Scott D. Pierce: It’s all about Shonda for ABC on Thursdays

First Published      Last Updated Jun 30 2016 03:41 pm

Beginning next month, Thursday night will be Shonda night on ABC.

Shonda Rhimes, that is. She's the executive producer of "Grey's Anatomy." And "Scandal." And "How to Get Away With Murder," which is scheduled to premiere on Thursday, Sept. 25.

The three shows will air back-to-back-to-back on Thursday nights from 7-10 p.m. MT. Which, given the success of "Grey's" and "Scandal," isn't a bad idea. And given that CBS will be airing NFL football on Thursday nights through Oct. 23, looks like really smart counter-programming.

Rhimes — ever prickly with the press — brushed off the ideas that she's either (a) overly powerful, or (b) overly stressed by having three shows on the air, all on the same night.

"I'm getting up and going to work every day and we're all doing our jobs," she said. "And I don't think I'm thinking of it in terms of the night. I think it's exciting and it's a great vote of confidence from ABC, and that's fantastic. But I think we have shows to make and that's always been my focus.

"I don't really think about the programming [decisions] and I don't think about the ratings," Rhimes said. "I don't worry about those things. We just worry about making great shows."

That's not altogether believable. If ratings are bad a show will be canceled, no matter how good the producer thinks it is.

But it's obviously true that ABC has huge confidence in Rhimes and her team.

"Grey's Anatomy" is an aging show that still does good ratings. "Scandal" is one of ABC's biggest hits, even though its mix of soap opera and presidential politics is utterly insane. Rhimes bristles anytime anyone refers to "Scandal" as a guilty pleasure, but it is just that. Clearly.

Crazy worked so well that ABC bought "How to Get Away With Murder," which is both completely different from "Scandal" and weirdly the same.

"Murder" stars Viola Davis ("The Help") as a lawyer/law professor who enlists the help of her students in murder cases. It, too, is utterly insane, but — after seeing the pilot — it's a pretty good bet it's the kind of show "Scandal" fans are going to love.

"The initial idea came from the fact that I find my life very boring," said creator/executive producer Pete Nowalk, "but I find putting normal people in extreme circumstances to be a theme that I find very appealing. So what's more extreme than being a first-year law student who's kind of innocent and naive and being thrust into a murder?"

There is indeed a murder in the first hour. And some of the characters seem to be trying to get away with it.

But Nowalk — a veteran of both "Grey's" and "Scandal" — warns that viewers should not jump to conclusions.

"Well, the theme of the show is no one is who they seem to be," he said.

Scott D. Pierce covers television for The Salt Lake Tribune. Email him at spierce@sltrib.com; follow him on Twitter @ScottDPierce.