Broadcast series haven’t had the best year due to the coronavirus pandemic (welcome to the club). That’s been especially true for shows that film mere weeks ahead of airing, as their teams felt the immediate effects of shutdowns far more than streaming series. Grey’s Anatomy was one of the hardest hit; it had to end its Season 16 early and Season 17 started late and ran months longer than usual due to a disrupted schedule. While some fans have been understanding, others are frustrated with the quality of this season. But the series’ star, Ellen Pompeo is understanding out the Grey’s Anatomy Season 17 criticism.
Warning: General spoilers for Grey’s Anatomy Season 17 follow. As the current record holder for American TV’s longest-running primetime hospital soap, Grey’s Anatomy has become famous for many things. From its frothy romantic comedy overtones to its “ripped from the headlines” weekly medical cases, the series has maintained a balance between tear-jerking and laughter. But the pandemic changed the series’ tenor for Season 17, partly because the show is set in Seattle, the original ground zero for cases in the United States. Showrunner Krista Vernoff decided the show had a duty to doctors and nurses to dramatize the reality as closely as possible.
Moreover, with the series’ cancelation status uncertain for most of this season, Vernoff set up a secondary plot in which lead doctor Meredith Grey was hospitalized due to COVID. Having the character floating in and out of consciousness allowed the series to bring back long-deceased characters (or ones who have just been off the show for years) for emotional catharsis.
For some fans, this season was just what the doctor ordered. But not everyone was so into it. This Twitter exchange between fans encapsulates the two diverse takes:
Now, in many cases, actors on a long-running series of this nature would not engage with such an exchange, or if they did, they’d thank the positive side and quietly ignore the criticism. But Pompeo, who has played Meredith Grey for nearly 20 years now, has never been shy about her opinions or responded to those who express their views. Unsurprisingly, it was the second tweet in this exchange that got her attention, and her response was a master class in taking the high road.
Pompeo is right that when a show runs this long, not every fan will love every season. Longtime viewers of Grey’s Anatomy know there have been high points and low points throughout the two decades the show has been on the air. But with Season 18 on the way, fans have another chance to fall in love with the show all over again.
Grey’s Anatomy Seasons 1 through 16 are streaming on Netflix, with the just-concluded Season 17 expected to arrive on the streamer later this summer. Season 18 is expected to debut in the fall of 2021.