After Grey’s Anatomy’s fifteenth season, it became the longest-running medical drama in television history. The show that had started out following Meredith Grey as an intern at Seattle Grace Hospital is currently unchallenged in this regard. Meredith is no longer an intern struggling with the romances and pitfalls of a surgeon-in-training’s life. She is head of general surgery now. Though, yes, we suppose she is still dealing with the romances and pitfalls of a surgeon’s life.
After fifteen seasons jam-packed with drama, Grey’s Anatomy has become an ocean of tragic storylines you have to navigate through. Initially, these moments drew you in, but after a series of serious events, the show’s realism has taken a nosedive. How many bad things can happen to one hospital? As you continue to watch the show, a part of you wonders where the show can go from here and if, perhaps, it should have done something different along the way.
Many canceled storylines and plot points exist for Grey’s Anatomy. These are ideas that the showrunner Shonda Rhimes had that were not used or were altered slightly to better fit in with things like the production schedule. After reading through these unused story bits, you might feel as if Grey’s Anatomy could have definitely used those storylines to improve the show. Conversely, you might also feel immensely relieved that some of those storylines never saw the light of day. Read on if you want to learn about forgotten storylines that would have either helped or hurt Grey’s Anatomy.
25 Would Have Saved: Meredith And Derek Remaining Childless
By this latest season, Meredith is the proud mother of three children. However, this was not originally her intended future. When Meredith and Derek were first building the solid foundations of their relationship (not during that time period of will-they/won’t-they), the possibility of them having children was remote.
Instead, Rhimes believed Meredith should spend time focusing on her career.
Clearly, Meredith juggles having a successful career while being a caring mother in these current seasons. However, we believe having Meredith and Derek remain childless would have helped the show focus more on surgery and atypical marriages rather than taking the easy way forward.
24 Would Have Saved: Lexie Becoming The Main Character
Before you chew us out for even considering the notion of replacing Meredith, just hear us out. Lexie Grey was introduced to viewers of the show in the fourth season. She was Meredith’s half-sister. If, for some reason, Ellen Pompeo was unable to return to the show, Lexie would have been able to pick up the reins while still having the title of the show remain relevant.
Say what you will, but that would have been one daring move for the show to make. It would have taken the show in an entirely new direction, maybe even giving it a much-needed breath of fresh air.
23 Would Have Hurt: If The Doctors Were Smokers
It goes without saying that having a serious medical drama with doctors who frequently smoke would have hurt the show. Smoking and health care do not go hand in hand. But apparently, there were plans in the works for the doctors of Seattle Grace Hospital to be big smokers.
Most notably among them, Meredith Grey would have been puffing quite often. The cancellation of this bit of the story is a godsend. The show would have made itself a hypocritical mess, and viewers would have been left wondering how these doctors could call themselves “doctors.”
22 Would Have Saved: Preston Burke Having A Wife
Preston Burke was initially going to have a wife that Cristina Yang would have had to contend with. This definitely would have upped the ante when it came to the “forbidden” nature of their relationship. It would have been a more dire case than a superior having relations with a subordinate.
Plus, it would have tied into Burke being a less-than-estimable person later on. However, this storyline was ultimately never used. As a consolation, this plot shifted over to Meredith and Derek instead, so at least we got to see it in some way.
21 Would Have Saved: Arizona Seeing Callie Before Leaving
Actors come and go from shows. It’s not the show’s fault when that happens. However, it is absolutely hilarious when shows come up with reasons for why their characters have to suddenly stop showing up. Callie Torres was one of the lucky ones. She just decided to move to New York after breaking up with her wife, Arizona Robbins.
Arizona, on the other hand, left the show without rationality.
She decides to pack up everything and move back with Callie without having seen her at least once in person since they separated. A canceled storyline would have had the two reunite once before they both departed, but alas, that was not to be, and Arizona left Seattle without any physical reassurance from her former wife.
20 Would Have Hurt: The Show Being Set In Chicago
Granted, this is not exactly a canceled storyline, but this change would have altered the story drastically. Before settling on Seattle, Washington as the location for her show, Shonda Rhimes considered placing her story in Chicago.
Like Seattle, Chicago is a bustling city and would have seen the interns of the hospital living marginally the same lifestyles. However, not only would it have mimicked the setting from the show ER, Grey’s Anatomy would have been unable to include several important storylines down the road. The ferry incident, for example, would never have happened.
19 Would Have Saved: Izzie Returning To The Hospital
Conflicts with the actress who played her aside, Izzie Stevens was an important part of the Grey’s Anatomy series. She was one of the original interns that Meredith entered the hospital with, and her struggles with patient care and a bout of cancer made up a huge part of the story.
There were talks of her returning to the show, but these talks fell through and it never happened. At this point, after several seasons without her, Izzie’s return would feel odd. However, if it could have happened naturally, it would have been an in-character move.
18 Would Have Saved: Derek And Addison Having A Teenage Daughter
Think of the drama that would have occurred if Derek and Addison had had a teenage daughter. That would have placed Meredith in even more of a dilemma than she was in when she found out Derek was married. She would have to contend with dating someone who lied to her about an entire family.
And the poor daughter would have had to deal with her mother cheating on her father and her father cheating on her mother. Holy moly, there was so much missed potential from that canceled plot complication. Derek would have seemed like a jerk-wad at the end of it. Huh. Maybe that’s why the showrunners didn’t go for that storyline.
17 Would Have Hurt: Addison Leaving So Soon
Addison’s arrival on the show spelled doom for Meredith and Derek’s relationship. It seemed par for the course that fans of their relationship would loathe Addison. However, Addison became a beloved character in her own right. She earned her way into the hearts of viewers with her no-nonsense attitude and relatable sense of judgment.
We are truly thankful that her departure from the show was delayed. The original storyline would have seen her leave after a few episodes. But because she stayed, we got to know one of the best characters Grey’s Anatomy has to offer.
16 Would Have Saved: Cristina’s Father Becoming A Donor For The Hospital
One storyline Shonda Rhimes had planned for Grey’s Anatomy was a conflict regarding Cristina’s father. Cristina Yang’s dad was set up to be a major donor for Seattle Grace Hospital. That would have meant he would have had a lot of influence on what goes on in the hospital.
This sets up Cristina to potentially be loathed by her fellow interns. Unfortunately, this storyline never happened. It would have been interesting to see Cristina, a talented surgeon regardless of any favoritism, deal with the looming specter of her father hovering around her actions.
15 Would Have Saved: April Leaving After Being Fired
April Kepner was fired from the hospital after a pretty riveting episode regarding patient care gone wrong. This decision should have heralded the end of her time on the show. However, this choice was later reversed when Derek Shepherd, as the new Chief of Surgery, hired her back.
The original storyline would have worked better for Grey’s Anatomy. It would have shown real consequences for failing to address a patient properly. April’s mistake was fatal, but thanks to the storyline that eventually followed her firing, she never truly learned from it.
14 Would Have Hurt: Bailey Being Small And Blonde
We all know and love Miranda Bailey for the character she is. She is the strong mentor to Meredith and her fellow interns during the first few seasons of Grey’s Anatomy, and she is now the Chief of Surgery at the Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital. We can’t imagine her being any other way.
However, during her initial conception, Bailey was described as being small and blonde, which is the exact opposite of what she is. Thankfully, this image of Bailey was scrapped, and we have the Bailey that we have today.
13 Would Have Saved: Witnessing George’s Last Day
George O’Malley’s sacrifice that led to his passing sounded like a heart-wrenching moment. Unfortunately, we never got to see it. There was a potential storyline that would have followed George during his final moments, allowing viewers to see his last day in its entirety, but it was ultimately canceled.
If this storyline had been included, the impact of George’s demise would have hit fans that much harder. Instead, it’s as if the bus that wiped out George’s life also erased his presence on the show forever after.
12 Would Have Saved: Cristina Not Having Her Baby
Cristina learned she had an unwanted pregnancy very early on in the show. If Shonda Rhimes had had her way, she would have had our favorite and most ambitious intern deal with one of the most intense decisions of her life. This idea discomfited network executives, and instead, Cristina lost the baby due to an ectopic pregnancy.
Grey’s Anatomy would have benefited from Cristina taking matters into her own hands. The issue would have been divisive, yes, but it would have challenged viewers to consider their own perspectives. It would have furthered the discussion, and made for a fascinating piece of television history.
11 Would Have Hurt: George’s Romance With Bailey
If you have never seen Grey’s Anatomy, then seeing the words “George has a romance with Bailey” should have no effect on you whatsoever. If you have seen the show, then you are wincing at the mere utterance of those words. In no way, shape, or form, can any fan of the show picture a romance between George and Bailey. It runs counter to these two characters’ personalities.
However, this storyline was almost a reality. Thank the sun and the stars that this storyline did not see the light of day. It would have been a disaster of soap opera-ish proportions.
10 Would Have Hurt: Cristina Not Having Her Breakdown
Cristina Yang is not a typically emotional person. Her career defines who she is, and she won’t let pesky things like emotions get in the way. So when it came time for an emotional upheaval to occur in Cristina’s life, you can bet her nervous breakdown was spectacular.
This moment in the story almost did not happen. It occurred based on the inspiration of actress Sandra Oh. She suggested the scene take place. Without that scene, Cristina’s development as a character would not have been nearly so interesting afterward as it was.
9 Would Have Saved: Meredith Remaining Single After Derek
It took a while for Meredith to move on after Derek passed (well, “a while” by Grey’s Anatomy standards), but afterward, she moved on to pursue other men. Now, we’re not saying Meredith should have remained grieving over Derek for the rest of her life, but the concept that she stay single makes for a more interesting story.
For one thing, the show hyped up her and Derek’s relationship so much, it feels off for her to move on to another person. For another, Meredith’s storyline could have focused on other concerns aside from romance.
8 Would Have Saved: Alex Karev Missing From Pilot
Before getting lambasted for suggesting this, bear in mind that we are suggesting this storyline only for the pilot episode of Grey’s Anatomy. Initially, there were no plans to include Alex Karev as a character in the pilot episode. He was added in as an afterthought.
Since Karev is now one of the few remaining characters from the original cast, it feels as if he deserved more than simply being tacked onto the first episode. Imagine if, instead of being added to the pilot at the last minute, he was given a heartier introduction in a later episode.
7 Would Have Hurt: Meredith Dating Burke
Cristina and Meredith’s respective romances with Preston Burke and Derek Shepherd are integral parts of the show’s history. It is difficult to picture a world where those romances did not take place. It is even more difficult to picture a world where Meredith ended up with Burke instead of Shepherd.
Somewhere, in some alternate reality, there exists a world where that is the case. One of Shonda Rhimes’ initial storylines for Grey’s Anatomy would have seen Meredith dating Burke. We’re glad that adjustments were made.
6 Would Have Saved: Erica Hahn Staying With Callie
Callie’s first big relationship with another woman was when she started dating cardiologist Erica Hahn. Their relationship, despite outcries against it, was one of the highlights of the show.
However, it felt as if it had barely begun before Brooke Smith, the actress who plays Hahn, was let go. Any plans for storylines regarding her and Callie were nixed after that. If Hahn had stayed on, even if her relationship with Callie declined, the show would have benefited from having such a relationship on the screen.
5 Would Have Hurt: Cristine Falling In Love With Denny
Izzie’s romance with patient Denny Duquette was a turning point for her character. Despite all the drama that was going on with Meredith and her love life, Izzie and Denny managed to steal the show. This storyline would have been ruined if, instead of Izzie falling for Denny, it was Cristina Yang falling in love with Denny.
Just saying that sentence out loud sounds strange; we can’t even imagine what it would be like to actually see that storyline acted out. Knowing what we know about Cristina’s personality, a romance between her and Denny would be impossible.
4 Would Have Saved: Meredith Getting Pregnant In The Sixth Season
Once the decision was made to have Meredith be a mother, there was nothing for it but to plow straight through with this storyline. However, real-life actress Ellen Pompeo was pregnant during the time of filming for Grey’s Anatomy’s sixth season, before her character had her kids.
Instead of having her get pregnant then and there, the showrunners decided to conceal her pregnancy at that point in time instead of conveniently using it. There is absolutely nothing wrong with taking this route. It just would have been perfect timing if Meredith Grey had been ready for kids at the same time as the actress playing her.
3 Would Have Hurt: Mark Surviving The Plane Crash
McSteamy fans around the planet will hate us for saying so, but it was a good thing that Mark Sloan perished from his injuries shortly after escaping the plane crash. One of the loves of his life, Lexie Grey, had met her end during the crash. What was Mark supposed to do if he had survived?
One canceled storyline saw him leaving Seattle to go live with Addison. This move would have been so out of character, it is a good thing the showrunners abandoned it. It’s tragic, but it is an overall better outcome for the story that Mark Sloan passed away, too.
2 Would Have Saved: Meredith Leaving The Show
Meredith is the star of Grey’s Anatomy. The show would be a different beast without her. However, if Ellen Pompeo were to leave the show, as heartbreaking as that would be for all of us, it might revitalize the show’s story.
After spending more than fifteen seasons in this hospital, practically all narrative possibilities have been exhausted with Meredith. Some of the worst things in the world have happened to her, and some of the best have happened to her as well. If she were to leave, the show would alter drastically. However, change isn’t always a bad thing.
1 Would Have Hurt: Derek Walking Out On Meredith
Just as with Mark Sloan, the storyline the showrunners went with for Derek Shepherd’s passing was ultimately the best decision for the character. Now, some might moan and complain that the show should not have canceled Derek’s chances for survival.
However, if actor Patrick Dempsey was set on leaving the show, Derek needed a plausible reason for no longer being around. Quite frankly, any outcome that has Derek surviving yet remaining apart from his wife and children makes absolutely no sense. The showrunners did right on this with the hand they were dealt.