own way.
Owen: So the best we can do, the best anyone can do, is try for honesty.
Meredith: The really crappy thing, the very worst part of grief is that you can't control it.
Arizona: The best we can do is try to let ourselves feel it when it comes.
Callie: And let it go when we can.
Meredith: The very worst part is that the minute you think you're past it, it starts all over again.
Cristina: And always, every time, it takes your breath away.
Meredith: There are five stages of grief. They look different on all of us, but there are always five.
Alex: Denial.
Derek: Anger.
Bailey: Bargaining.
Lexie: Depression.
Richard: Acceptance.

There's a reason I said I'd be happy alone. It wasn't 'cause I thought I'd be happy alone. It was because I thought if I loved someone and then it fell apart, I might not make it. It's easier to be alone, because what if you learn that you need love and you don't have it? What if you like it and lean on it? What if you shape your life around it and then it falls apart? Can you even survive that kind of pain? Losing love is like organ damage. It's like dying. The only difference is death ends. This? It could go on forever.