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Shared universes are all the rage on the small screen nowadays, ranging from the still-growing Arrow-verse over on The CW to the never-ending JAG universe on CBS to even the zombie apocalypse of the Walking Dead world on AMC. Arguably the most successful current shared universe, however, is One Chicago over on NBC. The recent major crossover on ABC between Grey’s Anatomy and spinoff Station 19 raises the question: are the two ABC dramas trying to become the next One Chicago?
Before we get into reasons for and against the idea of Grey's Anatomy and Station 19 as ABC's version of One Chicago, let’s jump into why any shared TV universe might want to emulate One Chicago.
Why One Chicago Is Worth Emulating
One Chicago is comprised of Chicago Fire, Chicago P.D., and Chicago Med on NBC, although it technically also connects to the wider Law & Order world and briefly included Chicago Justice. Since the 2018-2019 TV season, all three shows have aired in one big primetime block on Wednesday nights, with Med at 8 p.m. ET, Fire at 9 p.m. ET, and P.D. at 10 p.m. ET.
One Chicago generally airs one huge three-show crossover per year with a smaller Fire/P.D. two-parter later in the season, but all three shows set in Chicago means that mini crossovers happen all the time. Fire paramedics turn up on Med, P.D. cops lend a hand to the Fire team and regularly wind up at the Med hospital, and Med doctors and nurses occasionally venture out into the field.
Med and P.D. each have a Halstead as a main character, a Fire hero is married to a P.D. sergeant, and they all drink at the same bar. The six-show Arrow-verse may have just aired the crossover to end all crossovers and the JAG universe may now consist of three NCIS shows as well as Magnum P.I., Hawaii Five-0, and MacGyver, but the three shows of One Chicago feel completely connected, and crossovers can air as one big, cinematic primetime block on one night.
Perhaps most importantly in the grand scheme of television, all three One Chicago series received a boost in the ratings with the establishment of Chicago Wednesdays. The numbers between them are close and and remarkably consistent from week-to-week. In fact, I was almost bored when writing my fall ratings roundups when it came to One Chicago because the shows were always steady and never near the bottom in ratings or viewership on Wednesday nights.
So, why does it feel like Grey’s Anatomy and Station 19 are trying to become the next One Chicago, rather than the next JAG universe or Arrow-verse when those are far more expansive?
Why Grey’s Anatomy And Station 19 Could Be The Next One Chicago
Grey’s Anatomy has shared a night with its spinoff ever since Station 19 launched in 2018, and Station 19 was anchored by a familiar Grey’s face from the very beginning to attract viewers of the mothership. Big, epic crossovers are few and far between, but relationships between the shows guarantee at least some crossover. Grey’s Anatomy’s Jackson is dating Station 19’s Vic Hughes, so there’s a connection there.
Then, of course, there’s the fact that Grey’s Anatomy and its spinoff are a medical and firefighter show set in the same city, respectively, which matches Chicago Med and Chicago Fire. The crossover that launched the second half of Grey’s Season 16 and the third season of Station 19 had the characters of both shows working together to solve a crisis.
With both halves of the two-parter airing on one Thursday night, the event almost felt like a feature that happened to be broken up by commercials rather than two separate episodes of television. Frankly, it felt about as close to One Chicago’s massive “Infection” crossover that ABC could have pulled off with only two shows and a lack of flesh-eating bacteria.
The joint Seattle setting, marriage of Ben and Bailey, relationship between Jackson and Vic, and more mean that the shows are closely connected, and that could result in a ratings boost for at least Station 19. Grey’s Anatomy has already been renewed through Season 17 (although without one longtime series regular), so Station 19 is the one with a more uncertain future that could use some closer ties to the parent series. If it worked for One Chicago on NBC, why not Grey’s and Station 19 on ABC?
Why Grey’s Anatomy And Station 19 Might Not Be The Next One Chicago
The most obvious difference between the two TV universes is simply that One Chicago is comprised of three shows and Grey’s Anatomy/Station 19 are only two, with Private Practice long over (and not set in Seattle anyway). Season 16 felt like it was setting up another spinoff for a while, possibly turning Grey’s Anatomy/Station 19 into some kind of One Seattle with a Pac-North series.
After Bailey went on a firing spree in the Season 15 finale, Alex and Richard wound up moving to Pacific Northwest General, with Owen eventually making the jump from Grey Sloan Memorial to Pac-North as well. Naturally, viewers started speculating that a new series was in the works, but Grey’s Anatomy showrunner Krista Vernoff debunked that speculation in early January, saying to TVLine that while she “loves hearing” talk of a Pac-North series, she’s “not spinning it off.”
If the plot that seems ready-made for a spinoff isn’t spinning off, I’d say it’s likely that Krista Vernoff isn’t planning on any additional shows in the Grey’s universe. In fact, she has an unconnected new show in the works! The Grey’s Anatomy/Station 19 universe looks like it will remain a two-show world, unlike the three-show One Chicago.
There’s also the point that Grey’s Anatomy was already in Season 14 before Station 19’s characters debuted in a backdoor pilot. Chicago P.D. premiered only one season after Chicago Fire, and Med only a couple of seasons after P.D. These shows feel connected in a way that Grey’s and Station 19 probably never will, because Grey’s will always be the parent series and Station 19 always be the spinoff. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s also not really a One Seattle thing.
So, are Grey’s Anatomy and Station 19 trying to become the next One Chicago? There are definitely similarities to the two TV universes, and it’s possible that both airing on Thursdays and the Jackson/Vic connection will continue to bring Grey’s and Station 19 closer together. The firefighters of Station 19 bonded with Bailey via flashback in the Season 3 premiere, so viewers may want to keep a lookout for further signs that these two shows will begin to feel as close as Chicago Fire, Chicago P.D., and Chicago Med.
Station 19 and Grey’s Anatomy air Thursday nights at 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. ET on ABC, while One Chicago kicks off on NBC Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET with Med, keeps going with Fire at 9 p.m. ET, and finishes with P.D. at 10 p.m. ET.