Things have been very busy at Grey's Anatomy's Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital, what with Meredith (Ellen Pompeo) getting out of jail, Bailey (Chandra Wilson) dealing with her miscarriage, Amelia (Caterina Scorsone) pregnant and unsure who the father of her baby is, and Owen (Kevin McKidd) clashing so hard with Tom Koracick (Greg Germann) that he left to go work at rival hospital PacNorth. Oh, and the chief of surgery at PacNorth, day-one Grey's character Alex Karev (Justin Chambers) has flown the coop, leaving countless storylines in the lurch.
And yet, for whatever reason, a decent chunk of the last several episodes have been occupied by some previously unseen firefighters. Of course, it's not for whatever reason: ABC has been trying to goose the second-season ratings of sister series Station 19. It started in January with a two-part disaster event that brought the S19 and Grey's casts together, which is par for the course — a single crossover event is pretty standard issue for shows like these, which share a universe and a city and even a few characters. But like houseguests who overstay their welcome, the Station 19 crossovers haven't stopped. Grey's doc Jackson Avery (Jesse Williams) began dating Station 19's Vic (Barrett Doss) and making out with her in various corners of the hospital. Cases have been kicking off on Station 19 and wrapping up on Grey's, like last week's bear attack drama and tonight's Seattle blizzard.
But nothing was more frustrating than a couple weeks ago, during the pivotal episode in which Richard (James Pickens Jr.) and Catherine (Debbie Allen) are hosting a dinner, teetering on the edge of making their separation public (and official), a decision which will likely shape the rest of the whole season, and we've got not one but TWO Station 19 duds taking up space (and storylines) at the dinner table.
Look, I don't begrudge a spinoff's attempt to draft off of the success of its original. Private Practice spun off from Grey's in 2007 and certainly made use of the crossover potential of characters like Amelia Shepherd and Addison Montgomery (Kate Walsh). But Private Practice managed to stand on its own two feet, and with the constant crossovers, the implication is that Station 19 can't do that.
The bigger problem is that Grey's Anatomy truly can't spare the real estate. For a show in its 16th season to have managed to stay fresh and successful is no accident. It's a matter of building up new characters and smartly filling its time with stories that slow-burn their way into becoming unmissable. Grey's Anatomy in its teens is a war of attrition. Battling through a network-length season, the show endures dips and highs, but viewers are loyal enough to stay until the season's storylines bubble over into a boil. That's what's currently going down with Catherine and Richard's breakup. Having these Station 19 kids around is not only an annoying waste of screen time, but they're gumming up the works and preventing audiences from investing in the show's big moments.
If Station 19 can't stand on its own, that's all the answer ABC should need. Attempting to turn Thursday nights into the Seattle version of NBC's Chicago Fire / Med / PD will only drag down the most successful drama they have.
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Joe Reid is the Managing Editor at Primetimer and co-host of the This Had Oscar Buzz podcast. His work has appeared in Decider, NPR, HuffPost, The Atlantic, Slate, Polygon, Vanity Fair, The Herald Sun, Vulture, The A.V. Club and more.