'Grey's Anatomy': The Secret Sauce Is Blood ... And Friendship The ABC series Grey's Anatomy, set in a hospital full of possibly cursed doctors, has been on TV for 13 seasons. We talk about what has kept it popular with its fans for so long.
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'Grey's Anatomy': The Secret Sauce Is Blood ... And Friendship

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'Grey's Anatomy': The Secret Sauce Is Blood ... And Friendship

'Grey's Anatomy': The Secret Sauce Is Blood ... And Friendship

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

On ABC tonight, a show returns to complete its 13th season. That is an impressively long run for any show, and just as impressive is the fact that lots of people are still tuning into this one. We're talking about "Grey's Anatomy."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "COSY IN THE ROCKET")

SHAPIRO: And our pop culture correspondent Linda Holmes is here to talk about why this TV drama has stuck around so long. Hi, Linda.

LINDA HOLMES, BYLINE: Hi, Ari.

SHAPIRO: So first remind people who haven't watched this show what it's all about.

HOLMES: So "Grey's Anatomy" is a medical drama. It takes place at a Seattle hospital. And it follows a group of doctors and some of their friends and romantic associates as they, you know, battle against the demands of being a doctor and also, of course, kiss and do other things, you know. It's one of several shows running on ABC that's under kind of the umbrella of Shonda Rhimes, who's one of the most powerful producers in television now.

SHAPIRO: She also does "Scandal" and other shows. Lots of hospital dramas have come and gone from television. What's the secret sauce for "Grey's Anatomy?"

HOLMES: Well, the easy answer is that the secret sauce is blood...

SHAPIRO: Ew (laughter), ew.

HOLMES: ...And, you know, any other bodily fluid that you might want to name because they do have a lot of fairly gory scenes and things like that, so the medicine is very exciting. They have a mix of kind of medical stories and personal stories. They have such a big cast that it's been able to kind of rotate through. They can survive people leaving. And Shonda Rhimes has been merciless about being willing to get rid of characters in a wide variety of reasons, to the point where if this were a real hospital, the title of the - of any article about it would be, like, "Doctors Meet Catastrophes Endlessly At Cursed Hospital."

SHAPIRO: You would never go to the hospital because so much bad stuff happens there.

HOLMES: You would - it's cursed. They have had shootings at the hospital. They've had natural disasters. They have had, you know, car accidents of very strange kinds. People get impaled with all sorts of objects - with antlers and poles and all kinds of things. It's very gory at times.

SHAPIRO: So you asked on Twitter why people are still watching this show after 13 seasons, and what did they tell you?

HOLMES: The things that I heard about the most were - one is the diversity of the cast, both in the sense that there's a lot of racial diversity among this cast, but also in the fact that there have always been a lot of LGBT characters, and they've been treated with a lot of respect. The other thing that people talked about the most with this show is this undercurrent of friendships among, particularly, the women characters on the show.

So where you have these catastrophic, kind of crazy external events and you have these very dramatic romances that are very changeable, the constant all the time is these deep friendships among these women doctors. And that is really the touchstone for a lot of people. They consider the - you know, the accidents and the disasters to be unbelievable and dramatic, but they consider the friendships to be deeply believable and real and relatable.

SHAPIRO: I know you haven't watched every episode for the last 13 seasons, but when you do come back and watch it, do you still find it appealing, even all this time after it started?

HOLMES: I do. It is a strongly written and acted show. And as with a lot of things that are part of a genre - right? - in this case, a medical - kind of a medical drama - so much depends on execution. I think that if you look at the times that networks have tried to duplicate the Shonda Rhimes formula and failed, you can see how good she is at what she does and how carefully she sets up those characters and balances that reality and unreality.

SHAPIRO: That's Linda Holmes, host of the Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast, on the return of "Grey's Anatomy" in its 13th season. Thanks, Linda.

HOLMES: Thanks, Ari.

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