Shonda Rhimes is the new queen of ABC.
ABC (a subsidiary of Disney (NYSE:DIS)) just revealed its new fall schedule, and with a dozen new shows ordered all eyes were on which would get the most coveted primetime real estate. Turns out the biggest news was the net's plans to thoroughly transform Thursday nights into ShondaLand.
A triple threat
Shonda Rhimes has had a presence on Thursday nights for the past few seasons thanks to Grey's Anatomy and Scandal (and prior to that with Private Practice), but this will be the first time she's had a full night of programming to herself. Even Chuck Lorre, with four comedies at CBS, has yet to pull that off.
Having her two established series and newest offering, How to Get Away With Murder, air back-to-back-to-back is gutsy and bold ... and will also likely work.
When I say Thursdays at 8 p.m. have been the bane of ABC's existence since 2006, you might think I'm being overly dramatic, but that timeslot has been cursed for the network. A person walking under a ladder carrying a black cat and a broken mirror would have better luck than ABC's had finding a show to slot there.
In the time since Ugly Betty wrapped, we've seen everything from the high concept (Last Resort) to the highly absurd (Charlie's Angels reboot anyone?). Last year ABC thought it had it figured out with Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, the spinoff of Sunday night hit Once Upon a Time. But that didn't work out either and the death slot claimed another victim.
Moving Grey's Anatomy to the trouble spot seems like a safe move -- it's the network's most established drama. But you have to wonder if it will get knocked around by whatever CBS slots there once its Thursday Night Football package ends. Currently, the assumption is that it will be The Big Bang Theory, not exactly a fair fight (though apparently ABC is willing roll the dice).
The biggest question, however, is how Scandal will do at 9 p.m. versus The Blacklist when it eventually makes the move to Thursdays. This ratings battle won't actually happen until February, and seeing as how Scandal will again operate on a spilt-season model, the first face-off could even be delayed to March. If that happens then the feud will last just two and a half months ... which, while contentious, won't be as a big of a hit to either network as if they started the season head-to-head.
Regardless, The Blacklist versus Scandal will be one of the biggest timeslot showdowns of the new TV season, but it's way too early to call a favorite in that race. Both shows know how to keep their audiences interested and both shows have more than once proven their story lines can go places other shows fear to tread. It should be an intense battle, but that's why we have DVRs.
A Perfect Murder?
Rhimes' latest series, How to Get Away With Murder, is arguably the network's most buzzed about project and realistically the Thursday at 10 p.m. slot seems perfect for it as the drama will likely appeal to Scandal's audience.
Starring Oscar nominee Viola Davis (a "A-list get" ABC is still smiling about), the show has the ultimate pair of lead-ins and could break out in a big way. Like Rhimes' other shows, it's ensemble-based, led by a strong female character, and looks to be the perfect mix of "soap" and sultry. In other words, audiences should love it.
Giving Rhimes the trifecta is a statement -- along with a just-announced extension on her ShondaLand production deal with ABC Studios -- that proclaims her the network's official "fixer."
Olivia Pope would be proud.
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Brett Gold has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Walt Disney. The Motley Fool owns shares of Walt Disney. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.