In 2005, the American Broadcasting Company (ABC) launched the iconic series “Grey’s Anatomy.” Fast forward to 2021, the television show has 17 seasons, with the 18th season premiering in 2021. With numerous Emmy Award nominations and a Golden Globe for best drama in 2007, “Grey’s Anatomy” has remained a fan favorite for those who love medical shows as well as drama-lovers. 

Related: Guide to “Grey’s Anatomy” in 2021: Seasons 17 & 18

This article is a definitive guide on everything you need to know about “Grey’s Anatomy.” We’ll cover the basics of the show’s storyline and dive into the tv show’s main heart-throbs (aka McDreamy and McSteamy). Then, you’ll learn the breakdowns of every season Grey’s has so far. Keep reading to learn about the longest-running scripted primetime show on ABC. 

“Grey’s Anatomy:” The Basics

“Grey’s Anatomy” is produced by ABC Signature, part of Disney Studios, and 20th Television and Touchstone Television. “Grey’s Anatomy” has been gripping fans with intense medical and personal life drama for more than a decade. Engulfing fans in medical drama, “Grey’s Anatomy” has spawned three spin-off series: Private Practice, Station 19, and B-Team.  

Here’s what you need to know about “Grey’s Anatomy:” 

The Premise of “Grey’s Anatomy”

Named after the famous medical textbook (Gray’s Anatomy) by Henry Gray, the series follows the life of Dr. Meredith Grey. “Grey’s Anatomy” explores the lives of staff at Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital, a fictional teaching hospital located in Seattle, WA. Shonda Rhimes, the writer and showrunner of the medical drama, shows the good, bad, and ugly of the professional and personal lives of Meredith Grey (played by Ellen Pompeo) and fellow staff members. 

“Grey’s Anatomy” Cast and characters

Depending on the season of Grey’s you’re watching, the main characters will vary. The show is notorious for dramatics, which keeps the list of active characters changing. Here’s a list of some of the most important “Grey’s Anatomy” characters you should know: 

  • Meredith Grey: The series follows the life of Dr. Meredith Grey, the daughter of a famed general surgeon, Ellis Grey. Grey, portrayed by Ellen Pompeo, is the central character for earlier episodes. 
  • Cristina Yang: Meredith Grey’s best friend, Cristina Yang, is played by actress Sandra Oh. Grey and Yang instantly bonded and became each other’s person
  • Derek Shepherd: World-renowned neurosurgeon Dr. Derek Shepherd (aka McDreamy) is portrayed by Patrick Dempsey. 
  • Miranda Bailey: The once quiet surgical intern turned into a tough general surgeon at Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital. Played by Chandra Wilson, Dr. Bailey is a supportive and committed surgeon. 
  • Richard Webber: Dr. Webber, portrayed by James Pickens, Jr., and Meredith Grey had a tumultuous relationship. Having had an intimate relationship with Ellis Grey, he felt close to Meredith and thought of her as a child. 
  • Izzie Stevens: A once surgical resident with Meredith, Izzie Stevens was a hardworking woman that worked her way through medical school. Alongside Meredith Grey, Cristina Yang, George O’Malley, and Alex Karev, Izzie was a surgical resident under Miranda Bailey. Dr. Stevens was portrayed by Katherine Heigl. 
  • Alex Karev: Dr. Karev, played by Justin Chambers, grew up with a father addicted to drugs and alcohol and a mother with schizophrenia. “Raised in a bar,” Alex went to school and joined the gang in their internship program. 
  • Jo Wilson: Dr. Wilson, portrayed by Camilla Luddington, started her internship after a traumatic event that some of the staff experienced. 
  • Lexie Grey: Lexie, Meredith’s half-sister through her father, Thatcher Grey, was played by Chyler Leigh. 
  • Dr. Jackson Avery: The grandson of the famous surgeon Dr. Harper Avery, Dr. Jackson Avery aspired to be a surgeon from a young age. Portrayed by Jesse Williams, Avery transferred to Seattle Grace after merging with Mercy West Medical Center as a surgical resident. 
  • April Kepner: Like Avery, Kepner, played by Sarah Drew, was moved to Seattle Grace after the merger. Although she had a rough start, she had excellent recommendations from professors. She was top of her class in medical school. 
  • Owen Hunt: Played by Kevin McKidd, Dr. Hunt served in the Army but was honorably discharged when his entire platoon died. 
  • Teddy Altman: Teddy, a Cardiothoracic Surgeon played by Kim Raver, served with Owen Hunt. 
  • Amelia Shepherd: Amelia Shepherd, the youngest sister of Dr. Derek Shepherd, is portrayed by Caterina Scorsone. 
  • Maggie Pierce: Dr. Maggie Pierce is the Co-Head of Cardiothoracic Surgery at Grey Sloan Memorial and is portrayed by Kelly McCreary. 
  • Andrew Deluca: Dr. Deluca, played by Giacomo Gianniotti, was born in Italy. His father, who was a surgeon, had a manic episode and killed four patients.
  • Caterina DeLuca: Andrew’s sister, Caterina, is an OB/GYN portrayed by Stefania Spampinato. 

Where to Stream “Grey’s Anatomy”

Fans can watch seasons 1 through 17 on Hulu Plus, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, iTunes, Google Play, and Vudu. ABC renewed “Grey’s Anatomy” for another season in May 2021, meaning there will be an 18th season coming soon. Once released, you’ll be able to stream new seasons on ABC or select streaming services such as Hulu. 

“Grey’s Anatomy:” A Breakdown of Each Season

Have you taken a break from the series and want a quick recap of a few seasons? Maybe you’ve never watched an episode but wonder what the hype is about. If you want a quick breakdown of what goes down in all 17 seasons, keep reading (spoilers ahead!). 

Season One

Season One focuses on the life of the brilliant, first-year surgical intern, Meredith Grey. Through professional and personal issues, Meredith and her fellow interns bond and learn their way through Seattle Grace Hospital. Under the guidance of Miranda Bailey, Meredith and fellow interns learn to balance life and work (and how they intertwine).

Season Two

As the surgical interns enter their second year at Seattle Grace hospital, things heat up. While Meredith and McSteamy’s relationship becomes even more tumultuous with the arrival of his wife Addison, Izzie and Alex navigate their budding romance. In this season, Izzie finds new love, George supports the nurses on strike, and Dr. Burke comes up with a new solution for Denny’s heart. 

Season Three

Meredith, Cristina, George, Alex, and Izzie learn to manage life after Denny. While Izzie might have acquired $8.7 million from Denny, she’s at a loss of what to do with it. That’s when the ferry catastrophe happens, and Meredith must choose to fight for life. The season is filled with dramatic twists and turns. Ellis Grey and George’s dad, Mr. O’Malley, pass away, George marries Callie in Vegas, and some infidelity follows. 

Season Four

Meredith, Cristina, Izzie, and Alex become residents and get interns of their own. George, who fell behind after failing his intern exam, befriends Lexie Grey, Meredith’s half-sister. This season is all about mending relationships and reuniting with loved ones for Meredith, though it’s never easy. 

Season Five

With the introduction of a new character, Dr. Owen Hunt, this season explores the life of a returned Army doctor and a budding relationship between him and Cristina Yang. This season is all about love. Meredith and Derek pursue their relationship. Callie learns about her sexuality. Mark and Lexie start seeing each other in secret, and Izzie starts seeing the ghost of Denny. 

Season Six

In this season, Mercy West Medical Center merges with Seattle Grace Hospital. More doctors equal more competition and more drama. Battling new uber-competitive co-workers, the death of a beloved staff member, and on-again-off-again relationships. This season is packed with drama. While one unexpected father takes care of his daughter, another loving figure abandons their lover. 

Season Seven

A deadly rampage leaves staff dealing with emotional trauma. This season is all about healing and commitment. In the wake of the tragedy, Cristina Yang and Owen Hunt tie the knot. Meredith and Derek try for a baby and get married, and Callie and Arizona get married. While some partnerships welcome a new child, others have mixed feelings. 

Season Eight

While Meredith and Derek try to adopt a baby girl, they must also keep their relationship healthy. In fact, Meredith decided to switch to general surgery as Derek couldn’t stand working beside her anymore. Cristina and Owen’s relationship is threatened in this season as they try marriage counseling and infidelity occurs. This season is also marked by a deadly plane crash, which leaves the staff in pieces. 

Season Nine

Following the plane crash, the cast battles the loss of their loved ones. Meredith lost her sister, while Derek lost his best friend. Callie made the tough call of having Arizona’s leg amputated to save her life, even though she did not want the operation. 

After the crash, the hospital had to pay each survivor of the crash $15 million. Straining the hospital, the doctors join forces to buy the hospital themselves. With the help of Richard, Catherine Avery swooped in at the nick of time ahead of Pegasus. With infidelity, love, and betrayal, this season is filled with action-packed drama that will keep you glued to your TV. 

Season 10

After a huge storm, Heather and Richard Webber were injured. While Webber pulled through, Heather passes away during surgery by Derek. This season is all about bonds being tested. In the wake of recent events and Cristina Yang leaving the hospital, the staff must tackle internal issues and a massive mudslide. When one relationship fails, others grow strong. 

In this season, Callie and Derek are called by the President of the United States to participate in a thought-control prosthetics project. Working on the project puts tension on his marriage and a strain on Derek. Later in the season, Jackson stops April from getting married. Not long after, Jackson and April marry and found out they are expecting their first child.  

Season 11

Even though he was asked to move to D.C., Derek decides to stay in Seattle. Upset with this decision, Derek called the President and ended up taking the job. Following this, Meredith’s half-sister, Maggie, comes into the picture. Taking over Cristina’s job, Maggie finds it difficult to make friends but finds comfort with the attendants. During this season, Richard battles with the fact that he has a daughter who doesn’t yet know he’s her father. Callie and Arizona want to have another child, but Callie chooses a rigorous fellowship instead. 

Season 12

This season is about balance. While Miranda Bailey struggles to be a petite woman running a hospital, she must also learn how to be in charge of her husband at work. Maggie faces romantic problems, while Amelia faces problems with sobriety. When Meredith is brutally attacked and faces a long recovery, the “sisters” and Alex Karev care for Meredith’s children. Following the attack, Amelia seeks recovery and starts going to AA again.  During this season, Jackson and April struggle to stay together, while Amelia and Owen find love together.  

Season 13

When Meredith considers a relationship with Riggs, it becomes challenging as Maggie also likes him. Eventually, Meredith and Riggs try dating and opening themselves up to love again. Then, Rigg’s long-lost love, Megan, returns. 

During this season, Maggie builds a strong relationship with Jackson Avery. Avery, who is now split from April, is Maggie’s mother’s doctor, helping her fight cancer. 

Season 14

Pioneering a revolutionary surgical technique, Meredith Grey is nominated for a Harper Avery. When an NDA was unknowingly waived, it became apparent that Harper Avery had assaulted several women. As a result, the Harper Avery Foundation was dissolved, making way for the Catherine Fox Foundation. 

While Owen and Amelia separate during this season, they still have a close friendship. Owen takes in a foster child of a drug-addicted teen. Owen parented the baby, while Amelia acted as a sponsor for the teen mom. Later in the season, Amelia learns that she has a 10-centimeter benign tumor pressing on her frontal lobe. Impacting her planning and decision-making, Amelia battles with discovering who she is without the tumor. 

Season 15

Meredith finds herself seeking love in this season. Being wooed by Andrew DeLuca, the pair eventually start dating. As Jackson’s mother, Catherin Fox, is diagnosed with chondrosarcoma of the spine, Maggie helps Jackson handle the pressure. 

Later in the season, Teddy returns, pregnant. This throws off balance between Leo, Betty, Amelia, and Owen. Owen and Amelia then find out Betty, the pregnant teen, was lying about her identity.  

Season 16

Caught falsifying documents to treat a young girl with cancer, Meredith began completing community service hours. Leaving shifts to help patients, Grey ended up spending several nights in jail for not meeting service requirements. After she and DeLuca broke things off, Grey began flirting with Cormac Hayes, the new pediatric surgeon, and widower. 

During this season, Richard Webber and Catherine Fox argued after she decided to buy and dissolve Pac-North. Even though they had separated, she returned to his side when she found out about Richard’s mystery illness. 

After experiencing a miscarriage, Miranda Baily began taking care of a teenage foster kid. Before asking her husband, she let the teen move in with her family. This caused a rift in the relationship, but they eventually got back together. 

One of the most important aspects of this season is Karev becoming a father. About halfway through the season, Karev suddenly leaves his wife Jo and life at Grey-Sloan. In a series of letters, Karev explains that he and Izzie have two children together. Wanting to be a father to his children, he decided to leave and move in with Izzie and the twins. 

Season 17

During this season, the pandemic found its way into the world of “Grey’s Anatomy” and Meredith spent the majority of the season sick with COVID-19 at the hospital. Talking to Derek, George, Lexie, Mark, and DeLuca on a dream-like beach, she faced the possibility of death and leaving her children. After leaving this hospital and adjusting to her new way of life, she accepted the role of training new residents. 

Following his concerns about a sex-trafficked patient, Andrew DeLuca was followed and killed on an off-screen confrontation by traffickers. Carina, his sister, was devastated by the loss yet managed to serve as Jo’s mentor. 

This season was filled with many turns and drama. Frustrated by the treatment of Black people, Jackson participated in protests and wanted to contribute more. This led him to move to Boston, to serve underserved communities. Agreeing to move to Boston with him, April and their daughter Harriet moved with him. 

“Grey’s Anatomy” FAQs

Curious about where this award-winning show is filmed? This section will dive into some of the logistical facts surrounding this series. 

Where is “Grey’s Anatomy” filmed?

“Grey’s Anatomy” is based in Seattle, Washington. Most of the exterior and interior shots are of the VA Sepulveda Ambulatory Care Center, located in North Hills, California. 

When did “Grey’s Anatomy” start?

“Grey’s Anatomy” started in 2005. The first episode aired on March 27, 2005. 

When do new “Grey’s Anatomy” seasons usually start?

For the most part, new seasons of “Grey’s Anatomy” are usually released in late September. 

How many seasons of “Grey’s Anatomy” are there in total?

There are currently 17 seasons of “Grey’s Anatomy.” In 2021, ABC announced there would be an 18th season. 

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Andrea Basse

Contributing Writer, BuddyTV