Cover Story

Playing Doctors

How ''Grey's Anatomy'' made hospitals sexy again -- Go behind the scenes of ABC's smash, and get the prognosis for season 2

Sandra Oh, Grey's Anatomy | WHAT'S UP, DOCS? (From left) Grey's cast members Heigl, T.R. Knight, James Pickens Jr., Sandra Oh, Chambers, Chandra Wilson, Isaiah Washington, Ellen Pompeo, and Dempsey
Image credit: GREY'S ANATOMY Photograph by Justin Stephens
WHAT'S UP, DOCS? (From left) Grey's cast members Heigl, T.R. Knight, James Pickens Jr., Sandra Oh, Chambers, Chandra Wilson, Isaiah Washington, Ellen Pompeo, and Dempsey

Another tense, high-stakes day is unfolding in Seattle Grace Hospital. A window washer who has fallen five stories — or did he jump? — is dying on the operating table. A senior citizen prepped for gallbladder removal is about to learn she has cancer. And a woman who has tested positive for the ovarian cancer gene is demanding a radical procedure: the removal of her breasts and uterus.

Meanwhile, in the staff locker room, former lingerie model Isobel ''Izzie'' Stevens (Katherine Heigl) and smarmy lothario Alex Karev (Justin Chambers) — two surgical residents whose love/hate banter over the past year can only lead to one thing — are discussing the patient contemplating the loss of her womanhood. ''Here's the thing,'' says Alex. ''I like your rack. And I'd want them around if I had them… But it wouldn't be the end of the world if you had to get rid of them...because really, I'd want you.'' She pauses, gazing softly into his eyes, and then — POW!! — she slaps him. Just as quickly, she pulls him into a lip-lock. The one-two punch leaves Chambers flummoxed even after the cameras stop rolling. A crew member yells, ''Are you okay, Justin?'' A broad Cheshire cat grin spreads across the actor's face.

Grey's Anatomy may be a medical drama, but in this hospital, booty calls definitely take precedence over brain surgery. The foibles and fumbles of Anatomy's oversexed group of first-year interns (and their equally horny superiors) made the ABC series one of last season's breakout hits. It debuted March 27 as a placeholder for Boston Legal, but something unexpected happened: Sixteen million viewers watched the premiere, and the numbers kept growing. An elated ABC held Legal's remaining episodes until this season and gave Anatomy (which returns Sept. 25 at 10 p.m.) an uninterrupted nine-week run. It quickly became the biggest hospital hit since ER bowed in 1994, and the most watched midseason drama series since Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman 12 years ago. ''I've been around long enough that my hopes weren't up too high,'' admits Patrick Dempsey, 39, whose role as Dr. Derek Shepherd reignited a career that began with late-'80s teen farces Can't Buy Me Love and Loverboy. ''But the thing kept building. It shocked me.'' Creator Shonda Rhimes? Not so shocked: ''I knew that the show was good. I assumed that if I wanted to watch the show, others would want to watch it.''

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