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Grey’s Anatomy’ – ‘The Song Beneath the Song’: How to save a life

Haven’t written about “Grey’s Anatomy” in a while, but last night’s “musical event” (as opposed to the just-plain “musical” that other shows like “Buffy” and “Chicago Hope” have done in the past) seems eminently discuss-able. A review coming up just as soon as I buckle my seat belt…

The reactions to “The Song Beneath the Song” that I saw on Twitter last night seemed to fall into pretty stark Love/Hate camps. I think I fell somewhere in the middle. Like “Grey’s Anatomy” as a whole, some parts were unintentionally silly, others were surprisingly powerful, and it was rarely dull, at least.

“Grey’s” has done enough strange things in the past – usually, but not always, involving ghosts – that going full-on musical, even in a relatively down-to-earth (and strong) season like this one, doesn’t seem too far outside the show’s usual language. As with the “Chicago Hope” musical, they chose to justify the stunt by making it the result of a regular character suffering a brain injury. And had Shonda Rhimes stuck with that idea and only allowed singing when people were in close proximity to Callie, I’d have been fine with it. But after a while, the episode became less “This is how Callie experiences the world while her brain tries to put itself back together” and more “We just wanted an excuse for people to sing early and sing often.” Had Shonda decided she didn’t even need a framework – if this had just been an episode where people started singing – I actually think I might have gone with that more than doing it this way, where Lexie is off on her own singing “Breathe” just ’cause it’s the musical event thingee. The musical interlude with all the happy couples was at least vaguely tied into Callie’s brain, if you assume she was just imagining what all her friends and their significant others were up to, but it was a pretty jarring mood shift from the rest of the episode.
At the same time, by filling the soundtrack with so many songs that the show has used before, the singing during the trauma and operation scenes felt strangely appropriate. Callie being rushed into the ER is the sort of sequence the show would have easily set to “Chasing Cars” in the past, so having Sara Ramirez, Kevin McKidd, et al singing it instead of Snow Patrol wasn’t that great a leap. And the “How to Save a Life” sequence, in which Callie and her preemie baby were both saved as the cast brought the song to a crescendo, was a fine example of Shonda dialed up to 11: unapologetic, go-for-broke melodrama that often manages to affect me even as my cynical side is thinking, “Oh, come on!”

Sara Ramirez was terrific with all her songs, as you’d expect, though one of the downsides to our Auto-Tune world is that it becomes harder to appreciate just how good a singer she is (or Chandra Wilson is) when technology exists to put the cast’s less musically-gifted actors on a roughly level playing field with her.(*) But she and Jessica Capshaw and Eric Dane were also terrific at playing this emotionally-wrecked unconventional family as they each tried to survive the trauma in their own way, and the episode also provided some nice moments for the up-and-down Yang/Altman relationship and for Meredith and Derek, among others.

(*) This is one of the ongoing issues I have with “Glee,” where if they just let the actors sing sometime without slathering so much post-production magic on it, Lea Michele would be singing rings around most of her co-stars and you’d better appreciate just why the other kids are willing to suffer through Rachel’s diva behavior. But that’s a discussion for another time, maybe.

Ultimately, I think this seventh season of the show has been so good that it didn’t particularly need an attention-seeking gimmick like this. Shows tend to try musical episodes when they’re not only very old, but very tired creatively, and “Grey’s” has had its batteries recharged for most of this season, and done that in part by stepping away from some of the weirder impulses of seasons past, where “The Song Beneath the Song” might have fit better.

But like I said, it wasn’t dull.

Curious where all of you stand on this one. What did everybody else think?

By Alan Sepinwall – The ‘Grey’s’ musial was equal parts silly and impressive



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