Shonda Rhimes’ history-making streak continues to TV land ablaze! When she cast Kerry Washington in the lead role of Olivia Pope for “Scandal,” she made Washington a household name and broke barriers in the process. It was the first time in decades that a black woman was the lead character in a drama series. When the broadcast networks begin their new line ups in the fall, Rhimes will have three shows on one network (ABC) between 8 and 10 p.m. That’s a big deal, especially in today’s television landscape. With shows getting the axe after only a few episodes due to low ratings, it shows that the execs at ABC trust Rhimes enough to let her create a show and let it gradually build an audience. Many series creators don’t get that kind of trust, respect or space to grow their shows. The overall ratings of network television shows are down significantly from other primetime shows of the last ten to twenty years.
Rhimes’ first big hit, “Grey’s Anatomy” was around when shows still could accumulate more than 20 million viewers at a time. When “Grey’s” appeared as a mid-season show on ABC back in March 2005, it quickly gained a solid following and generated a good amount of buzz. At the time, the #1 scripted show on ABC—and most certainly the most buzzed about show on TV—was another ABC production, 2004 mega-hit “Desperate Housewives”. By the time both shows reached their third season premieres back in 2006, “Grey’s” had become as popular—I might argue even more popular—than “Desperate Housewives”. It garnered close to thirty million views for its third season premiere. The show moved to Thursday nights where it’s been ever since the fall 2006. While the show is no longer drawing twenty plus million viewers, it is still one of the most popular programs on TV; and this on demand world we live in helps the show maintain its popularity. It has long ago surpassed the once mighty “Desperate Housewives” in terms viewing and longevity (the upcoming season will be season number eleven. “Housewives”lasted for eight seasons.)
Again, “Greys'” numbers have slipped in years past, but not many shows get 20 million viewers these days. Network execs really only care about that coveted 18-34 (and maybe the 18-49) year old demo; in that area, “Grey’s” is still going strong. It’s no surprise, then, that the brass at ABC have enough faith that Rhimes can pull off a strong Thursday night line-up dominated by her creations. “Scandal”, which airs right after “Grey’s”, has taken off tremendously since its mid-season premiere in 2012. In that time, it has become a water-cooler favorite and has sometimes equaled or surpassed “Grey’s” in both ratings and demographics. When executives see this, they see dollar signs, which is why it only seems logical that they asked Rhimes to create yet another show for the fall 2014 season, “How to Get Away with Murder”, starring Oscar nominee Viola Davis. So, ABC’s fall 2014 Thursday line-up will look like this:
8 p.m.: “Grey’s Anatomy”
9 p.m.: “Scandal” (new time slot)
10 p.m.: “How to Get Away with Murder”
All the best to Shonda! Her creativity gives a boy like me some inspiration!