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‘Grey’s Anatomy’ is on the upswing, seriously

Well, if the first few episodes of this season are any indication, good times may be here again. It’s certainly not as terrific as those first-season episodes, at least not yet, but a number of events at Seattle Grace Hospital have turned the “Grey’s Anatomy” back into a compelling drama.
/ Source: msnbc.com contributor

Remember that warm and fuzzy feeling you had when “Grey’s Anatomy” first went on the air in March 2005? You couldn’t wait until Sunday nights to come along, even though the next day meant going back to work.

Now — and we know this might be painful — flash back to last season, when watching the show felt more like an obligation than anything remotely resembling entertainment. Enjoyment had long passed but every week you’d watch, hoping to see a flicker, a spark, of what made “Grey’s” so compelling in the first place.

Well, if the first few episodes of this season are any indication, good times may be here again. It’s certainly not as terrific as those first-season episodes, at least not yet, but a number of events at Seattle Grace Hospital have turned the “Grey’s Anatomy” back into a compelling drama.

The end of Burke-Yang
First, we’re finally done with that dreaded Burke-Yang relationship. Did this romance ever feel legitimate? No one in their right mind would ever think these two would stay married more than a year or two at the most. George and Callie feel like Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward compared to what Burke and Yang had. They didn’t love each other as much as tolerate each other — and that was on their good days.

Plus, who wants to see Dr. Yang eyebrowless in a wedding dress when she can be scolding her new interns? And the fact that she feels that being inhuman to them is the best way to teach — she refers to them as numbers rather than names — makes her character much more compelling. Yang isn’t happy unless she’s not. As a character, she’s much more interesting when she feeling tormented — or when she’s making everyone else’s life miserable.

As everyone knows, Burke is gone due to Isaiah Washington’s incredibly insensitive remarks about T.R. Knight. But regardless, Washington is a fine actor and Burke’s presence always made for good television. Yet, his void has given the other characters more room to breathe.

Sara Ramirez, an accomplished theater actress who’s never really had a chance to display her talents, had a great turn last week trying to comprehend and deal with George’s affair with Izzie. She can play hysteria and subtlety with equal aplomb, and it would be smart if “Grey’s” executive producer Shonda Rhimes gave her more to do.

Interns add to the funWith Burke gone and the interns passing their exams — except for poor George, of course — we’ve now been introduced to a new set of interns. Their presence, especially Lexie Grey (Chyler Leigh), have invigorated both the cast and writers.

Lexie’s eagerness and naiveté are a welcome addition, reminding us to the days when Christina, Meredith, George, Izzie and Alex were all newbies, learning tracheotomies and other various medical procedures for the first time.

The new interns have certainly invigorated Dr. Shepherd, aka McDreamy, who could easily fall for the younger Grey if he wasn’t so infatuated with her older half-sister.

And while the series has made some serious improvements and is breaking out of bad habits, one development in need of resolution is Meredith’s inability to commit to Derek. Seriously, what is her deal … seriously? Here’s a handsome neurosurgeon who wants to settle down, start a family and grow old with her, and she’s hemming and hawing. What is stopping her from committing? She needs to grow up and make a decision already.

Alex grows up
One of the few highlights of last season was Alex’s maturation to a person who was ready to commit to Jane Doe, who was married but separated. Playing the role as best one possibly could while in bed for every scene, Elizabeth Reaser was a gem last season and there’s reason to believe their budding relationship will be even better now that she can actually walk and get out of bed.

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Thanks to an astute performance by Justin Chambers, who knows how to raise the emotional level of a scene without venturing into Izzie-like histrionics, Alex might just be the most three-dimensional of the “Grey’s” regulars. Like Ramirez, the writers would be wise to raise his profile and give him more to do on a weekly basis.

T.R. Knight, who’s done a more than admirable job as puppy dog George, needs to storm into Rhimes’ office and demand that they don’t extend his tryst with Izzie into a yearlong dilemma of “will they or won’t they end up as a couple.” He’s a good doctor and to only delve into his sordid personal life, disregarding his work as a budding surgeon, would be a mistake.

All in all, so far, so good. “Grey’s” has rebounded this season after a lengthy debacle that began with Izzie’s ill-fated fling with dying heart patient Denny Duquette. She tried to steady herself after Denny’s demise by making an abundance of baked goods.

We’re hungry for a return to the glory days of “Grey’s.” Our appetites are somewhat satiated now, after seeing the show get back on track. A full comeback, however, will require more than a basket of muffins.Stuart Levine is a managing editor at Variety. He can be reached at .