Sunday, May 06, 2007

T.V. on TV: Grey's Anatomy and Entourage

Grey’s Anatomy and Entourage, two shows of the moment, would seem to have little in common. One is a one-hour medical soap opera with some of the best ratings and most convoluted plot twists on TV. The other is a loosely plotted comedy with ratings that are good for cable but that would barely register at a broadcast network. Grey’s is seen as a “girl” show, while Entourage is seen as a “guy” show (though a cursory glance at Internet fan sites would show that both series readily pull in viewers from both genders). What’s interesting, though, is that these two seemingly disparate shows have surprisingly similar strengths and weaknesses -- indeed, both are going through third seasons that are seen as considerably weaker than their predecessors. So why, exactly, are these deeply flawed shows two of the series of the moment?

It all comes back to wish fulfillment. Grey’s Anatomy has the tone of chick lit (to be fair to the show, at its best it’s significantly better than almost all chick lit), and its popularity stems from a similar setup -- through various on-screen proxies, the women of America (and some of the men) get the chance to bed hop, meet surprisingly sensitive men (even the token jackass, Justin Chambers’ Alex Karev, has revealed himself to be a really nice guy underneath it all) and be the subject of unmitigated desire from those surprisingly sensitive men. Entourage, meanwhile, is more like a Maxim magazine article full of “yes, you can have sex with this woman” and “being rich is better” bravado. Through roughly similar proxies, male viewers (and presumably some women) get to hang out with their best high school pals, bed surprisingly willing hot girls and then suffer no ramifications (aside from the occasional arc with Mandy Moore or the like).
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