Shonda Rhimes is bringing #TGIT to ABC. The hashtag, as many may be aware of, stands for “Thank God It’s Thursday.” The über executive producer, who has dominated ABC’s Thursday night lineup with hit dramas Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal, will take over the Thursday night lineup for Fall of 2014. Rhimes will add new drama, How to Get Away With Murder, starring Viola Davis (The Help) as a law professor at the center of a murder mystery.
Rhimes, who has given ABC its Thursday night mainstay hits, Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal, is now getting a third hour to complete the evening with How to Get Away With Murder. Film actress Davis (Doubt and Ender’s Game), an Oscar nominee, has her chance to create TV gold in the role of Annalise Keating, who is a smart, sexy, and morally ambiguous law professor. Keating subsequently brings a group of first-year law students into her orbit and the results are murder. Despite her considerable success in movies, Davis was drawn to the TV role because her movie career has been dominated by supporting roles and she wanted a chance to shine as a leading lady. She also wanted the challenge of playing a character that she considered unique and foreign to her.
Executive Producer Shonda Rhimes is ready to bring #TGIT to ABC. However, she will have to content with some time slot re-shuffling of her hit Thursday night lineup. Beginning in September 2014, Grey’s Anatomy will move to the 8 p.m. EST/ 5 p.m. PST time slot, while Scandal will be aired at 9 p.m. EST/ 6 p.m. PST. Therefore, new drama, How to Get Away With Murder, will complete the Thursday night primetime block by airing at 10 p.m. EST/ 7 p.m. PST. Despite the time slot reshuffling for the upcoming fall season, Rhimes has refused to alter the content of her shows for network censoring. Rhimes has stated that programming is not part of her wheelhouse, and feels there is nothing content-wise on her shows that could not be done in the earlier time slots.
Rhimes’ Thursday night #TGIT not only puts her in unchartered territory as a female show runner, but also showcases ABC’s goal to diversify primetime television by featuring talented actors and actresses of various ethnic persuasions and other minority groups on a scale unexplored on a major American broadcasting network. Traditionally, broadcast networks have cast white actors in lead roles and counted on that fact to help boost a show’s chances of success in the ratings and international sales. Moreover, the creative teams behind-the-scenes have also been typically white as well. This is no longer the case and broadcast networks have suffered considerable backlash over their past policies of limited diversity. America is known for its “melting pot” status and minority groups are no longer the exception. Shows with all-white casts and crews have become obsolete and dated. Moreover, these shows do not represent present-day American culture. This shift has been reinforced by the undeniable success of ABC’s cult hit phenomenon Scandal, which features actress Kerry Washington (Django Unchained), an African-American leading lady, as well as multi-cultural hit comedy Modern Family, which has just captured its fifth consecutive Emmy for Best Comedy Series and features a blended family.
This September, executive producer Shonda Rhimes is bringing #TGIT to ABC. Given the success of established hits Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal as its lead-in, the odds of How to Get Away With Murder achieving glory and completing the #TGIT trifecta seems well within reach. If Shondaland does indeed succeed with its #TGIT lineup, it would prove significant on many fronts. It would demonstrate the desire and need for strong female characters, characters of varied race and creed, and diversity that reflects modern-day American attitudes and culture. America’s attitudes and desires have undergone a significant change and ABC is anxious to showcase the new “American Outlook” with Shonda Rhimes and her Thursday night #TGIT.
By Leigh Haugh