Popular medical drama Grey's Anatomy is going to incorporate the coronavirus pandemic into its storyline for its imminent 17th season.
"We’re going to address this pandemic, for sure. There’s no way to be a long-running medical show and not do the medical story of our lifetime," said showrunner Krista Vernoff during a Television Academy panel on Tuesday.
Shonda Rhimes's show has been running for more than 360 episodes, and stars Ellen Pompeo as title character Dr Meredith Grey.
Vernoff said that writers and producers have been talking to real medical professionals in order to write the storylines.
"It's really painful to listen to these doctors. It's really painful to realise what they're going through on a daily basis," she said.
"Every year, we have doctors come and tell us their stories, and usually they’re telling their funniest or craziest stories. This year, it has felt more like therapy.
"The doctors come in and we’re the first people they’re talking to about these types of experiences they’re having. They are literally shaking and trying not to cry, they’re pale, and they’re talking about it as war – a war that they were not trained for."
The show has been known to incorporate timely political and social issues into its storylines, tackling insurance fraud, gun crime and deportation in recent seasons.
There is no confirmed date for the premiere of season 17, however, it was ordered in May 2019, and is running on ABC's autumn / winter 2020 to 2021 season. In the UAE, series one to 16 are available to watch on OSN Streaming.
Filming of the 16th season was cut short on March 12, when production was suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic; only 21 of the scheduled 25 episodes were made.
That 21st episode, which turned into the earlier-than-expected season finale, was broadcast on April 9, meaning fans didn't get the tried-and-true cliffhanger notable in all other seasons.
In February 2019, Grey's Anatomy became the longest-running medical show in history when its 332nd episode was broadcast, beating ER's 331 episodes.
"ER was one of the shows that made me want to write television," Vernoff told People magazine at the time. "It changed TV and it forged a path for Grey's Anatomy to come. We walked in ER's footsteps and we're forever grateful. It's amazing to me that we're breaking that record. I'm just blown away!"