This is it. Even though I’m on record saying that I loathe all Shondaland shows, I can’t stop watching Station 19, a Shondaland show. I thought I was primed to ignore the soapy, melodramatic charms of Shonda Rhimes’ series (Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, How to Get Away With Murder and the now-canceled The Catch), but there’s something different about this one that keeps me from changing the channel. If you, like me, have actively avoided Shondaland series but you want something new to watch, you need to get on the Station 19 train — or fire truck, as the case may be.
Station 19 premiered in late March as a spin-off of Grey’s Anatomy, connected by Dr. Ben Warren’s transfer to the fire station and the occasional reference to Seattle Grace or the doctors who work there. So far, Season 1 has received lots of critical praise. Variety called the show a “refreshingly gimmick-free character drama about the heightened atmosphere of a fire station, centered on [a] tough woman,” and PopSugar praised Station 19 for giving us heroine Andy Herrera, who is confident and self-assured in her life and in her typically male-dominated profession, to root for.
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The show’s first major selling point is that the stakes are realistic and rooted in plausible situations, akin to a Grey’s Anatomy episode. The circumstances of Station 19 are not so heightened that they strain credulity; the show’s narrative comes from a logical, grounded place. It follows a regular group of firefighters, and sure, they’re all absurdly young and hot and not at all weathered from the demands of the job. That’s a tradeoff I’m willing to make as a viewer if it means that these young, hot firefighters are involved in plots like intense espionage or random murders. I could also do without beloved characters being killed off, which is a thing in Shondaland shows. HTGAWM and Scandal have both had ridiculous plots that jumped the shark so many times that viewers are used to them. This doesn’t seem to be in the cards for Station 19 so far.
Take the show’s second episode, “Invisible to Me,” as an example of the way Station 19 stays rooted in reality. This episode might have the most off-the-rails moment yet, and it’s honestly not even that farfetched. The entire crew heads out to a stretch of highway where a tanker has overturned, injuring the driver. Andy, in charge of the team at this point, notices something is off and tells the team to turn off the lights on the truck. The minute this happens, we see a ring of blue fire around the tanker that traps two of the team members attempting to help the injured driver. Watching Andy and the team figure out how to save their teammates while doing their job effectively is thrilling to watch, and it gets you thinking about the folks who do this work in real life. This is the moment I knew I was hooked on Station 19.
That said, it’s not like I’d been bored stiff up until this point, and there’s more than the thrilling dramatization of firefighters in action to reel viewers in. In the early episodes, Station 19 makes good on its promise to portray Andy as a well-rounded female character. Unlike Meredith Grey in Season 1 of Grey’s Anatomy, Andy has already worked her way to the top. She’s earned the respect of her peers and is dead set on proving she can be a leader (one of Station 19‘s central narratives is about Andy jockeying to assume her father’s role as captain after he steps down to focus on his health). Yes, Andy has various obstacles to overcome professionally, and by no means does she get it right all the time. But it’s refreshing to see a central female character whose character is founded on confidence.
Better still, Andy is surrounded by characters who act as a family unit. It’s easy to get past the fact that they’re all young, hot and distractingly well put together because they’re also friends who are focused on lifting each other up and pushing each other to become the best version of themselves. This certainly isn’t the case with character groups in early episodes of Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal or HTGAWM.
Station 19 feels like it’s taken the best parts of other Shondaland shows — a strong central female character, a very steamy love triangle (between Andy, her co-worker, Jack, and her high school sweetheart, Ryan; it will have you fanning yourself), lots of high-stakes workplace disasters and some perfectly timed alternative rock music — and become something so much better.
There, I admit it. I am officially hooked on Station 19, and I have no plans to get unhooked anytime soon.
Station 19 airs Thursdays at 9/8c on ABC.