'Grey's' Lesbian Doc Fails the 'Chemistry' Test

Brooke Smith, as Dr. Erica Hahn, has been fired from ABC's
Brooke Smith, as Dr. Erica Hahn, has been fired from ABC's "Grey's Anatomy." (By Bob D'amico -- Abc)
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Friday, November 7, 2008; Page C07

Dr. Erica Hahn was cast out of the horny halls of Seattle Grace Hospital on "Grey's Anatomy" last night, a mere two weeks after consummating her relationship with Callie, a.k.a. Sara Ramirez.

Though actress Brooke Smith, who plays Hahn, had been told back in September that her services no longer would be needed, she waited until three days before her exit from the show to fling herself in an ecstasy of grief at Entertainment Weekly.

Though Smith said she did not know why she was let go, Entertainment Weekly did its best to convey that she was expunged because ABC or its parent, Disney, got cold feet over the whole McLesbian thing -- because the EW wag himself had told Smith this was going to happen back in July, when he ran into her at a trophy-show red carpet.

Lesbian hookups are a time-honored broadcast sweeps tradition -- this being the November version of the quarterly ratings derby. Actresses who have been tagged made-for-broadcast lesbian on their shows tend to have a very short life expectancy -- about that of plant lice. By that measure, Erica is a true survivor. She and Callie exchanged their first kisses last season -- during the May sweeps.

"Frankly, it was you that warned me this might happen," Smith marveled to the EW wag. "You said [sometimes networks get cold feet] with gay relationships. And I was so naive. I'm like 'It's 2008.' " A sadder but wiser gal, Smith made her final appearance last night, ending her two-week reign as one half of prime-time broadcast TV's only regularly appearing lesbian couple.

Given that Smith's character was hired to replace Isaiah Washington's character as head of cardiothoracic surgery after that actor's homophobic behavior created a kerfuffle the likes of which had never been seen on a prime-time TV series, "Grey's" creator Shonda Rhimes lost no time after EW slapped up word of Smith's pink-slipping to issue one of her trademark patronizing statements:

"Brooke Smith was obviously not fired for playing a lesbian," Rhimes lectured Monday.

"Sara Ramirez is an incredible comedic and dramatic actress and we wanted to be able to play up her magic," Rhimes continued, which I'm sure Smith appreciated.

Smith was let go, Rhimes said, because "unfortunately, we did not find that the magic and chemistry with Brooke's character would sustain in the long run."

This is, of course, utter horseradish. "Grey's Anatomy" is famous for the breakneck speed and frequency with which its characters change sex partners. How else do you explain Katherine Heigl's survival on the show all these seasons? She's been in search of someone, anyone, with whom to have chemistry and magic since the show debuted. If Smith had no chemistry with Ramirez, they could always have had her Erica take McSteamy out for a test drive.

Sweeps lesbians have been a staple of prime-time TV at least since Amanda Donohoe and Michele Greene kissed on NBC's "L.A. Law" -- during the February sweeps of 1991. That's credited with being the first lesbian kiss ever shown on the small screen.

Remember Jennifer Aniston's Rachel kissing Winona Ryder's Melissa in front of Lisa Kudrow's Phoebe on "Friends" to prove she, Rachel, really had a lesbian experience with Melissa in college? How about actress Mischa Barton's character's let's-flip-out-Mom-and-Dad relationship with new girl Alex on "The O.C." during the February sweeps of '05?

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