There are TV fans, and then there are "Grey's Anatomy" fans.
"Patrick Dempsey, when he nearly kisses Meredith, it's like nearly kissing me," said 37-year-old mother of two Jacki Moore of Burbank, Calif. "I've gone to a few of the fan sites and I look for pictures, and I Google his name pretty much every day to see if anything comes up. Oh, I'm telling you, I'm ready to put a poster up on my wall."
"I just feel like I can relate a lot to Meredith, and I'm rooting for the underdog, but, oh, I'm a McDreamy fan," said 23-year-old L.A. business student Karyn McQueen, referring to Dempsey's character. "I want him and Meredith to be together. You see the way he looks at her. He really does love her."
A bona-fide hit in its first season, "Grey's Anatomy" this year has leapt into that rarefied air of pop-culture sensation, joining the ranks of "Lost" and, for a time, "Desperate Housewives." It has has been beating the "CSI" juggernaut in the coveted 18- to 49-year-old demographic for the entire season, and twice has garnered a larger audience than its Wisteria Lane lead-in when both shows aired original episodes.
From obsessive watercooler chatter to "Saturday Night Live" spoofs, the fictional surgical ward of Seattle Grace Hospital has quickly seeped into the American consciousness, particularly among women.
With "Sex and the City" available only in syndication and "Desperate Housewives" losing its glow, women are finding a replacement in "Grey's," a show with several strong female roles and focusing largely on the travails of its title character, Meredith Grey. And while the show's repressed love affair may have women swooning, they're also responding to the evolving friendships among the five interns and the doctors on staff.
"Grey's" plays like a cross between the drama of "ER" and the camaraderie of "Friends," with some spicy female empowerment a la "Sex and the City." Fans can't get enough of interns Meredith (Ellen Pompeo), Izzie (Katherine Heigl), Cristina (Sandra Oh), George (T.R. Knight) and Alex (Justin Chambers), surgical resident Bailey (Chandra Wilson) or surgeon Burke (Isaiah Washington). And then there's Derek Shepherd, Meredith's love interest. With his character dubbed McDreamy by the female interns, Dempsey has soared in this role to stratospheric highs on the heat meter since the pilot.
"What I find interesting is that there are some people out there who take the show very seriously," said creator Shonda Rhimes. "But then I think about how strongly I felt about 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' and how emotional I was about what happened to those characters. So going from being a fan to somebody who has her own show, I definitely respect it. You come into people's homes in a very personal way on a weekly basis. They get involved. But the general success of the show, that sort of loyalty and rage over why did you let Meredith and George sleep together, it's fantastic but it's not something I necessarily expected."
Averaging 20 million viewers, "Grey's" is the fifth-ranked show in all of prime-time television and the fourth amid upscale viewers (those who earn $100,000 or more), according to Nielsen Median Research. Its audience is 67 percent female, 11 percent black and 6 percent Hispanic. (Nielsen does not provide other ethnic breakdowns.) Even more precious to advertisers is that 11 million of those viewers — 58 percent of the audience — is in the 18- to 49-year-old demographic, the group they like to sell to the most.
"I like the emotional draw of it," said Andy Yardley, 31, who works for a biotech firm in San Francisco and, in a major break from the typical fan mold, says she is drawn to the female characters more than to Dempsey's. "I cry almost every episode, and I laugh almost every episode. So it feels very cathartic. Every Sunday, to be getting ready for the rest of the week, to have this last big moment, it's great."
Even when ABC pre-empts the show for other programming, such as the Academy Awards, the fans know where to go for their fix. Nicole Scheff, 30, of Baltimore, says she spends her entire workday on the message boards.
Moore, who replays episodes on her TiVo late into the night, says her husband thinks she's crazy. "But he's fine with it, because I told him, 'Honey, you're starting to look like Dr. McDreamy.' "
But neither the blogs nor her daily morning fill of "Grey's" podcasts is enough for McQueen and her sister. So how'd they get by without learning for one more week whether George would forgive Meredith for having impulsive sex with him and then weeping over her mistake? They watched that episode again.
"I was just so grossed out. George and Meredith have a brother-sister relationship," McQueen said. "He knows how she feels about Derek, and he shouldn't be upset about it."
If it sounds like viewers are taking the story lines personally, consider this from an ABC message board: "What was Shonda thinking?" glared the subject header, after the big sex scene aired, as if the viewer personally knew the woman who runs the show. Thing is, in a way, this audience does. The show's writers have a blog at www.greyswriters .com, where they communicate weekly with fans about the episode that aired.
"The Web allows people to know our names and what we look like," Rhimes said. "As a writer, you don't expect to be recognizable to anybody. And it's certainly not your goal. But I spent so much time wishing to have the show, and wishing that it would be a success, that I certainly can't complain about anything that happens after that."
Rhimes was looking to fill the programming void she felt when "Sex and the City" and "Friends" went off the air.
In particular, she wanted to be in charge of a show that she could watch with her sisters and gab about, but that men could also enjoy.
Although two-thirds of the audience is female, men, as evidenced by the message boards and blogs, have discovered it as well. It's just a little hard to get them to admit it, which Rhimes understands, because even ABC executives saw it initially as a "chick show."
Moore's 40-year-old husband, whom she describes as an "all-around jock guy," demands that she not watch it without him, "even though he pretends like he's not a fan." McQueen's 53-year-old father is a die-hard, as is her fortysomething attorney boss. "We're supposed to be a very professional corporate law firm, but every Monday morning he asks me, 'Did you watch?' " McQueen said. "For sure, there are a lot of grown men who are professionals watching this."
Executive producer Mark Gordon believes there are a lot of closeted male fans. "You wouldn't expect the Sunday night football-watching crowd to like this show, but I can't tell you how many people have said, 'My wife was always saying you gotta watch this show and now I'm hooked.' "
First and foremost, Rhimes says, she set out to develop a show in which the female characters are depicted in relation to how they feel about themselves and how they feel about men instead of how men feel about them. The rest of it — the bizarre medical cases (the live bazooka round in a man's chest, the woman's continuous orgasms) and the soapy, sexy drama (as when Shepherd's wife returns to give their marriage another shot) — was just meant to add flavor.
"I like that these characters aren't perfect," Yardley said. "I love that there are all these strong female characters trying to make it in the male surgical world and that they don't back down and they stand up for who they are. Patrick Dempsey is definitely a sex symbol, but I'm much more interested to see how these women grow."
Source: Honolulu Advertiser.com