Shonda Rhimes dominates ABC’s fall 2014 line up with three series

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!

Season recap for the ‘Devious Maids’ fans who missed it

“Devious Maids” is back! The season two premiere picked up right where season one left off; and if your jaw dropped during the first season, it will be dismantled this season.

What I love about the series so far is the insane blend of melodrama, comedy, and satire. Sometimes, I want to watch a show that isn’t about saving the world from climate change or giving me tips on how to stay fit and active so I can live to be 130 years old. Sometimes, I want fantasy and laughter with a shot of sarcasm. I get that with this show. I think others want that, too.

One thing I that I find odd are the comments from some that the show is racist, or is only focused on stereotypes of Latina women. Executive producer Marc Cherry has a way of taking negative stereotypes and turning them into positives. Remember “Desperate Housewives?” Eva Longoria as Gabrielle Solis? She was wealthy and successful with a maid of her own. Longoria is now co-executive producer of “Devious Maids.” Also, I’m sure that Carmen and Marisol are college educated. Marisol was the one who figured out that it was Philippe (Stephen Collins) who killed Flora (Paula Garces) in the first season. I don’t believe Longoria would get behind a show that would mock her heritage; not even for a sizable paycheck.

This season, a few of the maids are moving into Beverly Hills mansions of their own. Ana Ortiz’s character, Marisol, is living in a classic Beverly Hills mansion with a devious maid of her own! Roselyn Sanchez’s character, Carmen, has also hit the Beverly Hills jackpot. She may become the next famous singer with her own mansion. For now, though, she’s playing the beard to Latin pop star Alejandro. I think that will change soon. I won’t give away spoilers, but let’s just say it looks like Alejandro’s (and quite possibly, Carmen’s) time in the limelight is fading…fast! If you thought Brenda, Dylan, and the rest of the gang from 90210 had issues, then the characters on this show belong in an insane asylum!

There’s no good or bad on “Devious Maids”—only vindictive and more vindictive! While not all of the maids get down and dirty, there are others who can be just as vindictive and cunning as their bosses. Those are the ones who are qualified to move up the ladder (Carmen and Marisol). Is that not at least partially true in our society? Many (not all) of the people who are in a position of power didn’t get there because they were painfully nice. They got there because they weren’t afraid to ruffle a few feathers and shatter some glass. So, if you want to make it in Beverly Hills as a maid or a mogul, remember this: if you’re rich, someone will want to kill you; if you’re a maid, someone will want to kill you. In the meantime, have great sex, throw back a few drinks, and enjoy the view!

“Devious Maids” airs on Sundays at 10 p.m. on Lifetime.

Striking it rich, again: A new Dallas for a new generation

“Dallas” originally aired on CBS from 1978 until 1991. The show, already popular, became iconic in 1980 when JR Ewing, portrayed by Larry Hagman, was shot in his office. Throughout the summer of that year people were left wondering: “Who shot JR?” Fans finally got the answer in November 1980. The conclusion drew over 100 million people to tune in on a Friday night. Just about every main character was questioned, including his alcoholic wife, Sue Ellen. It was his sister in-law Mary—whom he was having an affair with—that shot him. She ended up dead in a pool not long after that.

Throughout the 1980’s, “Dallas”, along with “Dynasty” (and, to a lesser extent, “Falcon Crest” and “Knots Landing”,) came to represent the excess of money and idolatry of power that came with the decade. It also became quite bizarre, borrowing a few tactics from daytime soap operas.
Another classic cliffhanger came in 1986 when, Bobby Ewing, portrayed by Patrick Duffy, was killed by a hit and run. One day, his wife Pam, wakes up and goes to the shower. Guess who’s lathering up…you guessed it…it was Bobby. Bobby didn’t really die; his wife just had one of the longest dreams in television history!

This storyline was quite controversial because it interfered with sister show, “Knots Landing”. “Knots” centered on black sheep brother Gary Ewing (Ted Shackleford), and his wife, Valene (Joan Van Ark), who moved to California. The shows crossed over occasionally. Ms. Ellie, the family matriarch, along with Bobby, helped Gary and Val move to California. When Bobby “died”, Val and Gary went to Dallas to attend his funeral. Since Pam dreamed this all up, it meant that a full season of Knots would have been a dream as well. Knots Landing kept Bobby dead and, there were no subsequent crossovers for the rest of the shows’ runs.

“Dallas” finally ended its historic and memorable run in 1991 with another classic cliffhanger…JR shoots himself!

The nostalgia that kicks in after something has been off the air for a period of time settles down on people. In my own family I remember hearing about Patrick Duffy’s character Bobby, long before I knew who he was. I knew him as Frank, the character he portrayed on Step-by-Step. I remembered that when my grandmother would watch the show with me, she would smile and say, “There’s Bobby.” She told me about “Dallas” but I didn’t understand why she always had to bring up his name and that show. This was Step-by-Step, not “Dallas”.

I got my answer years later when SoapNet began re-airing shows like “Dallas”, “Dynasty”, “Knots Landing”, “Another World”, and “Ryan’s Hope”. Initially, I was drawn in to the cul-de-sac craziness of “Knots Landing” and the tragedies and triumphs of the characters on “Another World”. Eventually I got to meet Bobby Ewing, figuratively. Now I understand why she couldn’t get him out of her head. Bobby was handsome and charming. Compared to his bad boy brother JR, he could appear the weaker of the two, but he could be just as strong and powerful if he needed to be.

After a while, SoapNet stopped airing these iconic shows from and gagged viewers with endless repeats of Beverly Hills 90210, “One Tree Hill” and “The OC”. While I loved these shows when they aired, seeing them on so much was overload. I wanted my other shows back. Wasn’t there room for them all?
It wasn’t long, though before my appetite for “Dallas” dealings would be satisfied again. In 2012, after a failed attempt at a movie deal and buzz around Hollywood of a remake centering on the children (now adults), TNT and producer Cynthia Cidre brought “Dallas” back to life. The show began airing in June 2012.
“Dallas” began its third season on Feb. 24th. The reason this it’s working, unlike some of the other reboots and remakes of the last decade, is because they brought in original characters from the original show: JR (Hagman), Sue Ellen (Linda Gray) and Bobby (Duffy). The show is working because these characters are not on the back burner. They have just as much story as their adult children.

The show, while still critically acclaimed, is not receiving the ratings it was years ago. Put any top show from 1984 on and see if it will garner thirty five million viewers a week on a broadcast network. Times have changed, there’s so much more out there on television (basic and premium) and the internet, but the interest is still there. “Dallas” may not have thirty five million people watching a week anymore, but two to three million viewers on TNT on a Monday night is nothing to complain about.

I end this post acknowledging the passing of Larry Hagman. He died five episodes in to season two, and while his presence is missed, the actors and actresses are definitely making him proud. I’m sure he’s looking down from his dude ranch in the sky with a sinister grin and a few southern belles by his side.

Dallas airs every Monday at 9 p.m. on TNT.
To learn more about the original series, go to the website www.ultimatedallas.com