Why Station 19 Never Quite Caught Fire

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Why Station 19 Never Quite Caught Fire

I always felt a little hoodwinked into watching Station 19.

When it premiered back in March of 2018, Station 19 centered around Andy Herrera (Jaina Lee Ortiz), a passionate firefighter who wanted to follow in her father, Pruitt Herrera’s (Miguel Sandoval) footsteps and become the Captain of the titular fire station. In my original review for Paste, I called it Grey’s Anatomy except with fire. But the series never took hold of my heart the way that Grey’s did.

It’s not that I didn’t often enjoy the Grey’s Anatomy spinoff, which ended its seven-season run last Thursday. It’s more that maybe I would not have felt so compelled to watch it each week if the drama about Seattle firefighters hadn’t spent so many of its episodes fully enmeshed in the Grey’s Anatomy world. 

Storylines that began on Grey’s would end on Station 19. Not just heavily promoted crossover episodes. But regular episodes would find characters casually bouncing back and forth. Ben (Jason George), who left being a doctor at Grey Sloan to become a firefighter, is married to Grey’s OG character Dr. Miranda Bailey (Chandra Wilson). Having a married couple as series regulars on two different shows means that the two often toggled back and forth between the dramas. Additionally, Carina (Stefania Spampinato), who is an OB-GYN at Grey Sloan, is married to firefighter Maya (Danielle Savre). The fire that engulfed the Station 19 series finale was also a major plot point in the Grey’s season finale. As someone who has never missed an episode of Grey’s Anatomy, I’m all for a Grey’s Anatomy Megaverse. But, even in the end, it never totally felt like Station 19 stood independent from its mother ship. 

Even when not visiting each other’s shows, the series often had very similar storylines (For example, Meredith had sisters she didn’t know about; Andy had a not-actually-dead mom and aunt she didn’t know about.). Both shows had a penchant for bringing hot-button social issues into their storylines, but perhaps because Grey’s focuses on patients, it is able to address things like unhoused veterans, reproductive health, and gay rights a little more seamlessly and gracefully.

While a seven-season run is nothing to be ashamed of, it’s still nowhere near the run of Grey’s, which will begin its 21st season this fall. Station 19 is the second Grey’s spin-off (after Private Practice, which ran for six seasons) to begin and end its run while Grey’s Anatomy is still on the air.

When the series began, Andy (who, like Meredith Grey, narrates the series) was dating fellow firefighter Jack (Grey Damon) while secretly in love—even if she didn’t know it—with her best friend Ryan (Alberto Frezza). It was a love triangle that never quite (please excuse the pun) caught fire and Ryan was killed off early in the show’s third season. Eventually, Andy married Robert (Boris Kodjoe), a firefighter introduced early in the show’s second season. That union didn’t last long, and Robert moved on to a relationship with Natasha (Merle Dandridge). 

In theory, it’s fantastic for a lead female character to not be defined by her romantic relationships, but the series still began with trying to make Andy and Ryan into the next Meredith and Derek. In the series finale, all the main characters imagined their future as they fought a horrific forest fire. An unconscious Andy, who is hospitalized at Grey Sloan (naturally), dreams of herself reunited with Jack. Their relationship made such a little impact on me that I barely remembered them as a couple, let alone thought that Jack should be Andy’s endgame. 

In the later seasons, the series spent quite a bit of time on Robert and Natasha, she was his superior and they had to keep their relationship a secret—until they didn’t. Natasha almost lost her job—until she didn’t. Her sister hated Robert—until she didn’t. On-again/off-again, Carina and Maya (Danielle Savre) worked out their issues and became parents. Travis, whose husband died before the series even began, dated quite a bit, most recently his sexy British campaign manager Eli (Rob Heaps). Vic (Barrett Doss) and Theo (Carlos Miranda) never were on the same page. And none of these romances ever quite sizzled (again, apologies for the pun) the way the ones on Grey’s did and do.

In the series finale, Vic moves to Washington D.C. to bring Crisis One, the program she started with Dean Miller (another character the show killed off, played by Okieriete Onaodowan) nationally. At the last moment, her best friend Travis decides to join her. “As it turns out, my life is wherever you are,” he tells her. The series ends with Andy (who doesn’t look that much older but has bangs in the future), now the Seattle Fire Chief, welcoming the new Station 19 probies, including Dean’s daughter Pruitt.

Network TV has changed quite a bit in the years since Station 19 premiered. In the fall, ABC is introducing only two new scripted series, one of them, Ryan Murphy’s Doctor Odyssey starring Joshua Jackson, will replace Station 19 and join 9-1-1 and Grey’s Anatomy on Thursday night. Ben will most likely go right back to Grey’s (he decided to return to his surgical residency in the finale), and the final moments certainly set up a Crisis One spinoff with best friends Vic and Travis at the center. A spinoff in the Grey’s megaverse, but not based in Seattle, just might work, especially if it can finally step out of the ever-looming shadow of its monolith mothership series.  

If my past viewing is any indication, I’ll definitely be watching. 

Amy Amatangelo, the TV Gal®, is a Boston-based freelance writer and a member of the Television Critics Association. She wasn’t allowed to watch much TV as a child and now her parents have to live with this as her career. You can follow her on Twitter (@AmyTVGal).

For all the latest TV news, reviews, lists and features, follow @Paste_TV.

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