There are two fundamental, spoiler-free things going on in "Grey's Anatomy" tonight (as well as some nice nods to Cleveland Clinic) ...
The first is an extended apology for the show losing its way. With Seattle Grace slipping in a national hospital ranking, everyone is forced to rethink his or her actions -- much the way "Grey's" itself had to rethink what it was doing during the forced hiatus of the writers' strike, and in response to fans' dismay. So repeatedly, the dialogue lets characters -- especially the Chief -- admit to failing in the past, or acknowledges that some topics have been talked about way too much. And in doing so, the show promises that it will be tighter, tougher, smarter in the future.
Which brings us to the second thing. It keeps the promise. It is indeed tighter, tougher, more assured, funny and dramatic, and entirely the way "Grey's Anatomy" is when I am smiling at the end and not at all driven crazy. It effectively interweaves three overlapping patient stories -- three women in a limo accident, and played by Bernadette Peters, Kathy Baker and Mariette Hartley -- with a lot of personal things: Meredith-Derek, Izzie-Alex, George-Lexie, Callie-Hahn. And it introduces a new doctor, played by Kevin McKidd, who is an invigorating presence, especially for one of the women. (I am REALLY trying to avoid spoilers here). OK, so he continues to make us ask if anyone ordinary-looking ever goes to work at Seattle Grace, but he is a fun character and I hope that we see more of him down the road.
It's a good start to the season, and I was even more sure of this because of the way I watched it. ABC has abandoned review discs in favor of putting its new shows online, so I was watching "Grey's" on my laptop. (I could have run the computer image through my TV set but wasn't in the mood this morning.) And while that can be awkward at times, there were periods when I completely forgot how I was watching, because I was caught up in the story. Welcome back, "Grey's."