Grey's Anatomy (Pitch)
Created by Shonda Rhimes
Series Overview - Undated
Drama - 10 pages
"He's the guy you tell yourself not to sleep with but can't help climbing into bed with anyway." - Shonda Rhimes
The pitch for Grey's Anatomy was released as part of Shonda Rhimes' Masterclass in television writing. She positioned it as her working notes, which she claims to have essentially read from word for word for her verbal pitch, but the document itself is well laid out and reads well. Of course, as this was released as part of the course, this could easily be an edited document.
The show document, titled simply Surgeons, starts with information on a surgical residency. Rhimes takes us through the training to get to this point, the training still to come, the expected work hours, and the impact of this career choice on any outside life. Although she is not a surgeon herself, her research and resulting expertise are evident, and I trust her. The central conflict is neatly summed up in this line:
"But while you might be God with a scalpel, without the scalpel, you're as human as anybody. You're a real person trying to lead a real life while doing a job that makes having a real life next to impossible."
While the premise and characters have yet to be introduced, I'm already hooked. I want to know more, and I'm excited for the specifics.
When Rhimes does move onto characters, she provides detailed descriptions. For the interns, she ends each bio with the contents of their lockers. As lockers are by definition private, this feels like a glimpse into the inner workings of each character. It feels secretive and forbidden and thereby delicious. At the same time, since no locker has the same contents, the differences in the characters are highlighted.
For me, the most interesting aspect of this pitch was a character who was mentioned but not described. Although this was changed before the show was shot, Derek, at least in this document, has a teenage daughter. In fact he came here to get to know her, and "she's someone the residents will relate to much easier than he can." In addition to his character description, one of the future storylines (more on that in a second) centers on her becoming a patient in the hospital. However, since no description is provided for her, we don't know her age, her name, or what she's like. While it is easy to argue that she is likely a recurring character and therefore doesn't appear in the pitch, the character section ends with a line on minor characters (other hospital personnel). Because the daughter is featured so prominently, I felt the missing specifics left a hole.
After the character descriptions, the pitch moves into a summary of the pilot episode (which largely matches the aired pilot) followed by future storylines broken down by personal threads, medical threads, and more outside-of-the-box episodes for "once we are further established" like a silent episode where the world of the hospital is seen through the eyes of a deaf patient.
At the end of the pilot episode, there is one more unique element to this pitch - something I've never seen or heard of before. Rhimes "let[s] the network vote" on whether the residents should become roommates in Meredith's home. The wording edges them toward yes - "Would allow for a world outside the hospital and also give us that collegiate atmosphere of War Whores which could be fun." Furthermore, no alternative as to another choice for the roommates is provided. Rhimes is definitely looking for "yes" to be the answer, but the illusion could easily make the network more invested in the show. While slightly risky, it's a really smart move.