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Grey's Anatomy: The case for long-running TV shows

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The most famous longest-running scripted TV series include UK series like Coronation Street, East Enders, Casualty, Holby City and many American shows like Supernatural, Law and Order, ER and Grey's Anatomy which celebrated its 300th milestone last week.

These series have stood the test of time, counting more seasons than most shows could even dream of but should TV series be allowed to go on for so long? Shouldn't they have a finite lifespan to make sure the story is still interesting and worth following?

When you hear about Grey's Anatomy you probably either shrug it off as a series that was once good but is well past its golden age. Or you jump up, talk about how shocked you were that Amelia Shepherd had a brain tumour, confess your unconditional love for puppy dog Alex Karev, or your worry for the future of Jackson and April who are still nowhere close to reuniting.

You're watching it every week, 14 whole years later and the question is: Why? What has kept you, a loyal viewer and fan, going after so many episodes? Was it a bottle of Tequila? 

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Grey's has, in my professional medical opinion, always had the right cure to what an audience needs: steamy affairs, devastating deaths and departures, heartwarming romantic moments, and strong enduring friendships.

At times the drama might seem overdone, with couples that are constantly fighting and breaking up, too many long-lost half-sisters, and a death toll that could put Game of Thrones to shame.

However, I promise you that for every crazy coincidence and ridiculous development like Maggie and Jackson seemingly becoming a thing, there's an iconic scene to make up for it.

With 14 seasons on it's back, Grey's has tried so many different plot lines and pulled so many twists that it has found the perfect recipe for tears and entertainment.

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A TV show has 14 years' worth of history, it's well aware of who its characters are. The protagonists and side characters have had time to be fleshed out, explored, reinvented, ruined and broken more than once.

Every character on the show has undergone a massive evolution: the only constant of the story is change. They may live in the same houses and work in the same hospital but every one of them has experienced loss, tragedy, joy, love and most likely a near-death experience or two.

Even if they go down the occasional Izzie/George or Jackson/Maggie dark path, ultimately the writers can see what resonates with their fans and what does not to become more confident in themselves and the characters they've created. There's no such thing as a good drama without characters you can root for.

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Besides, if there's ever a season that just doesn't do it for you (The Hospital going bankrupt right after everyone you loved died in a plane crash) you can just skip forward to the next one when things are hopefully a bit lighter.

That's the point, 14 seasons mean countless opportunities for new stories to be told and different themes be explored. Long running shows face the pressure of having to reinvent themselves in every new series which can push them creatively. From experimenting with different narrative structures like standalone bottle episodes (the plane episode, the prison episode, the army flashbacks), character-centric stories (the Cristina/Meredith episode) or even themed specials (the polarising musical episode and my personal favourite: Cristina's sliding doors episode). It's no accident that the memorable moments of the show are in fact the big accidents themselves. 

The most important reason why Grey's succeeded as ABC's longest running TV show is because of Shonda Rhimes herself and her promise to give female actresses the roles they truly deserve.

She has ever since outdone itself away with the number of compelling, multifaceted female characters and their personal stories of what it's like to be a successful working woman and mother in a world that thinks of them as inferior to their male colleagues.

Characters like the unbreakable Meredith Grey who - following a death that everyone was sure meant the end of the show - shone like the sun and proved that a series can survive even without its adored male lead. Her best friend, the brilliant career-driven Cristina Yang with her inspiring unwavering determination to be herself, unapologetically no matter what the cost or heartbreak it may bring her.

Grey's has and will always be groundbreaking. In fact, its 300th Hamilton inspired milestone episode "Who lives, who dies, who tells your story" was written, directed, created by a woman, produced, edited, show-run AND starred multiple women other from the main female protagonist portrayed by Ellen Pompeo.

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Grey's Anatomy conquered many firsts when it came to telling diverse stories with women of colour, LGBT women, women with disabilities as well as the men who support them and love them.

It's had its ups and downs but every time it pulled itself together and right now I think it's probably the best it's ever been. It's weird to say but even with so many characters dead and gone, Grey's Anatomy has life left to go on.

Shonda Rhimes and Ellen Pompeo have both mutually agreed that 14 seasons is not enough and if the series does it it will only be when Meredith's story does too. Grey's Anatomy will remain a great example of why long-running TV shows are not always a bad thing and can even end up making history and if you think it's not worth celebrating:

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