When ABC's medical drama Grey's Anatomy first started, it felt like ABC was just trying to fill the void that had been left when NBC's own long-running medical drama ER had finally ended. But Grey's Anatomy managed to carve out a huge chunk of television history on its own, and when Grey's premieres this fall it will actually finally surpass ER in length.
Although ER and Grey's Anatomy are both distinct and different shows, there are a lot of natural and obvious comparisons to be made between the two. Both have cemented their place in the annals of TV history, but there are some things that Grey's Anatomy has absolutely killed it with and other things that ER has excelled in. So here are 5 things that Grey's did better, and 5 things that ER is still the king of.
10 ER Is Better At One Off Episodes
ER and Grey's Anatomy are both medical dramas, but ER was more focused on the medical aspect while GA was focused on the drama. ER is the kind of series that has its overarching plots, characters, and relationships, but for the most part anyone could watch a random episode of ER and be entertained without feeling lost.
ER always did a fantastic job at focusing on one particular story at a time (or a few story lines over the course of an episode) and concluding that story within the span of an hour.
9 Grey's Is Better At Romance
Grey's Anatomy is a medical drama with a heavy dose of melodrama. Sometimes that puts GA at a disadvantage in comparison to something like ER, but when it comes to things like romantic relationships, it puts them at a distinct advantage.
ER had some pretty epic romances, but those always felt secondary to whatever drama of the week the characters were dealing with. Grey's managed to incorporate their romantic drama into the medical issues that are going on and into the overall storyline. The show has also never been afraid to let its romance plots take center stage.
8 ER Is Better At Relatable Characters
Grey's Anatomy always amped up the drama whenever possible, making it an entertaining show but very hard to relate to. ER, on the other hand, let the natural drama unfold and speak for itself, making its characters a lot easier for audiences to connect with.
ER had the occasional flair for the dramatic, but watching the characters deal with family troubles, uncomfortably real prejudices, and personal medical issues was something that everyone watching could understand. ER reflected the drama that exists in the real world, and its characters were all the better because of it.
7 Grey's Is Better At Soap Opera Drama
The style of drama most often used in soap operas has a bit of a reputation in the world of television, and although it's kind of an unfair stigma it's also pretty understandable.
Bringing the drama level to its highest possible peaks can either go really well or very badly, and it takes a lot of writing skill to go over the top while keeping your audience invested in the story. In that regard, Grey's Anatomy has always been able to go completely balls to the wall with its drama while keeping the audience completely riveted.
6 ER Is Better At Rotating Characters In And Out
Any show that lasts for a decade and a half is going to have a lot of cast members and characters come and go, and the show's writers are probably going to want to work with new characters and sometimes run out of material for older ones.
Because ER was so good at focusing on the emergency room and the events going on within County General hospital, they had a much easier time writing characters in and out of the overall story . That, and they had an easier time bringing old characters back when they needed to too.
5 Grey's Is Better At Friendships
When most people think of Grey's Anatomy, they probably think of a medical romance drama. However, Grey's doesn't get enough credit for its well developed friendships. Because the show focuses on the characters and their personal interactions, the friendships that develop between them feels much more believable.
It's easy to watch and enjoy the show because even if the characters are dealing with the most insane, over the top drama imaginable, their relationships with each other feel like the kind of friendships that most of the people watching can relate to in some way.
4 ER Is Better At Big Events
Every medical drama in TV history has loved to do what people call "event" episodes or arcs. These episodes center around some major emergency that occupies the attention of every character in the series, and they're generally some of the most exciting stints in any medical drama.
Both Grey's Anatomy and ER could turn things up pretty well when they were focusing on a huge event. However, ER was just better at it. Their events always felt a little more grounded in reality, and because emergency was their specialty it always kept the thrills going.
3 Grey's Is Better At Weird Medical Cases And Procedures
ER was always a show that was a drama grounded in reality, which is one of the things that made it so reliably entertaining. However, Grey's Anatomy never shied away from the writers' more extreme ideas and scenarios.
Because they're working in a state of the art hospital in Seattle instead of a more humble emergency room in Chicago, the doctors of Grey's Anatomy saw some of the strangest and most extreme cases from all across the country, and it's much easier to believe than it would be in a situation like ER's.
2 ER Is Better At Believable Medicine
It's actually a testament to ER's quality that they managed to take a very simple concept and execute it so well that the show wound up becoming one of the most memorable TV shows ever made.
For the most part, ER was always working with stories about common medical issues with relatively simple answers. Although the show always pumped up the excitement factor, it still felt like everyone was watching something that could have really happened. On the other hand, Grey's has a tendency to make their cases and treatments as extreme as possible in every circumstance.
1 Grey's Is Better At Character Driven Drama
ER and Grey's Anatomy fall under the same category, so it's easy to see why many people compared the two. However, at their heart they're two very different shows. ER was fundamentally driven by the drama of medicine, whereas Grey's Anatomy is a show that has always been fueled by the drama of its characters.
Obviously their medical careers and experiences in the hospital have a huge impact on their development and the stories they tell, but GA has always been excellent at keeping their characters as the heart of the show.