Sep. 26, 2013 at 12:49 PM ET
"Fun" might not be the best word to describe the new season of "Grey's Anatomy," judging from the trailers and May's intense season finale that left Dr. Webber's (James Pickens Jr.) fate in question.
Yet that’s exactly what creator and showrunner Shonda Rhimes wants to give fans when the series enters its 10th season Thursday.
“I know it seems odd to say since we ended in such a dark place with the chief’s life hanging in the balance and all the conflicts,” Rhimes told TODAY. “But at the end of last season, we said that we want to have more fun this season, and we want to be funnier.”
“Well, we obviously have some serious stuff to deal with, like where we left the chief and how that’s going to affect everybody, and Arizona and Callie trying to get past the betrayal, April’s decision about Jackson, and Meredith and Derek dealing with a baby and a second child,” Rhimes said. “But I think we’re going to show the humor as well.”
But laughs aren’t the only thing in the plans: After a decade, there are going to be more than a few changes in store, most notably with the cast. The contracts for the original cast members — Ellen Pompeo, Patrick Dempsey, Justin Chambers, Chandra Wilson and Pickens Jr. — run out at the end of this season, and it looks as if more emphasis will be placed on the interns.
Dempsey, who plays Dr. Derek Shepherd, caused some ripples this summer with his comments about going into 10 years playing the same character. It led to speculation that he might be ready to scale back on “Grey’s” or possibly even leave the series.
“When you are on a show that’s coming up on 200 episodes, it’s about surviving. ... There’s not a lot of homework that goes into it,” he told TV critics this summer while promoting a documentary about his passion for driving race cars. “I’m grateful that I have the gig, but it’s not the same as being in a race car. It’s just not.”
Rhimes said she understands where Dempsey is coming from, but said she thinks there’s plenty of MerDer and other stories left to tell.
“The challenges on a long-term job are normal. Everybody goes through it, so you have to find things that keep it interesting, and Meredith and Derek are entering a new phase of their lives, where they are dealing with being a family with two children,” Rhimes told TODAY. “I still look at Patrick and every time I’m amazed at what he does and how he makes it look so easy and graceful. I’m happy he’s found this other thing in his life, and I think one passion feeds the other. We talk about this a lot, and he needs something to keep it fresh and (racing) is it.”
While Dempsey's not ready to move on quite yet, Sandra Oh, who plays Cristina Yang, is leaving after this season. Rhimes has said in numerous interviews that Meredith’s person will “get the exit she deserves,” which probably means an entire season to let viewers get used to the idea.
And Alex Karev (Justin Chambers) will get some attention now that’s he has proclaimed his love for intern Jo (Camilla Luddington) and soon will be dealing with his estranged father returning to his life. James Remar, who has spent the last eight years playing “Dexter’s” deceased but still present dad, now portrays Alex’s pops.
But first, fans have to deal with someone dying in the two-hour premiere.
Is it beloved Dr. Richard Webber who was electrocuted when he switched the power back on after a storm knocked everything out? Or perhaps “Mousey,” the intern played by Tina Majorino who was sent to check on Webber?
Let the fun begin.
"Grey's Anatomy" returns Sept. 26 at 9 p.m. on ABC.