7 Last-Minute Changes That Hurt Grey’s Anatomy (13 That Saved It)

Grey's Anatomy Meredith cry

Over the years, there have been some very crazy things to occur at Seattle Grace (or Grey Sloan) Hospital. From gunmen to bombs, disease outbreaks to a loose lion, the staff of the hospital have seen it all. For fifteen seasons, fans have been glued to all the happenings on Grey's Anatomy, no matter how crazy things get. The show has developed a reputation for its wild twists and storylines that always keep fans on their toes. There has never been a dull moment since the show began, and it does not show signs of slowing down.

Sometimes even a great show like Grey's Anatomy will take its story in a wild direction that makes fans say "What?" While the reasons for some of these decisions will never be entirely clear, sometimes the truth does come out. Whether the reason is due to fan reactions or network opinions, sometimes quick decisions need to be made while producing a show. Not everyone will always like these decisions, but they are often unavoidable.

Despite not always being planned on, sometimes these decisions actually help the course of a show. Think of them like a happy accident. However, these decisions can also come back and bite a show if it does not pan out well enough. Grey's Anatomy has certainly had its share of both. The question is - will the good outweigh the bad? Nobody knows where they might end up.

Here are 8 Last-Minute Changes That Hurt Grey’s Anatomy (12 That Saved It).

20 Saved - Keeping Derek's Marriage A Secret

Derek Shepherd and Addison Montgomery Grey's Anatomy

The ending of season one gave fans a big surprise they were not ready for. It turns out that the actors weren't ready for it either. Dr. Addison Shepherd arriving at Seattle Grace to reclaim her husband was a huge shock to fans' systems. Her sudden arrival set the tone for the rest of the series - fans are always set to expect the unexpected.

In an effort to get the most genuine reactions to the news from her actors, Rhimes actually hid this revelation from the actors on set. As revealed in a DVD featurette for season one, even Ellen Pompeo was not aware of the situation! It is situations like this which have kept Grey's so exciting over the years.

19 Hurt - George's Departure

Despite not appearing on the show since 2009, the loss of Dr. George O'Malley still hurts fans today. Out of all the original interns, George always ranked amongst the most popular. His do-good demeanor made him the most relatable intern, and his underdog mentality made everyone root for him. That is exactly why his passing in season five hit everyone so hard.

Though fans now know to expect many losses in Grey's Anatomy, George still hit the hardest. In fact, most fans rate his departure as one of the top reasons they stopped watching the show. While there many extenuating circumstances that resulted in T.R. Knight leaving the show, it certainly hurt the overall product.

18 Saved - Exploring Glasses' Orientation

Grey's has never shied away for portraying characters of all walks of life. The show's ground-breaking approach to character development is one of the reasons it has stood the test of time. While some of the older characters have firmly established personalities, the show still has some fun playing with some of the newer ones.

Among a new batch of interns, Dr. Levi "Glasses" Schmitt has had a fun run on the show thus far. While initially he hooked up with Alex's future wife Jo, he does not discriminate when it comes to love. His latest affair has been with Dr. Nico Kim. Glasses' awkward demeanor has made him a fun character to watch. The last-minute decision to change his outlook on relationships was very positive.

17 Hurt - The end of Christina’s pregnancy

Christina Yang Greys Anatomy Pregnancy

Grey's Anatomy creator Shonda Rhimes is no stranger to controversy. In fact, most of her shows thrive on keeping the audience guessing about which boundary she will break next. Most "untouchable" topics have been addressed on Grey's Anatomy before, but a last-minute change was made early on in the show's history when it was deemed too intense.

Season one featured Cristina Yang becoming pregnant with Dr. Burke's baby. Due to the secrecy of their relationship, this was not a planned pregnancy, and she was considering getting rid of the baby. However, the storyline played out that she ended up having an ectopic pregnancy, and the child did not survive. It turns out that Rhimes initially envisioned the storyline tackling the more controversial topic, but was convinced by network executives to change her story.

16 Saved - Burke's departure

There has been much documented about Isaiah Washington's backstage antics which resulted in him being removed from Grey's Anatomy. While Preston Burke was a beloved character, Washington's actions behind the scenes earned him a swift exit.

According to numerous sources (including an admission by Washington himself), he was guilty of using homophobic language towards fellow actors on set. He then repeated the slur in public when describing the incident, further angering everyone involved.This resulted in Burke being written off the show. Even though losing one of their top characters was a blow to the show, removing him was the right call. It sent the message that discrimination is not tolerated.

15 Hurt - Derek’s Fate

Patrick Dempsey as Derek Shepherd on Grey's Anatomy

Like some of the other big name departures from the show, Derek Shepherd's departure is still a sore spot for many fans. Especially when they realize that it did not have to happen so soon. Watching Derek be removed from the show was still jarring to audiences, and some fans are still recovering.

It was reported early on 2014 that Patrick Dempsey had only extended his Grey's contract for two more years. This would have completed his character arc by season twelve. However, Rhimes has gone on record stating that having Derek leave Meredith any other way was not an option. This meant that the show had to end his life for Dempsey to leave. As upsetting as it is, the reasoning makes sense, even if it did wind up hurting the show.

14 Saved - April's real pregnancy

April Pregnant Greys Little Secrets

In a beautiful turn of events, life was imitating art on the set of Grey's Anatomy. While many television shows have to deal with the task of hiding the pregnancy of their cast members, Grey's did not. Instead, Sarah Drew portrayed her real-life pregnancy on television alongside Dr. April Kepner.

Drew has stated that this allowed her to explore the role in a different way, as she was experiencing pregnancy with her character. While normally actors have to imagine the circumstances of their character, this situation allowed for a more visceral experience. Thankfully, life did not imitate art to its full extent. While Kepner and Avery's child did have meet a very tragic fate, Drew's real-life child was born happy and healthy.

13 Hurt - Removing Dr. Riggs

Introducing new blood on to a long-running show is usually a gamble. Fans will not always react favorably to new comers, but they need time to process characters before networks make final judgements on them. Unfortunately for Martin Henderson and Dr. Nathan Riggs, judgement was passed a little too quickly.

After only appearing for two seasons, Riggs was abruptly dropped from the show. Even though he was placed in to a high-profile relationship with Meredith following Derek's departure, he did not stick around. Despite being generally well-received by the audience, showrunners did not decide to continue with him on the show. Was Riggs removed because no one can replace Derek Shepherd?

12 Saved - Adding Alex Karev After The Pilot

The main group of interns has been the backbone of Grey's Anatomy for fifteen seasons. Even though Grey and Karev are the only ones still on the show, one of them was not even originally included in the pilot.

Originally introduced as Seattle Grace's resident "jerk," Alex Karev instantly butts heads with the other interns. However, it appears that he was actually accomplishing this through post-production. Karve was digitally inserted into the pilot episode in post-production, and even carries a conversation with the group. This means that the first time Karev made fun of George, he was not actually present for the scene. Thankfully, Justin Chambers has remained part of the core cast over the years and has become a much more likable doctor!

11 Hurt - Inviting Dr. Burke Back

As already mentioned, Isaiah Washington's departure from the show was one the biggest headlines about Grey's Anatomy early in the show's history. However, having him exit the show following the controversy was what was best for the show. Bringing him back, however, was not in their best interest.

When Dr. Preston Burke returned for a small stint on the show in season ten, fans were surprised and dismayed. After his very public exit, there had been little mention of him for several years on the show. However, with Cristina Yang's scheduled departure from the show, there was a need to provide closure on all chapters of her life. While some fans appreciated Burke's small return to the show, others felt that it sent the wrong message. Given his public outburst, bringing him back to the show was  unbecoming.

10 Saved - Not putting Meredith and Burke together

It is very difficult to picture Meredith Grey in a relationship with anyone but McDreamy. In fact, most of her other relationships on the show were not well received by audiences. Now, imagine if she had never been with Derek at all - how would the show have turned out?

When originally casting the show, Shonda Rhimes had intended for an interracial couple to be the focal point. Her vision was to place Meredith and Dr. Burke in a relationship together. While the pairing would have been very interesting, this thankfully did not make it past development. Removing the Mer and Der pairing from Grey's Anatomy would have hurt the show beyond repair. Combined with all the behind-the-scenes drama surrounding Isaiah Washington down the road, and it would have spelled disaster for the show.

9 Hurt - Torres' Sudden Exit

Dr. Callie Torres' role on Grey's Anatomy steadily grew until she became a fixture of the show. Her strong and smart character continued to grow until fans fell in love with her. That is why her unplanned exit following ten seasons with the show was a big surprise - including to Shonda Rhimes herself.

Shows usually have plenty of time to plan out the departure of characters when an actor gives their notice. However, Rhimes stated that she was given very little notice that Sara Ramierz would be taking "a break" from the show. For a show that is usually incredibly crisp with their writing, it was noticeable that they were quickly tying up loose ends with Torres. Things seemed more rushed than usual, and it hurt the quality of her final episodes.

8 Saved - Izzie With Denny, Not Cristina

Speaking of breaking up iconic couples, it seems that Shonda Rhimes had an entirely different vision of the show.The show had an entirely different vision of who would originally have a doomed romance with an ill patient. While this does not expressly include Denny Duqette, Rhimes' initially wanted Cristina Yang to fall for a terminal patient. Thankfully, a last-minute decision was made to give this storyline to Izzie Stevens, which resulted in some of the most iconic moments of the show's early seasons.

Given Yang's strength and demeanor, it is difficult to picture her lying in a prom dress while "Chasing Cars" plays in the background. Thankfully, fans were able to cry about Izzie lying by Denny's bedside following his demise.

7 Saved - Getting rid of Derek's daughter

Patrick Dempsey as Dr Derek Shepherd Greys Anatomy

Prior to adopting Zola, McDreamy was also supposed to be a McDaddy. In an effort to provide Derek Shepherd with a reason for being at Seattle Grace, he was originally written to have a young, teenage daughter that he was taking care of.

According to Rhimes, "This is his chance to make up for all the mistakes he made with her when she was younger." This would have created another roadblock in Derek's life while balancing his surgeon duties with raising a child and pursuing Meredith. This storyline was dropped in favor of introducing Dr. Addison Montgomery-Shepherd as Derek's estranged wife. While seeing Derek and Meredith navigate parenting early on in their relationship would have been an interesting aspect, the show was better off bringing in Addison.

6 Saved - Casting Patrick Dempsey instead of Rob Lowe

Rob Lowe in West Wing

It is very hard to imagine any of the Grey's Anatomy cast being replaced by another actor. Thankfully the show has always dealt with departures by removing characters all together rather than recasting different actors. However, what if things were different altogether?

Rob Lowe was originally offered the role of Derek Shepherd, but turned down the role. The actor stated that he turned down the role because ABC had numerous dramas flop over the years, and preferred to sign on to a more stable network. Little did he know that the medical drama would still be on the air fifteen years later!

5 Saved - Keeping Addison on the show

When Addison Shepherd arrived at Seattle Grace at the end of the first season, Grey's Anatomy fans received their first big surprise of the series. Following her dramatic entrance, she wound up staying on the show for two more seasons before beginning her down adventures on Private Practice. This almost wasn't meant to be.

According to actress Kate Walsh, Addison was not intended to be a permanent character on the show. She was only supposed to be featured for a short period of time before Derek would resume his relationship with Meredith. However, due to an overwhelming fan response about her character, she was asked to continue her stint. Thankfully she decided to stay on, as it gave fans someone to love and someone to love to hate.

4 Hurt - Removing Dr. Hahn

In order to replace Dr. Burke's absence from Seattle Grace, a new "cardio god" was introduced. Unfortunately, she would not last very long either and fans are still wondering why. Dr. Erica Hahn was brought in late during the show's third season, and was promoted to main cast during the fourth. However, her stint would only last a few episodes into the season before she disappeared.

The explanation given after the fact was that network executives did not connect with her character. In fact, they reportedly disliked the character so much that they asked Rhimes to remove her immediately. The decision was so last-minute that they did not even have time to write in a proper send-off for the character. With so much left to explore for Hahn, this was a decision that certainly hurt the show in the long-term.

3 Saved - Removing Izzie From The Show Early

Katherine Heigl Grey's Anatomy Izzy

While Isaiah Washington's departure from the show made headlines, Katherine Heigl's exit made things explode. Following a very public falling-out with Shonda Rhimes, Heigl reportedly asked to be removed from the show to pursue other opportunities. Despite Heigl just signing a new contract with the show, she wanted to be removed early.

Due to the bad blood between her and the writing staff, she was removed early from the sixth season despite having an ongoing storyline. While losing a main character in the middle of a season can sometimes spell disaster for a show, this last-minute decision actually helped the series. Heigl didn't want to be in the role and it showed in her performance, so writing her out cleared space for more enthusiastic actors.

2 Saved - Goods News Over Bad News

During a series of scenes in the season one episode "The First Cut Is The Deepest", Karev and Yang are providing lab results to multiple patients. In this scenario, they are giving positive outcomes which results in the patients constantly hugging Cristina. Originally, this sequence involved the pair giving numerous accounts of bad news and trying to avoid water works.

After receiving feedback from the network that this was too bleak, Rhimes changed it to the doctors providing good news. While it my seem small, this was a positive change for the show early on. It ended up resulting in a series of hilarious scenes as Cristina tries to avoid the hugs from patients. In a show that revolves around such serious content, a comedic break can be a game-changer.

1 Saved - Mid-Season Premiere Title Change

Grey's Anatomy famously titles each episode with a song title. Usually it is a direct reference to how the episode will play out, or fits in with the theme of the season. This is a very nice touch that the showrunners have always included and it sets Grey's apart from other shows. There is only one time that they have deviated from this formula, and it was to send a very powerful message.

With an episode that focused on domestic violence, it originally had the title of Crowded House song "Four Seasons in One Day". However, after actress Giacomo Gianniotti mentioned the phone number for the National Domestic Violence Hotline, the title was changed. In fact, it was changed to the number itself - "1-800-799-7233". By deviating from their usual tactics at the last-minute, the showrunners sent a very powerful message to their viewers.


What other last-minute changes affected Grey's Anatomy? Let us know in the comments!

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