“Grey’s Anatomy” is the longest-running primetime medical drama on television. Currently in its 17th season, the hugely popular ABC series returned for its midseason premiere this week. But for the first time in a few years, there’s uncertainty over its future, and there’s a real chance that the “Grey’s Anatomy” series finale could be approaching.
“I’m planning a season and a finale that could function as either a season finale or a series finale,” showrunner Krista Vernoff told The Hollywood Reporter.
Vernoff added that this current position of uncertainty isn’t where she wants to be.
“I’m planning for both contingencies and it’s hard and it’s not ideal,” she admitted.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, renewal talks have been going on for months between ABC parent Disney and “Grey’s Anatomy” leading lady Ellen Pompeo, who plays Meredith Grey. In 2017, Pompeo signed a new deal that made her TV’s highest-earning actress in a primetime drama series. But that only covered seasons 15 and 16, although ABC later extended the deal to cover season 17 as part of a two-year pickup in 2019.
Pompeo has been vocal about fighting for the salary she deserved with the hope of inspiring other women in the industry to do the same. In addition to starring in the show, she executive produces both “Grey’s” and its spinoff, “Station 19.”
Shonda Rhimes, the show’s creator, has said for years that “Grey’s” will continue as long as Pompeo wants to do it.
“Ellen and I have a pact that I’m going to do the show as long as she’s going to do the show,” Rhimes told E! News in 2017. “So the show will exist as long as both of us want to do it. If she wants to stop, we’re stopping.”
Rhimes is no longer attached to ABC, having left for a nine-figure deal with Netflix. Incidentally, “Grey’s” is one of the streaming giant’s most-watched acquired shows. It’s a huge hit all over the world and is the No. 1 drama series on ABC.
Vernoff told The Hollywood Reporter that she’s asked ABC executives to let her know about the fate of the series before production on the season 17 ender.
“I’ve told them that I have to know before I’m making the finale what we’re making,” she said. “Because there are a couple of character threads that will change. I’ve got plans for both contingencies. Either there will be closure or I will build something in that allows me to have a bit of a cliffhanger and a thread for next season.”
Since last year, there were major clues that the “Grey’s Anatomy” series finale could be approaching. In an episode of the Armchair Expert podcast with Dax Shepard in August 2020, Pompeo revealed she would like to “dip out” of the show sooner than later.
“At this point, having done what we’ve done, to leave while the show is still on top, is definitely a goal,” Pompeo said. “I’m not trying to stay on the show forever, no way.”
Speaking to Variety last year, Pompeo hinted that she could leave “Grey’s Anatomy” after season 17.
“I mean, this is the last year of my contract right now,” she said. “I don’t know that this is the last year? But it very well could be.”
However, she added that she was well aware of how much her decision impacts the show, the crew and the rest of the cast.
“I don’t take the decision lightly,” she said. “We employ a lot of people, and we have a huge platform. And I’m very grateful for it.”
The bottom line? We don’t know whether there will a season 18. But it’s looking like a “Grey’s Anatomy” series finale could be approaching, so enjoy every moment of Meredith and Co. while we have them.