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Whether you’ve been desperately hooked on Grey’s Anatomy for 10 years, currently binging on Scandal episodes via Netflix, or have discovered a new found love for How To Get Away With Murder, you’ve likely come to terms with the fact that Shonda Rhimes has a strong grip on your entertainment pleasure. The writer and creator for these three hit shows (all at one point or another Emmy nominated) is the mastermind and powerhouse behind your Thursday night television schedule. Almost like Oz himself, Rhimes is similarly the puppeteer stringing us along these shows. In some cases, audiences have clung to all three.
Shonda’s fans are so immensely dedicated to her work that some Grey’s fans have felt that Scandal and HTGAWM watchers are not truly committed. When Mellie is having a "stuff your face" moment with a bucket of chicken over her son’s grave, President Grant just can’t logistically pencil in time for a quickie with Ms. Pope. If Fitz and Oliva aren't doing well, some may change the channel whereas veteran Shonda fans have learned to stick it through for the long-awaited reunions of a couple or friendship.
Shonda sometimes pays that price. Her storylines are addicting, the characters are our family and the suspense is imminently painful with every episode and season that passes — and that equation applies across the board with Grey’s, Scandal and HTGAWM. It seems impossible, but there is some undiscovered recipe that Rhimes has mastered and luckily for us, we’re reaping the rewards.
Before ABC had a hold on Thursday nights, it was NBC who initiated Thursday as "must-see TV" with hit shows like Friends, Seinfeld, Mad About You, 30Rock and The Office. In due time though, those shows aired their final episodes and ABC stepped in with the takeover. First came Grey's Anatomy, and the Shonda takeover has been successful ever since.
Photo Credit: ABC
One unique factor that contributes to both fan and outsider interest of ABC's Thursday lineup is how table reads for actors can be just as exciting (or even dramatic) as they are for the viewers. Case in point, Patrick Dempsey had no idea what Rhimes had up her sleeve for his character until his lines were suddenly forever done. When the alluring Kerry Washington is asked about the unsteady future between she and Fitz, the actress consistently insists she has no idea. Only Shonda knows.
That’s truly a significant indicator of an appealing and luring show, because if actors are in on the spoilers, pieces of the storyline are bound to slip and fans would eventually grow disinterested in a story that’s plot has already been resolved in real time. Not knowing what is to come helps with acting, too.
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Again, take Dr. Derek Shepherd who lost his life to malpractice in the season finale this May. His TV wife, Ellen Pompeo, acted out heartbreak for her TV husband and real life co-worker leaving her.
There had been rumors that Pompeo and Dempsey were having issues though on set, potentially due to rumors that he had cheated on his wife Jillian Fenk, whom Pompeo is friends with. Though Pompeo never put out a statement after Dempsey's exit, he teared up with emotion when Entertainment Weekly asked about working with Pompeo. He said they were in a “very good place" and when asked about their chemistry, he said “It’s magic. It’s beautiful. We’re like a married couple. It’s been 10 years, and it was magic from the beginning.”
Another modern technique to Rhimes’ work is her requirement for all actors to tweet on a regular basis as well as live-tweet during the show - retweeting fans, responding to questions and partaking in the drama as if they were watching with the audience. In the scheme of successful television, some might see Twitter and social media as insignificant but it’s not at all. When Olivia Pope is rooting for a quick rendezvous in the Oval Office, then so is everyone else! When Patrick Dempsey is tweeting his fans thanking them for years of support and basking in the universal sorrow of his dead character, then those shows come to life and people are in it for the long haul.
Photo Credit: ABC
The last five or so years should not be the only time you remember Rhimes being praised for her work. The Dartmouth grad was named by TIME in 2007 as one of the 100 people who shape the world and again in 2013 as one of the most 100 influential people. Before creating her gripping story lines at Seattle Grace and Washington D.C., the Chicago native was directing Britney Spears in the 2001 film Crossroads and despite the harsh critic reviews, the pop-star’s film debut raked in over $60 million. Does that mean Britney could be making an appearance on a Shondaland original? Maybe… but probably not.
Photo Credit: ABC
We know how much you cherish your Thursday nights with a glass of red wine and a big bowl of popcorn. And even if Derek’s death still haunts you or Olivia Pope’s love triangle still messes with your head, we hope you understand that the powerhouse of these remarkably written shows has your back. Shonda know’s what she’s doing and there is no one we’d rather have in the director’s chair than the woman who got her start with Britney Spears and eventually created a 14-season hit show.
Shonda Rhimes is the goddess of television and the keeper of her audience’s hearts. So before tuning in next month to pick up where we left off, remember that being a citizen of Shondaland is not a temporary gig - it’s a full time job. So sit down, sign into Twitter and enjoy your favorite show(s) with the whole world!