If Grey’s Anatomy‘s writers are considering whether to incorporate Ellen Pompeo’s real-life pregnancy into the show, they should ponder the past and, for the sake of the show’s ratings, not do it.
Beyond the creative reasons why Meredith Grey should or should not be pregnant, having a main character give birth is often a major shark-jumping event. The quality and ratings of many other shows have declined once a little one arrived on the scene.
Here are a few examples:
- Murphy Brown: Candice Bergen’s TV journalist had a high-profile pregnancy, with Dan Quayle bashing the show for its portrayal of a woman having a baby out of wedlock. While the series was the third most-watched network show in primetime during the 1991-92 season when Murphy Brown was pregnant, once the baby arrived, ratings dropped. It was the fourth and ninth most-watched show in the 1992-1993 and 1993-1994 seasons and then fell as far as the 69th most-popular show in its final season, from 1997-1998. The character suffered as well, going from an intelligent career woman to a clueless mother, The New York Times notes, leaving the impression “that women with careers couldn’t also be good mothers…Eventually, Murphy seemed to forget that she even had a kid, he was so rarely around. Or maybe the writers couldn’t figure out what to do with him — there’s only so much you can expect from an infant actor.”
- Mad About You: Paul and Jamie Buchman didn’t welcome their first child Mabel until the end of the show’s fifth season. But two seasons later, ratings were so bad the show got canceled. And Mad About You certainly didn’t become funnier once Mabel was born.
- Friends: Friends may have lasted for 10 seasons before the cast, crew and NBC finally decided to pull the plug, and it was often one of the most popular shows on the air. But after having one of its most-watched seasons in years when Rachel was pregnant, the show’s ratings fell off once her daughter, Emma, was born. And, in our humble opinion, Emma always seemed shoehorned into any episode she was in, not really adding anything to the show.
Grey’s Anatomy already has a baby—sort of. Chandra Wilson’s Miranda Bailey has a son. While Grey’s ratings didn’t drop off after Tuck was born, Bailey is a secondary character, so the writers don’t need to incorporate her offspring into storylines as much as they would a Meredith and Derek baby—a “McBundle” in Grey’s speak.
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