If you've never seen Grey's Anatomy, you probably at least know it as a punchline representing awful, female-targeted, self-absorbed TV dramas. Characters are nicknamed things like "McDreamy" and "McSteamy," and actors of questionable attractiveness are passed off as sex gods and goddesses.
The title of the show is a pun that really makes no sense. It starts from the real medical reference book Gray's Anatomy (with an A), which apparently doesn't exist in the show and is replaced with a fictional famous book named Grey's Anatomy (with an E) that was written by the mother of lead character Meredith Grey (with an E), and the book apparently has nothing to do with the plot anyway. It's what you would get if someone with brain damage free-associates the words "Grey" and "medical" and tries to explain their thought process.
I'm not saying it's wrong to glance at the name of a reference book on a shelf and come up with a formulaic and predictable show premise based on it. I'm saying that if you're going to do it, do it with style. Here's a few of my suggestions.
#8. Roget's the Saurus
As you can see, Roget is the Saurus. It's sort of like being The Man, except he is a dinosaur. This isn't the first dinosaur sitcom -- the live-action Dinosaurs somehow ran for four seasons in the early '90s despite every episode being 30 minutes of a baby dinosaur shouting "Not the mama!"
Roget naturally has his own completely original catchphrase ("Dino-MITE!"), but the show borrows more from ALF than anything, placing the reptile-out-of-water in the home of a bewildered suburban family. It's sort of a comedy of manners, at the intersection of American middle-class values and dinosaur culture, leading to hilarious misunderstandings where Roget displays his ignorance of baseball or inadvertently eats a classmate.
In later seasons, Roget's the Saurus might go beyond escapist comedy and attempt to tackle some tough topical issues, like gay marriage (he accidentally eats a gay couple) or drugs (he accidentally eats a drug dealer).
#7. Miriam Webster's Dictionary
The show revolves around the trendsetting blogger Miriam Webster and her cleverly named blog, Miriam Webster's Dictionary, where she highlights and sometimes invents new slang words that annoyingly trendy people might use, like "frenemy," "frenefits," "friendsetter," "friendoscopy" ... basically words that make you want to hit someone when they use them.
Every episode begins and ends with Miriam blogging about the word of the week, kind of like Stephen Colbert's "The Word" feature, except without any subtlety, because people who watch a show about a fashionable blogger think subtlety is a bunch of English words on the bottom of a screen when characters are speaking a foreign language.
In the course of each episode, Miriam gets into hilarious hijinks and learns a valuable lesson about life or something that she blogs about in the closing scene, similar to Grey's Anatomy's ending voice-overs or the ending journal entries in the more realistic medical drama Doogie Howser, M.D.
Sometimes she learns the trite and easily digestible lessons that viewers come to expect from these awful shows, such as in the episode "Friendorphins" (every episode is named after the word she comes up with), where she learns that being around your friends can give you the high that drugs never could, or "Friendception," where she learns to stop being jealous of her pregnant friend's fetus and see it as "a friend inside a friend." But sometimes the show makes a statement about current political hot-button issues, such as one episode where Miriam's careless words get a friend deported to Pakistan and tortured ("Extraordinary Friendition").
#6. The Chicago Manual of Style
Envious of the success of fashion-obsessed shows like Sex in the City? Beaten to the punch at purchasing the TV rights to the popular The Devil Wears Prada book/movie brand? No problem!
The TV rights to the Chicago Manual of Style can probably be had for a pittance, probably because it is not a saucy tale of high fashion but a language guide for proper citation and writing styles. You have all the benefits of most people vaguely thinking it sounds familiar and none of the drawbacks of those people knowing exactly what it is.
Kaylee, Madison and Mackenzie are three confident career women who can identify different makeup products and know the difference between Jimmy Choo and Manolo Blahnik. Someone else is going to have to write that part or else I am going to have one character tell another she wears too much mascara on her lips or something.
They all work at a fake newspaper with a made-up name like The Chicago Sun-Times or something whimsical like that, but they never spend any time at the office, or working, because that would get in the way of their sexy and fashionable adventures. The show makes sure to stand out from Sex and the City by constantly emphasizing its Chicagoness, with at least one character in every shot holding a deep-dish pizza, at least 10 mentions of a local sports team in each episode and constant cutaways to aerial shots of Wrigley Field.
The show is, of course, shot in Vancouver.
#5. Strunk & White
Odd couple cop/detective buddy shows named Something & Something have been popular forever, with such classics as Starsky & Hutch, Simon & Simon, Cagney & Lacey, Jake and the Fatman, Rizzoli & Isles and of course Law & Order, featuring the unforgettable characters of uptight, by-the-book Johnny Law and his spontaneous, free-spirited partner, Jessica Order.
In Strunk & White (based on the popular nickname for the authoritative grammar reference book The Elements of Style, by Strunk & White), buttoned-up grammarian Margaret Strunk faints at the sight of a dangling participle while her easygoing partner Torrey White sees English as "an evolving language" and launches social media campaigns to include the word "bromance" in the next version of the Oxford English Dictionary.
They hunt down criminals by identifying unique grammar and misspelling patterns. "Notice the use of 'should of' and 'bare with me' in both the first and the second ransom note."
Thanks to Strix.org.uk's ransom note generator.
Strunk & White is currently facing a legal challenge from the creators of NBC's upcoming show The Elements of Style (a sexy show about socialites in Minneapolis designed to compete with smash hit The Chicago Manual of Style) regarding who has licensing rights to the book.