Shonda Rhimes has no time to play games, Alessandra Stanley, because she is too busy cultivating award winning shows fueled by transformative bodies of written work. According to the popular saying, she must be doing something right if someone has something bad to say about her. Rhimes is doing a lot of right in television with three hit shows scheduled for ABC’s Thursday primetime lineup. ABC’s “RhimesTime” Thursday kicks off with the return Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal and the series premiere of How to Get Away With Murder, guaranteeing viewing parties to rival that of football fans.
The uproar over Stanley’s body of work published in the New York Times merely promotes Rhimes success, not that ABC’s prized creator needs it. Very few producers have three top shows at a time, much less African American producers. Not to mention, she is a woman.
But do not associate the minority casting or female-driven direction of Rhimes’s series with her race or gender, at least not without getting admonished for being simpleminded. (Someone should have informed Stanley, perhaps her New York Times editor.) She is all about empowerment and creating a story world that reflects the real world. That means get used to seeing mix-raced casts, powerful women, and explored social complexes in anything this woman creates. And her talent and methods prove successful. But her accomplishments were not achieved without discipline and tenacity, not to mention a strong spine.
A Chicago native, 44-year-old Rhimes – who openly admits to struggling before hitting her stride – resided in her sister’s basement at one time. A self-proclaimed reformed dreamer (hoping to follow in the footsteps Nobel Prize Winner Toni Morrison), she concedes that dreamers end up living in relative’s basements. But Rhimes, for a challenge, chose to apply to University of Southern California School of Cinema-Television because it was reported as being harder to get into than Harvard. The won the challenge, earned a MFA, and made quick use of her degree finding success in television.
It appears the ball is always in Shonda Rhime’s court and she can play the game with the best of them. Rhimes’s caliber of work and value to ABC equates to NBC’s Dick Wolf, Fox’s Seth MacFarlane and CBS’s Chuck Lorre. She joined the ranks fast in 2005 with the success of Grey’s Anatomy, a show about a medical intern who falls in love with her boss while working to emerge from the shadows of her successful surgeon mother. Then Grey’s spinoff, Private Practice, was a hit running six seasons before Rhimes unleashed political drama Scandal.
Now she has Academy Award nominee Viola Davis starring in her newest project, How to Get Away with Murder. Davis plays Annalise Keating, a defense attorney and criminal law professor, who gets caught up with four of her law students in a twisted murder plot threatening to forever change their lives.
Rhimes’s series are based in medicine, politics, and now crime – all popular genres for primetime television (and equally popular topics in world news). And like most writers, she puts much of herself into the characters she creates. In fact, she admits that creating Grey’s Anatomy was like writing in a diary and she personally identifies with characters Meredith Grey, Christina Yang, and Miranda Bailey. Not to mention, she admittedly gives a black woman’s voice to Patrick Dempsey’s “McDreamy” character.
The acclaimed creator is known for tackling controversial subjects and crafting strong female leads. Like every woman, Rhimes’s leading women have flaws but their imperfections make them relatable to audiences. Then each week, the storylines are compelling. So for great television, tune in Thursday night to ABC. Thursday’s primetime is “RhimesTime” and guarantees to captivate for three full hours. By the end, it will not be denied that Shonda Rhimes delivers, takes no prisoners, and plays no games.
By Charice Long