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Friday, April 1, 2011

Grey's Anatomy sings the "Song Beneath the Song"

     Surely, reviews about the musical episode of ABC's Grey's Anatomy will be mixed, as they often are for any type of big risk that isn't hands down brilliant. Grey's did a lot of things right. They stuck to the style of music their fans are accustomed to, indeed, using many of the songs made famous by Grey's promos. They also let their strongly gifted actors sing, while not forcing the entire cast to participate musically. As for complaints, I could see some saying there is too much music. Ten songs are used in the hour, compared to four to six for a normal episode of Glee. But overall, I'm pretty pleased.

     The best songs are the crowd pleasers, of course. Big ensemble performances of Jesus Jackson's "Running on Sunshine" and THE Grey's anthem, The Fray's "How to Save a Life", are a visual and auditory delight. The weakest point, in my opinion, is the very first. I have complained lately of shows jettisoning their theme songs. Grey's theme, "Cosy In the Rocket", was abandoned long ago. But the series only teased by letting a few lines of the song be sung just before the title card. This is the perfect opportunity to bring it back, at least for one episode, and instead, they only allow a small taste.

     Sara Ramirez, who plays Dr. Callie Torres, is at the center of the episode, as she is badly injured in a car wreck, and the one hallucinating the singing as the staff tries to save the life of her and her unborn child. Ramirez won a Tony for her performance in Spamalot on Broadway, so it is no surprise that she sings in seven of the ten numbers. Her biggest highlight is probably The Story, made famous by Brandi Carlile, where Sara shows her true range and belting capabilities. Plus, the cut shots throughout the song made it look neat.

     Other featured players are Kevin McKidd as Dr. Owen Hunt and Chyler Leigh as Dr. Lexie Grey, who both have their own solos, as well as participating in group numbers. Chandra Wilson's Miranda Bailey and Jessica Capshaw's Arizona sang in multiple songs, but didn't have their own. Other actors, like Justin Chambers (Alex Karev), Eric Dane (Mark Sloan), Scott Foley (Henry), and Daniel Sunjata (Eli) only get the briefest of moments, which is more than Sandra Oh or James Pickens Jr. did. Sarah Drew's April is somewhere in the middle ground, getting to sing in several songs, but never really being featured. But it works out, because if they are bad singers, we don't want to hear them anyway (I'm looking at you, Alyson Hanigan, whom I adore, but whose "This line's mostly filler" may have been the most out of tune moment in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer musical episode.)


     I am left wondering why Kate Walsh's Addison Montgomery is even brought over for a crossover during this episode. A veteran of The Drew Carey Show, which periodically did big numbers, I expected some sort of singing from her, but am disappointed that she doesn't appear to sing at all. In fact, she is barely in the hour. I guess she is only here to shake Dr. Lucy Fields's (Rachael Taylor) confidence in herself as a doctor, which she more than adequately does.

     Near the end of the episode, I kept thinking this would be the perfect time to kill off Callie. I'm a fan or Ramirez, so this is merely a musing from a storytelling perspective, not because I want the character gone. Arizona and Mark are at odds, but then make up. Having the two of them raising a child together without their connective tissue would have been interesting. As Arizona is a lesbian, it is unlikely the two of them would have ever made a go romantically, but it would have been a kind of cool story idea. I do wonder, based on next week's previews, if Callie's baby will die instead, thus making Arizona and Mark's budding friendship struggle into fruition on its own, without the aid of a shared child.


      It is amusing when shows poke fun at themselves, and acknowledge the unrealistic things that often happen within the confines of the various plot arcs. This week, Alex dubs the hospital "Seattle Grace / Mercy Death," instead of West, as the last word actually is. This references that a lot of doctors have suffered a lot of tragedy there. Because this is a TV show, and drama is needed to keep it moving along, that is not unexpected. But most real hospitals don't have such a high rate of serious happenings in their staffs, so it's nice that the writers let Alex mention it, tongue in cheek.

     Is Grey's heading for a showdown between Teddy (Kim Raver) and Cristina (Sandra Oh)? I think it's a nice throwback that Cristina pulls outs a Burke procedure to save the day with Callie this week, but it puts her at odds with her mentor. I'm starting to think the hospital isn't big enough for the both of them. I guess it's time that one of our interns grows into an attending, and it makes sense that Cristina would reach that pinnacle first, as she has already more than adequately proven herself. But I don't see two cardiothoracic surgeons peacefully coexisting. I admit, I'm surprised that Teddy is still here. As much as I like Raver from her time on 24, she seems like such a temporary character whose usefulness is past. Perhaps by season's end, she will ride off into the sunset with Henry or the returning Dr. Andrew Perkins (James Tupper).


     Also well handled is the maturation that romance on Grey's has gone through lately. In the early days, many of the characters simply sleep together to release stress in high pressure situations, or because they are drunk. Nowadays, it seems everyone is involved in an actual relationship. Lexie chooses Jackson (Jesse Williams) this week over Mark, cementing that there is something more to them than just a hookup. Henry is pursuing romance with his wife-for-the-insurance, Teddy, having asked her on a date. Alex and Lucy, as well as Bailey and Eli, have been simmering slow builds, flirting and developing chemistry, not just falling into bed together.

     And Meredith (Ellen Pompeo) and Derek (Patrick Dempsey) are having a real marital issue, struggling to have a child in Meredith's 'hostile womb'. It's such a more serious and interesting challenge than Meredith and Derek's long dance with on-again, off-again romance. I can't wait to see them move into their dream house, currently under construction. What a cool new set piece that will be! And I want to see them as parents, the next logical step in their evolution. Who says that long-term monogamy makes for bad dramatic television?

     Of course, Arizona, Callie, and Mark may be playing parents much sooner, as Callie's baby did come out this week. Oftentimes, babies can be a drag on a series. While they provide some fun plots, much of the time they need to be away with some rarely seen babysitter, as they just get in the way of most stories. Yet, somehow Grey's seems ready for an actual child who fits into the larger scheme of things. We have seen so many characters grow into mature people, and parenthood is a part of a complete life for many couples around the world.

     This seventh season has been such a wonderful rebirth of the aging drama. While Grey's has managed to stay enjoyable most seasons, some story arcs have floundered. The shooting last May re-energized so much, forcing the characters to figure out who they are, and who they want to be. Rather than jumping the shark, it's kind of forced a move into a whole new series that will have legs for years to come, rather than slowly dying out, which looked like a possible outcome previously. I must give major props all around to everyone involved in this season.


     Grey's Anatomy airs Thursday nights at 9 p.m. ET on ABC.

Article first published as TV Review: Grey's Anatomy - "Song Beneath the Song" on Blogcritics.

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1 comment:

  1. "Grey's Anatomy" continues to surprise me every time I watch it. I was crying because how Torres's mother was talking about her. I was embarrassed because I was crying on the light rail when I was watching it. I love having TV everywhere with DISH so I can watch my shows live unlike with Comcast. Working for DISH I'm happy I got to learn about TV everywhere. I can't wait to see what happens between Meredith and Derek since she didn't tell him what she did to his case.

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