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Grey's Anatomy: Why It Suddenly Sucks Less Lately

I've been really hard on Grey's Anatomy for the last couple seasons, but it was coming from a place of love as I adored this show when it started. I thought it was a good medical drama with a nice balance of the soapy dating stuff and some actual gory and intriguing medical scenes. But then it started slipping: the clever storytelling went out the window and it became a caricature of itself and basically it became a chore to watch. That said, lately, it's shown some signs of life again, and while I'd like to credit it to the reduced presence of Katherine Heigl, there are a lot of other contributing factors. (I do so love to blame her for everything. Oh well.)

No George
As much as I loved George, his departure has actually made the show stronger, which I didn't think that would be the case during the earlier seasons. But George not being there means that there's one less person fighting against the Mercy West folks and it has given characters like Izzie, Meredith, Bailey, Callie and even Cristina an emotional well to pull from. And I like that his loss is still a big part of their lives and wasn't immediately forgotten.

The Merger
This infusion of new blood was just what the show needed. Some of the best moments on this show came when Addison or Sloan first showed up to make a mess of things (and I mean that in a good way). Having bitter characters who aren't just interns that can be pushed around come in and try and fight to keep their jobs resonates in this economic climate -- without being overly preachy -- and allows us to see Cristina and Alex behaving in the ways that we used to know and love. It's like back in the good old days when they were new interns bickering and conniving for every case.

Clever Twists
Having Izzie get fired and Meredith donate part of her liver to her father could have seemed like contrived ways to get the actresses out of the way while they are making a movie or giving birth, but the writing staff found a way to make it work. Having Izzie angry at Alex after her dismissal is a far better and more engaging reaction than having her sit around the house and just mope. Finding a way to bring her back in is going to be where it gets sticky, but we'll see how it plays out. And Meredith would never have given her father a piece of her liver, but after seeing how much she really cares for Lexie, it seems believable, and having her trapped in a hospital bed to hide her pregnant belly was actually smart.

Arizona and Callie
Again, I'm surprised to be saying this, but I've warmed up to Arizona and I really don't mind that she and Callie are taking a more central role on this show. Now that Arizona is showing some backbone in standing up to Cristina, rationally dealing with Callie's disapproving father and pushing Callie to stop being wishy-washy, she's proven she deserves a real place among the cast and that she isn't just the pediatrician who moons over Callie. Their relationship might be my favorite on the show right now and having them deal with their problems head on feels very realistic.

Stable Relationships
Speaking of relationships, while I did always enjoy the bed-hopping and on-call room encounters, it's nice that things have stabilized for some of the couples - at least for now. Besides the awesome Callie and Arizona, Meredith and Shepherd are actually happy together, which reminds me why I liked them as a couple in the first place, while Sloan and Lexie are comfortably cohabitating and Cristina and Hunt are even in therapy together. And while Alex and Izzie are on the outs, they are still a couple and he hasn't run off and had a fling like I would have expected. While I'm sure there's a rocky road ahead for some of these couples -- especially Cristina, since there's no way she'll put up with Hunt keeping her out of surgeries for long -- it's refreshing not to have all of the crazy swapping going on. There are only so many romantic permutations this show can (or should) explore.

For the first time in a long time, I'm pretty much happy to be watching the show. It's not tedious or something I'm doing out of habit; instead, I almost look forward to it each week. There are better story arcs, the acting seems to be peaking and it's just all-around fun again. I almost have to wonder if Katherine Heigl was onto something when she wanted better material written for Izzie. God, I can't believe I just said that, but she might have had a point. The better plots have led to more commanding performances by most everyone. Crazy, huh?

Still, the show is not perfect (the Chief, for one, is driving me bananas), but few shows are, and I am hopeful that this upward trend will continue. I just worry that the Mercy West interns will go the way of the merged staff on The Office, where one-by-one they quit or get fired so that eventually there's hardly any evidence of the merger at all. Some of these new characters could be worthy additions to the regular cast, if given half a chance. Guess we'll see how it all plays out over the next couple of episodes.

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