One of TV’s favorite couples will remain intact. After lengthy but pretty straightforward negotiations, Grey’s Anatomy stars Ellen Pompeo and Patrick Dempsey have signed new two-year contracts to return to the veteran medical drama — paving the way for an 11th-season renewal, which is considered a formality. While fellow original cast member Sandra Oh announced in August that she would depart the show at the end of her current contract in May and Dempsey made some ambiguous comments around the same time that he might be ready for a change, it became clear going into the fall that no other original Grey’s Anatomy cast members were expected to follow Oh out the door. Negotiations focused on the two leads, Dempsey and Pompeo. With their contracts done, the spotlight is expected to shift to re-signing the remaining Grey’s players whose contracts are up at the end of this season: Justin Chambers, James Pickens Jr. and Chandra Wilson.
Bad news for ABC — better news maybe for Ellen Pompeo and Patrick Dempsey: Sandra Oh has announced she’s leaving Grey’s Anatomy at the end of the ABC drama’s upcoming 10th season. “It’s been a great privilege to play the character of Cristina Yang on GA and I am both sad and excited to see where this, her final season will take her,” Oh said in this afternoon’s statement, calling it an emotional and “deeply creative decision” to leave.
Pompeo and Dempsey’s contracts also are up at the end of the coming season, and ABC presumably won’t want any more of the series majors to exit. That’s always a good bargaining position. Dempsey made news the recent Summer TCA Press Tour, when he told a ballroom full of press — while promoting a car-racing show for Velocity network called Patrick Dempsey: Racing Le Mans – that his passion in life is car racing, and acting is what he does to support that habit. Some mention may have been made of the redundancy of Grey’s storylines. Eyebrows around the room shot up. And a few days later, at the Press Tour, the reporters asked ABC programming chief Paul Lee if Dempsey was leaving and/or Grey’s was toast after this season. Lee responded, emphatically — as did ABC today in the wake of Oh’s announcement — that ABC intended to have the steamy doc drama on the primetime lineup “for many years.” At that time, Lee said he would not discuss possible cast changes — the press assumed he was talking about Dempsey — because he didn’t want to be yelled at by show creator Shonda Rhimes.
ABC is changing things up in scheduling some of its serialized dramas. Taking a page from the cable model, the network will air what ABC president Paul Lee called “a selected group” of dramas in two uninterrupted runs, one in the fall and one in the spring, bridged by limited series. The series that will follow the new scheduling pattern include Once Upon A Time, Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal and likely Revenge, with others TBD. So far, the network only has set up a bridge series for Once, new adventure reality series The Quest. Lee said such bridge series won’t necessarily be all unscripted. Two cycles of 12 episodes would bring the total orders for the shows to 24, which is hard on a complex, serialized drama, but Lee indicated that number has not been set in stone. He said that the network is looking to further shake up the traditional broadcast scheduling model with “quality launches” throughout the season. Lee also said that new fall drama Betrayal is designed as a limited series, airing 12-13 episodes a season. The same applies to midseason drama Resurrection, which will replace it in the Sunday 10 PM slot in midseason.
Related: ABC 2013-14 Schedule
Big life celebrations scored in the ratings last night. The Liz Lemon wedding episode of NBC’s departing 30 Rock drew a 1.3/4 in adults 18-49 and 3.6 million viewers. That was up 8% from its last original two weeks ago and the comedy’s best demo rating since Oct. 11 and largest viewership this season. Meanwhile, ABC’s sophomore drama Scandal (2.2/6) popped 10% from its last episode two weeks ago to hit a season high. (In adults 18-34, it hit a series high). That is with Scandal‘s lead-in, Grey’s Anatomy (3.0/8), dipping 6% from two weeks ago to tie its season low. No dead cat bounce for ABC’s Last Resort. In its first airing post cancellation news, the freshman drama (1.0/3) fell 17% from two weeks ago to a series low.
Fox’s Glee (2.2/6), which featured the latest cover of Psy’s ubiquitous Gangham Style, bounced back 47% following the depressed numbers last week when the network aired originals on Thanksgiving. (Fox’s fast nationals for last night may be slightly inflated because of an NFL preemption in New Orleans). The X Factor (2.7/8) was actually down a tenth from last week’s telecast, which was boosted by a football lead-in.
Is the black hole known as ABC’s Thursday 8 PM slot ready to swallow another high-profile scripted series? Shawn Ryan’s well received submarine drama Last Resort launched to a modest 2.2 rating/share in adults 18-49 last night. That was just a tenth better than last fall’s debut of the now-defunct Charlie’s Angels in the hour but qualifies as ABC’s best drama debut in the slot in three years as My Generation was DOA in the period in 2010. ABC continues to dispatch new scripted fare to the Thursday 8 PM slot where it’s only had success with the unscripted Wipeout for the past few years.
Last Resort was one of two new series to premiere last night. The other, CBS’ Sherlock Holmes drama Elementary, did better, winning the 10 PM slot with a 3.1/9 in 18-49 and 13.3 million total viewers. It built on its lead-in (2.9/8), a rare feat for a 10 PM show, and it was up by 11% in the demo from the season premiere of The Mentalist in the time slot last fall. One encouraging sign for Last Resort was the 15% 18-49 rise from the first to the second half-hour. (Elementary‘s demo rating slipped by 9% from the first to the second half-hour.)
‘Grey’s Anatomy’ Stars Patrick Dempsey, Ellen Pompeo, Sandra Oh And Justin Chambers Close Deals To Return
EXCLUSIVE UPDATED: Big news for Grey’s Anatomy fans. I’ve learned that all original cast members whose future on the ABC medical drama had been up in the air amid contract negotiations, have re-upped for two more seasons. That includes …