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Something major is going to happen to Katherine Heigl's character, Dr. Izzie Stevens, when Grey's Anatomy returns for its fifth season this fall.
ABC wasn't making any details available during the opening day of its portion of the Summer 2008 Television Critics Association tour, but ABC Entertainment President Steve McPherson provided a tantalizing teaser during his press conference yesterday morning.
When asked to comment on Heigl's much-publicized decision to pull herself out of Emmy contention this year (after winning the award last year for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series), and rampant speculation as to whether she is going to stay with the show or not, McPherson replied, "She's absolutely staying with the show. There is an unbelievable storyline for her this year, which is really central to everything that's going to go on this season. [Executive producer] Shonda [Rhimes] is really excited about [it] and is the one who actually crafted [it]."
Rhimes is scheduled to appear here later today at a press conference with ABC's super-star show-runners (which will also include Marc Cherry of Desperate Housewives, Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse of Lost, Silvio Horta of Ugly Betty and the indefatigable Greg Berlanti of Brothers & Sisters, Dirty Sexy Money and Eli Stone), and she's going to need a SWAT team of her own to separate her from the sea of reporters here who have turned all of this Heigl drama into the first significant issue of the 2008 Summer Tour.
Frankly, it looks as though Us Weekly's Web site might have beaten them all to the punch. Us.com reported Tuesday morning that Heigl's Izzie may develop a brain tumor during the upcoming season and pass away, but not before enduring visions of her dearly departed Denny Duquette, who will be played once again by Jeffrey Dean Morgan. Us asserts that this storyline is Rhimes' response to Heigl's much-publicized carping about not being given Emmy-quality material this season (hence her decision to extract herself from Emmy consideration). ABC would not confirm this report (except for the part about Morgan returning to the show), but Us editors tell me it's legit. We'll see what Rhimes has to say later this afternoon.
Rhimes will also be fielding a lot of questions about Private Practice, the Grey's Anatomy spin-off that premiered to mixed reviews last fall and then had its momentum compromised by the WGA strike. (Practice is one of four shows ABC premiered last season that it is effectively re-launching this season, the others being Eli Stone, Pushing Daisies and Dirty Sexy Money.) McPherson noted that Rhimes last season realized "one of the things that was critical to the best episodes of the show was [the juxtaposing of medical drama] against the personal stories. When it just became kind of a soap opera about these people's lives, a lot of time in the coffee room talking about the angst, that [wasn't] the show [at its best]. It's not what Shonda does well."
Kate Walsh's character, Dr. Addison Montgomery, will get "back to actually doing surgery," which will heighten the medical drama of it all, McPherson added. "There's going to be more interaction with the hospital, [because the show] works best when it's laid over a palette of really great medical stories." Staffers at the fictional Oceanside Wellness Center will have to deal with the "realities of healthcare and actually helping people, as opposed to just [working in] this eco-friendly, nice place to be," he said.
This focus on all things Rhimes reflected the tone of McPherson's session, which was centered on news and information about ABC's series rather than explosive industry issues. There was much excitement about the news (first reported only minutes before McPherson's session by Michael Ausiello at EW.com) that Katie Holmes will be making a guest appearance on the second episode of Eli Stone's second season. "It's a wonderful reunion for Greg Berlanti and Katie [who worked together on Dawson's Creek]," McPherson said. "It's a great role for her. There is actually some singing and dancing that she does and she's exquisite. It's a really special piece of business."
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