Another tense, high-stakes day is unfolding in Seattle Grace
Hospital. A window washer who has fallen five stories -
or did he jump? -
is dying on the operating table. A senior citizen prepped for
gallbladder removal is about to learn she has cancer. And a
woman who has tested positive for ovarian cancer gene is
demanding a radical procedure: the removal of her breasts and
uterus. Meanwhile, in the staff locker room, former lingerie
model Isobel "Izzie"
Stevens (Katherine Heigl) and smarmy lothario Alex Karev (Justin
Chambers) – two surgical residents whose love/hate banter over
the past year can only lead to one thing – are discussing the
patient contemplating the loss of her womanhood. "Here’s
the thing," says Alex. "I
like your rack. And I'd want them
around if I had them… But it wouldn't be the end of the world if
you had to get rid of them…because, really I’d want you."
She pauses, gazing softly into his eyes and then – POW! –
she slaps him. Just as quickly she pulls him into a lip-lock.
The one-two punch leaves Chambers flummoxed even after the
cameras stop rolling. A crew member yells, "Are
you okay, Justin?" A broad Cheshire
cat grin spreads across the actor’s face.
Anatomy may be a medical drama, but in this hospital, booty
calls definitely take precedence over brain surgery. The
foibles and fumbles of Anatomy’s oversexed group of
first-year interns (and their equally horny superiors) made the
ABC series one of last season’s breakout hits. It debuted March
27 as a placeholder for Boston Legal, but something
unexpected happened: Sixteen million viewers watched the
premiere, and the numbers kept growing. An elated ABC held
Legal's remaining episodes until this season and gave
Anatomy (which returns Sept.25 at 10 p.m.) an uninterrupted
nine-week run. It quickly became the biggest hospital hit since
ER bowed in 1994, and the most watched mid-season drama
series since Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman 12 years ago.
"I’ve been around long enough that my
hopes weren’t up too high," admits
Patrick Dempsey, 39, whose role as Dr. Derek Shepherd reignited
a career that began with late-80’s teen farces Can’t Buy Me
Love and Loverboy. "But the
thing kept building. It shocked me."
Creator Shonda Rhimes? Not so shocked:
"I knew that the show was good. I
assumed that if I wanted to watch the show, others would want to
televised-surgery addict, was a frustrated USC film school grad
so hungry for work in the mid-‘90s that she almost gave up and
enrolled in medical school – the she sold her first script. The
movie, about an interracial May-December
romance, wasn’t produced, but it kicked off a fruitful run:
Rhimes wrote the award-winning HBO movie Introducing Dorothy
Dandrige, the Britney Spears vehicle Crossroads, and
The Princess Diaries 2. In early 2003, Hollywood was
fawning over her first TV pilot, a drama about four female war
correspondents; soon after, events in Iraq doomed the project.
So Rhimes retreated to write another series – this time based on
her experiences as a "sickly kid"
and former candy striper.
"I always associated hospital with good
things," she says. "That’s
where I got fixed. We all think of doctors as amazing and
magical, but they’re just people at work."
ABC greenlit the pilot, and planned to shoot in March 2004.
Rhimes and exec producers Peter Horton (thirty-something)
began the thankless task of casting nine major characters. The
role of Meredith was easy to fill, since execs at ABC has
promised Pompeo (Old School, Moonlight Mile) another shot
after she tested for their failed pilot Secret Service.
(“The network didn’t go for it,” says the wispy 35-year-old
actress, feigning incredulity. “Me… as the head of the Secret
Service!”) Rhimes, without realizing it, had wanted Pompeo all
along. “I kept saying,’ We need a girl
like the girl from the Midnight Mile!' and finally
someone said, ‘I think that girl is Ellen Pompeo. We have a deal
with her at ABC!'”