Grey’s Anatomy will make history on Thursday as the longest-running medical drama on television, beating the NBC show ER.
The show is currently in its 15th season and was the first television show from executive producer Shonda Rhimes to air. Grey’s soon became a cultural phenomenon in its second season in 2005, as viewers watched the journey of Meredith Grey (played by Ellen Pompeo) during her first year as a surgical resident. The success of Grey’s sparked Rhimes to create two spinoffs – Private Practice in 2007 and Station 19 in 2018. The show also made Rhimes a household name, who would then go on to create Scandal and How to Get Away with Murder, as well as launching her own production studio, Shondaland.
Rhimes took to Shondaland’s website to share some behind-the-scenes photos from the first episode of Grey’s, which was titled “A Hard Day’s Night.” In the photos, Rhimes shows the original cast, which included Pompeo, Sandra Oh, Isiah Washington, Katherine Heigl, and Patrick Dempsey. The photos show the cast bonding in between takes and how they put the first episode together. The slideshow also shows that the name for the drama was titled the Untitled Shonda Rhimes Project until days before the March 2005 premiere.
The show’s current showrunner, Krista Vernoff, has worked with the show since 2010 before leaving Showtime’s Shameless to work on the show full-time. Vernoff told The Hollywood Reporter that ABC execs didn’t see a bright future for the show and her staff at the time were unsure if the show would stick.
“After we produced 10 of our 12 episodes that first year, I went away to make a pilot and my assistant stayed behind in L.A. and she called me and said, ‘They’re making us pack up our offices.’ They made us move out. They didn’t think we were getting a Season 2.”
Grey’s beat its predecessor ER in ratings after shooting its 300th episode in 2017. The show has currently been on for 14 years and has 332 episodes. While the show still runs on ABC, Rhimes left her longtime network to join Netflix in a $300 million overall deal. Grey’s is currently the number one network drama for the 2018-2019 broadcast season, and Pompeo has stated that she projects it will do the same for the 2019-2020 season, though Season 16 of the medical drama hasn’t been confirmed. As one of the show’s last original stars still standing, she said she isn’t ready to step away from her scrubs anytime soon.
“You can’t ignore the worldwide phenomenon that this show is. How do you walk away or ignore that?” Pompeo says. “Being the face and voice of something that can generate that much money, there’s only a very small number of people who can say that they have achieved that. If you’re lucky enough to be the face and voice of something that’s generated billions of dollars for a network, that’s something to be proud of.”
Grey’s Anatomy airs Thursdays on ABC at 8 p.m. ET.