In September, I mapped out my fall TV schedule. What I failed to mention, of course, was the fact that I also tend to pick up a new show or two every year. I try to resist, lest my DVR blow a gasket, but television dramas are at the top of their game lately and it’s hard to ignore the buzz.
That is especially true this season with the addition of the Viola Davis law/crime thriller “How To Get Away With Murder” to ABC’s Thursday night line-up, now dubbed #TGIT (Thank God It’s Thursday). HTGAWM caps off “Shonda Rhimes night,” at 10 p.m., following Grey’s Anatomy at 8 and Scandal at 9. Rhimes is arguably one of the most influential showrunners of her era, using powerhouse black actresses to create strong female characters. But she doesn’t take kindly to those two identifiers, as illustrated in this late October excerpt from The Hollywood Reporter:
“In early August, Shonda Rhimes read a draft announcement for an event where she was set to appear. It called her ‘the most powerful black female showrunner in Hollywood.’ She crossed out ‘female’ and ‘black’ and sent it back […] she didn’t believe either modifier was necessary—or relevant. ‘They wouldn’t say that someone is ‘the most powerful white male showrunner in Hollywood,’’ she contends […] ‘I find race and gender to be terribly important; they’re terribly important to who I am. But there’s something about the need for everybody else to spend time talking about it […] that pisses me off.’”
She instead allows her shows, particularly her characters, to speak for themselves. Annalise Keating (Davis) joins the ranks of Scandal’s no-nonsense Olivia Pope (played by Kerry Washington), Grey’s Anatomy’s tough cookie Miranda Bailey (Chandra Wilson), and many other key players from her primetime dramas.
Peter Nowalk, straight out of Shondaland as producer for her two current juggernauts, seems to be one of Rhimes’ most promising protégés as the creator of the show everyone’s talking about.
And everyone is indeed talking about it. I’ve been a fan of Viola Davis since her heart-breaking—but electrifying—performance as Aibileen Clark in 2011’s “The Help.” The promos looked interesting. I hesitated to invest in yet another ensemble drama, but because I’ve never had a decent crime or courtroom drama in my repertoire, I gave it the pilot test. It was clear within the first five minutes that I made the right choice to follow the buzz—and my instincts about good television. Continue reading