Question: A show that I used to laud as being the best on television has now become a soggy mess. It's bitterly disappointing. What show has left me so bereft? Grey's Anatomy. It's not excitingly different anymore. How can I like the direction of the show? My stomach churns dangerously whenever George and Izzie come on the screen. Cristina, who used to be hilariously and outrageously mean, is now just plain mean. In fact, whereas these characters used to be deliciously diverse and unique, every one of them now comes across as mean. And I am now weary of Meredith and Derek (this new version of their relationship tires me). I used to have faith enough in the writers to believe that they were taking these storylines somewhere rich and wonderful, but not anymore. The very core of the show, the characters, have changed. This season was going to be hard enough for me without my favorite character on the show, Dr. Burke (Isaiah Washington, who, despite anyone's opinion of his personality, is a magnificent actor). There is an unmistakable void. Where is the new cardiovascular surgeon? They need one, don't they? In fact, where is the new gynecologist? And now with Ava coming back (this storyline only worked when she could express herself just through her eyes — I couldn't wait for her to leave once she started talking), I just don't think I can watch anymore. But there is one thing keeping me from going into Grey's withdrawal: I am loving Private Practice a little bit more each week! Actually, the third episode sold me. It was like the old Grey's Anatomy. There was honest-to-goodness entertainment, plus laugh-out-loud moments and tug-at-your-heart scenes. And, unlike what you said in your Oct. 22 column, I'm liking all of the actors.... Even Audra McDonald's obsessive cake-eating in the whole episode was hilarious! So what do you think of Grey's Anatomy so far this season (please tell me how it can be better than Private Practice, when we've got the deer episode and storylines that leave me colder than a corpse). Do you, like me, think that Private Practice has made a major turn in the right direction?
Answer: I don't like the George-Izzie storyline, either, but at least the aftershocks are bearing dramatic fruit. As of my deadline for this column, I hadn't yet seen the return of Ava/Rebecca, but I think you're way too harsh on that character. Stories like that are the heart and backbone of Grey's Anatomy. And sorry, I find Cristina just as funny as a mean boss as she was when she was a prickly intern. Grey's Anatomy is far from a perfect show, and I agree the new season hasn't entirely extricated itself from the corners it painted itself into last season with its cast departures and several of its more unfortunate storylines. It has fallen from my own personal top-10 list this year for sure, but I still find it and its cast entertaining enough. So shoot me. My take on the two shows hasn't changed from a week ago, when I noted, "While I'm OK with watching young interns screw up their work and their lives in hopes of learning from their impulsive mistakes, watching grown-ups act like smarmy idiots quickly wears out its charm." Sorry to repeat myself, but I'm sticking to my opinion that the spin-off has far from eclipsed the mother ship, and I don't see it happening anytime soon.