I’ve been watching Grey’s Anatomy for a long time. Since the beginning, really. Definitely longer than I’ve been reading comics. Back before the holiday break, there was an episode that opened with the main characters playing softball together. It was a practice for a game against another Seattle hospital, but it was a great scene that quickly established all the characters, their personality quirks, and their relationships to one another. And that’s when it hit me.
Grey’s Anatomy is an X-Men comic masquerading as a medical drama.
If you’ve read any of the old X-Men comics, softball was a pretty regular thing (and it was awesome). While the game is what made me think of this little theory, it’s not the only evidence.
As we speak (… er, as I type), I’m watching a re-run of the What If episode. They even advertised it with the words “What If”. I mean, it doesn’t more Marvel Comics than that. While we don’t actually see the Scarlet Witch, quite a few strings are pulled in the Grey’s universe so that Meredith gets to grow up in a “traditional” family like she’s always wanted – she has a supportive father (and it’s the Chief), her mom never got Alzheimers, and everyone is just a little bit off their typical center. It’s a totally bonkers episode (and I love it). But at their core, the characters are still essentially the same. By the next episode everything is back to normal and there are no more mutants.
About twice a season there’s a crossover event with Private Practice. The crossovers focus on some kind of medical disaster that requires the cast of Grey’s to team up with the doctors from Private Practice. With the addition of Derek’s sister to the Private Practice… um, practice they don’t have to crowbar some sort of prenatal emergency in to bring Addison back to Seattle, which is kind of nice. It’s really the only time I watch Private Practice because as much as I love Addison, that show just doesn’t do it for me.
Then there’s the cast and all of their gloriously dysfunctional relationships. Like any good prime-time soap, or X-Men comic, there’s quite a bit drama surrounding these characters and their interactions with each other. The cast doesn’t really rotate, but it has grown significantly from the “original five”. Enemies become friends; once new characters become an integral part of the team; the central character isn’t the most popular with fans; even death isn’t the end-all for a character. Also, Lexie is totally Kitty Pryde.
What I love most about Grey’s and the X-Men is how characters grow and evolve. They may not always be likeable, but their experiences change them and their relationships in a real way. Well, as real as it can for TV and comics. It’s not a static environment where there’s a reset at the end of each episode. I’ve really enjoyed watching the way these characters develop, even if it’s a train wreck at times (usually, it is). They’re complicated and dark and twisty, but they’re a family. And together, they’re the best at what they do.