Though fans of Grey’s Anatomy will have to wait an extra week before the show returns, ABC Chief Channing Dungey is optimistic that the long-running medical drama will be back not only for next season, but hopefully for many more to come.
At the Television Critics Association’s press tour on Tuesday, EW sat down with Dungey to get her take on the future of Grey’s Anatomy, which is currently in its 13th season. By comparison, NBC’s stalwart medical series ER ran for 15 seasons, which Dungey hopes the flagship Shonda Rhimes drama can rival.
“That’d be lovely,” Dungey says. “I’ll take even more! Honestly, I think that the show is going to continue as long as Shonda and the gang have a creative passion for telling those stories. At the moment, it feels like we’re full steam ahead.”
In its 13th season, Grey’s Anatomy continues to be one of the network’s longest running and most successful current scripted series, averaging 11.6 million viewers and a 3.7 in the 18-49 demo, slightly down from this time last year (12 million, 3.9), but still making it the fourth biggest entertainment show after The Big Bang Theory, Empire, and This Is Us. Even Derek’s (Patrick Dempsey) death in season 11 didn’t slow the show down, giving it a creative resurgence as Grey’s was able to explore new life for Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo).
What does Grey’s need to do next to keep viewers coming back? “What Shonda and the team at Grey’s have really been able to do over time is continue to bring in new characters that give the series additional life and energy while remaining true to the core cast of characters,” Dungey says. “When I’ve been looking at the fan feedback and reaction from this season, people are more interested than ever in the relationship between Meredith and Alex [Justin Chambers], and these are two characters that have been around since season 1. But we’re now experiencing them in a totally different way than we have before. That’s just what the writers do so well; they continually peel back new layers of these characters that we get to expand and explore.”
Grey’s Anatomy returns Thursday, Jan. 26 at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.