In the fifth season premiere of Grey's Anatomy (yes, it took me a week to bring myself to watch it), Seattle Grace has dropped from 2nd to 12th in the ranking of teaching hospitals. This serves as a clear reference to Grey's Anatomy's own drop in quality over the last few years, as the show went from must-see TV to a familiar habit for many viewers. As the Chief gives a speech at the end of the two hour episode, creator Shonda Rhimes speaks through him to announce the show will change and return to its former glory.
But if that intention is true, she must intend to start next week, because this bloated and dull two-hour premiere was full of the same annoying melodrama that led to the show's decline. Rather than making things interesting, the hospital's drop seemed to just cause everyone to whine about how it could have happened, especially the Chief. But there was plenty of whining left over for the rest of the cast, namely the Queen of Self-Absorption, Meredith Grey. The writers must want people to hate her, because she continues to become more obnoxious with each season. We're probably supposed to see Christina telling Meredith to shut up as positive growth, but by the time they reconciled at the end it seemed clear it would have no effect.
Moving on to the rest of the cast: I still believe Lexie has the potential to become a good character, but the writers' insistence on making her believably related to Meredith keeps her as a yammering and annoying mess. Alex and Izzie don't really do anything. Rose seems like too much of an afterthought for her goodbye story to feel as stupid as it was. Callie and Erica's relationship could be worthwhile, but got about 30 seconds in this episode. Bailey's still great, but doens't have enough screentime to save everyone else. And somehow Sloane seemed like the best part of the show, as he was the only one who seemed to remember Grey's Anatomy does comedy much better than drama.
Then there's the whole fairytale theme. Grey's Anatomy's episode themes are rarely subtle, but the way every character had to keep making fairytale references got pretty old. Bernadette Peters and Kathy Baker couldn't save a patient storyline that's been done any number of times before and certainly didn't need a full two hours. If they wanted to reference Enchanted, they would have been better off getting Amy Adams and having everyone sing. That might have been worth watching. As for the new guy, the army doc played by Kevin McKidd, he might have been amusing if they didn't tell us every three secconds how badass he is.
Next week's preview shows a flood crisis at the hospital, yet another attempt to recreate the bomb two-parter that marked the series' high point (see the ferry boat three-part travesty to see how well that works out). So while the show may say its changing and improving, so far it seems like the same old stories that didn't work the first time around. I feel like I've gotta give it one more chance, but its days on my DVR series pass may be numbered.