The medical drama Grey's Anatomy and its spinoff Private Practice commit plot malpractice as they kill off a few of their darlings to shake up the new season.
Deaths in Private Practice and Grey's Anatomy keep the TV drama alive
Back-to-back doctor shows can be good for what ails you - and with the return of Grey's Anatomy (season nine) and its spin-off Private Practice (season six), we're only too happy to hop on the gurney and go for a ride.
Fans of Grey's Anatomy got an overdose of grief in last season's finale when a plane crash felled two of Seattle Grace's brightest: Lexie Grey (Chyler Leigh), who perished in the woods, and Mark Sloan (Eric Dane), who lingered in pain in last season's finale only to succumb to his injuries in last week's season nine premiere.
But life, and the quest for ratings, must go on.
This latest season finds a nervy new batch of interns braving the hallowed hospital halls even as familiar faces limp back with new hurdles to overcome: Arizona (Jessica Capshaw) lost a leg; Cristina (Sandra Oh) took off to Minnesota; April (Sarah Drew) bid medicine adieu; and Derek's (Patrick Dempsey) future is stuck in limbo due to his damaged hand.
The attending physician Meredith Grey, nicely played with a dark and twisty energy by Ellen Pompeo, inspires dread in the newbies. "Nothing is the same. Everything is different. Everyone is leaving and everyone is dying," Meredith laments.
With doctors dead and gone to the great beyond, and with some staff still in shock, viewers may well wonder what sort of Seattle Grace its surviving MDs have returned to this season. Rest easy; it appears the ashes of tragedy will seed a romantic renaissance and get hearts pumping.
"It's going to be a very interesting place," the executive producer Shonda Rhimes tells The Hollywood Reporter. "We've been calling this season the season of romance and talking about playing up the romance of surgery and the romance between characters and the romance of friendships - and really mining that as much as we can - so it's not going to be a dark season."
Be warned: Grey's Anatomy hopscotches with time jumps this season. While the storyline of last week's premiere took place in the aftermath, a few months after the crash, this week's episode, Remember the Time, flashes back to the woods and watches as each doctor struggles to cope with heartache and injuries. Back at Seattle Grace, everyone tries to find a bit of normality amid the chaos. But future episodes, however, will be more chronological.
"We don't have big plans to play with [time-jumping] back and forth," adds Rhimes. "Even though we had a plane crash, this isn't Lost."
Now, for hour two, the medical drama shifts to Santa Monica, where the Seattle Grace expat, the neonatal surgeon Dr Addison Montgomery (Kate Walsh), went a few years back to reconnect with her medical school chums, then join them in the chic spin-off Private Practice.
In last week's season premiere, Addison took pleasure in her escalating romance; the psychiatrist Violet (Amy Brenneman) worried when Pete (Tim Daly) failed to show for his preliminary court hearing; Charlotte (KaDee Strickland) shared a secret with Cooper (Paul Adelstein); and Sheldon (Brian Benben) rekindled his romance with his ex-wife.
The real sledgehammer moment hit at the end of the hour when we discovered Pete didn't miss his court hearing on purpose - he was dead, having suffered a fatal heart attack while jogging through Runyon Canyon.
Emotion aside, was Daly's character killed off the show by budget cuts?
"Yeah," Rhimes admits to TV Guide. "I love Tim Daly. We spent a long time working together. But yeah, there were budgetary reasons. We wanted to afford to keep the show going and that was not necessarily an easy choice to make."
In this week's episode, Mourning Sickness, the docs converge for a celebration at Addison's house to reminisce about the past. Meanwhile, Sheldon will counsel a suicidal patient who comes forward with a shocking confession.
Grey's Anatomy airs at 8pm and Private Practice airs at 9pm on Tuesday on OSN First.