Apparently, the writers of "Grey's Anatomy" are not out of touch with the show's fans.
They're aware that there are times when even their biggest fans want to tell Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo), Izzie Stevens (Katherine Heigl) and various other characters to, well, just shut up.
In tonight's two-hour, fifth-season premiere, Meredith is once again agonizing over her relationship with Dr. Derek Shepherd (Patrick Dempsey). And her best friend, Dr. Cristina Yang (Sandra Oh), gives voice to what longtime viewers of the show are feeling.
"Shut up," Christina says as Meredith prattles on. "No, just shut up about Derek. Shut up about moving in with Derek. Shut up about your relationship. Because, you want to know what? I've heard it all before. Yeah, you know, you guys get together and I have to listen to it. And then you guys break up and I have to listen to it."
Words that could be spoken by millions of viewers.
"So please, please, please, as you weigh your options here, just consider the possibility of shutting the hell up," Christina says. "Because I can't listen to it anymore."
After 78 episodes of the on-again, off-again relationship between Meredith and Derek, it's just exhausting. And, quite honestly, Meredith has developed into such an irritant that there have been times it's been hard not to root for Derek to find somebody else. Somebody better.
Maybe this isn't a bad thing. Maybe it's a good thing. It's an indication of what an outstanding job creator/executive producer Shonda Rhimes and her team have done of creating these characters and breathing life into them episode after episode.
Hey, all of us know real people who are at least as annoying as Meredith Grey.
And it's certainly consistent to have her once again annoying everyone around her.
The bigger problem with tonight's episode is with the characters who seem to have forgotten who they are. Like Dr. Richard Webber (James Pickens Jr.) suddenly acting all tough with Meredith. Or Dr. Callie Torres (Sara Ramirez) suddenly losing all her self-confidence.
Then there's a really silly scene between Christina and Owen (Kevin McKidd) that's, well, silly.
And yet ... fans of the show (including me) are going to keep watching. These characters have become real to us. We don't always like them, but then we don't always like even our own family members.
But we stick with them. Just the way we stick with the doctors at Seattle Grace Hospital.
BUT IT'S HARD not to wonder if the "Grey's Anatomy" writers were sending Heigl a message in a scene in which Dr. Alex Karev (Justin Chambers) tries to ignore her.
And if they were speaking directly to Heigl when Alex says to Izzie, "I'm hoping if I wait long enough, you'll be as annoyed by the sound of your voice as I am and just shut up."
Heigl, you will recall, dissed the writers when she announced that she had not submitted her name for a possible Emmy because "I do not feel I was given the material this season to warrant a nomination."
According to Rhimes, "We have a really great story worked out (for Heigl) that we're all very excited about. And things are going fine."It's certainly possible. But it's not much in evidence in tonight's episode.