As executive producer of a weekly lineup comprised of Grey's Anatomy, Scandal and How to Get Away with Murder, Shonda Rhimes had us glued to a couch (or whatever you sit on) every Thursday night—particularly impressive, given how much TV viewing is done via laptop or DVR. While some people criticize the soap opera nature of her shows, it's a formula that's given Rhomes more creative license than Hollywood ever typically allows black women. It's also earned her nonstop praise from her peers in 2014.
In a system that regularly suppresses black stories, Rhimes has forced new narratives into the structure with shows where diversity is realistic and routinely celebrated. In a wrap-up piece that celebrates Rhimes as a creative force, Vulture's Matt Zoller Seitz describes Rhimes as "a master juggler, subcontractor, and impresario who seemingly has yet to succumb to the kind of focus problems that have bedeviled other multitasking showrunners."
For ABC, the triple threat—branded "TGIT"—is a first for an executive producer since Aaron Spelling in 1982, when his shows T.J. Hooker, The Love Boat and Fantasy Island aired on Saturday. Successful ratings have earned Shondaland a production deal through 2018. Seitz writes:
The intelligence displayed on Rhimes's series is that of a showman rather than a poet, though there is often poetry in the tawdry spectacles it serves up with such panache. More than that, though, what comes through is an unmistakably personal stamp — a sense that we're in the hands of a producer who has long dreamed of remaking TV's rules in her own image and finally succeeded.
Rhimes' shows are clearly a coup for any black producer, screenwriter or viewer who wants to see more stories from people of color on TV. Besides Scandal and the long-running Grey's Anatomy, Rhimes introduced the procedural How to Get Away with Murder, where Viola Davis' addictive performance adds some realism amid all the fantasy. Seitz writes:
Rhimes's shows are compulsively watchable and routinely take risks that we don't think of as risks because we're having too much fun watching the characters scheme, brood, screw, and kill. They balance provocation and familiarity, reality and fantasy, political daring and masochistic, three-hanky melodrama. They would seem too nutty, too ridiculous, too trashy, too everything, were it not for that first factor, their mix of democratic spirit and psychology. Scandal and Murder, like Grey's before them, are filled with ambitious, horny, hyperverbal characters betraying and trysting and monologuing, as if every clip were a potential Emmy clip (and who knows, maybe it is!).
Everyone gets a monologue! Rhimes' power seems to allow her a larger platform to be fearless and comfortable challenging the Hollywood machine, like when she recently addressed the racist emails between Sony's Amy Pascal and producer Scott Rudin about President Obama's viewing habits:
Can Scandal continue its streak? Will How to Get Away with Murder bore us next season? Either way, Rhimes is pretty good at leaving us wondering what will happen next.
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