Get ready folks, because COVID-19 is coming to Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital. Everyone’s favourite long-running show, Grey’s Anatomy, has confirmed that Shonda Rimes and company will cover the coronavirus pandemic in an upcoming season 17 storyline—because, of course they will.
Speaking on the Television Academy’s July 21 panel “Quaranstreaming: Comfort TV That Keeps Us Going,” Grey’s Anatomy executive producer Krista Vernoff revealed that the hit show will tackle the ongoing pandemic, saying: “We’re going to address this pandemic for sure. There’s no way to be a long-running medical show and not do the medical story of our lifetimes.”
And while it makes sense that a show about doctors would pull from real-life experiences (in the same way Law & Order SVU is set to cover police brutality in its upcoming season), I have to be honest: I don’t really trust Grey’s Anatomy with a COVID-19 storyline. Or more specifically, I don’t trust that they’ll necessarily handle this medical crisis with the care and attention required. (Please don’t come for me, Grey’s stans!). For one, because this is a scripted TV series that thrives on drama and rating and secondly, because this is the scripted show that wanted us to believe it was realistic for Dr. Alex Karev to suddenly leave his wife for an ex—10 seasons later—with just a goodbye letter.
But, whatever I may think, the COVID-19 storyline is coming. If the staff at Grey Sloan Memorial *must* deal with COVID, there are a few ground rules for the show’s writers.
Grey’s Anatomy writers have to make the pandemic storyline realistic
First things first, the storyline has to be realistic. Which, while it may sounds like the bare minimum for a show about medicine (something you’d probably want to be as realistic and accurate as possible), isn’t always the case with Grey’s. This is, after all, the show that has had at least three seasons end with doctors involved in major plane crashes, which begs the additional question: how big is this hospital’s staff travel budget?!
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While the show does typically draw from IRL cases—or, as executive producer and emergency medicine resident Zoanne Clack told EW in a September 2018 interview, “We’ll make something up and then make sure that it works with experts”—there’s no denying that the show goes for the most hyperbolic or over-the-top cases to fit in with their storylines. Cases in point: The man who had a fish *inside* his penis, the woman who could hear all her internal organs and the “tree man.” And while COVID-19 is undoubtedly a unique virus (with doctors and the WHO *still* working to determine just exactly how it’s spread and news about the disease changing daily), because of the misinformation and uncertainty still surrounding the disease, it’s important that anything portrayed on-screen isn’t factually or inaccurately dramatized.
We already have WebMD to freak us out.
But also, handle the COVID-19 storyline with care
In addition to handling any pandemic-related storylines realistically, it should be imperative that the show treat the coronavirus plot line with utmost sensitivity. Depending on when the series gets back to filming, the next season will most likely be released within the next year. We are still in the midst of the pandemic, and with numbers of COVID cases and deaths still spiking in the United States (and periodically spiking throughout provinces in Canada), chances are that we’ll still be in the thick of the pandemic, or at least still smarting from the lives lost due to COVID-19, when the show is covering it. There’s a reason why The Crown refuses to get too close to modern history; enough time hasn’t passed for people to be able to watch the show without some sort of personal attachment. And the same goes for COVID.
Talking about prep for the upcoming season, Vernoff said that the show’s creators have been meeting with real doctors to hear their stories from the frontlines, describing these encounters as somewhat therapeutic. “The doctors come in and we’re the first people they’re talking to about these types of experiences they’re having. They are literally shaking and trying not to cry, they’re pale, and they’re talking about it as war—a war that they were not trained for.” Which sounds incredibly intense and emotional for these people risking their lives on the frontlines. (Also, I hope they’re compensating these doctors very well for consulting with them.)
Whatever the Grey’s Anatomy team comes up with, it’ll be important to consider the fact that there will inevitably be people watching who have been greatly affected and are still reeling from the repercussions of the virus. So please, no comical storylines about the interns deciding whether or not it’d be safe for them to have no-mouth-contact sex in the on-call room for fear of contracting the virus.
(Because you know that could potentially be a real storyline, let’s be honest.)
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This goes pretty much without saying, but the one musical episode the show did in season 7 was, to put it mildly, terrible. Now would *not* be a good time to give it another go.
And also, music department, please don’t go for any too on-the-nose decisions when it comes to choosing music for the COVID scenes. Grey’s Anatomy is known for putting some now-iconic songs and artists on the map (would Joshua Radin even exist as an artist without this show?), but we do not need a musical backing of Luke Comb’s “Six Feet Apart” about the COVID pandemic or the soft sounds of a pop star crooning about being “infected by your love.”
And for the love of God, don’t kill off a lead
This is just a personal preference because at this point, I honestly don’t think I can take another lead character being killed off Grey’s. I am *still* emotionally recovering from Lexie Grey’s death in season 8. Thinking about Mark Sloan’s final monologue to the woman he loved as she slowly died under the fragments of a plane is enough to send *anyone* into a fit of tears. And that happened 9 seasons ago! (To this day, I will argue that that was the saddest death on the show, sorry to all the Derek Shepherd devotees).
Honestly, the year 2020 has already been difficult enough, the last thing we need is Dr. Amelia Shepherd’s unknowingly contracting COVID-19 from her asymptomatic baby, only to bring it into the hospital and start a Contagion-level spread that culminates in the death of Dr. Miranda Bailey. Chandra Wilson’s Bailey is legitimately one of the only remaining OG characters of the show, and fans just could not handle that!!
So good luck, Grey’s. I’m nervous, but I’ll 100% be watching.