Shonda Rhimes’ Thursday lineup on ABC showcases diversity

Lauren Fitz and Lauren Fitz

After a long summer hiatus, ABC’s Thursday night programming block, dubbed “TGIT” by the network and fans, premiered on Sept. 24. And after the first night of the show aired, showrunner Shonda Rhimes has once again proven to never second guess her television prowess. Warning: This article contains spoilers for “How To Get Away With Murder.”

Before the start of the TV season, Rhimes and “Grey’s” star Ellen Pompeo addressed fans’ worries about how “Grey’s Anatomy,” the original ShondaLand show, would handle this season without male lead Patrick Dempsey, whose character was killed off towards the end of the last season.

In an interview with Melissa Maerz for Entertainment Weekly, Ellen Pompeo said how upset she is that people thought Meredith needed a man in order for the show to be successful, especially considering the strong female leads present in all of Rhimes’ shows.

“It’s like, Annalise Keating carries the show, Olivia Pope carries the show … But somehow, Meredith Grey needs someone. Why can’t I just be the lead of the show the way Annalise and Olivia can? Why can’t I be on that poster by myself?” Pompeo said.

Rhimes was able to prove everyone wrong when the block of programming premiered Thursday with new plot twists, which critics and fans approve of.

One unexpected twist came with the reveal of “How To Get Away With Murder” main character Annalise Keating (portrayed by recent Emmy winner for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series Viola Davis), who was revealed to be bisexual. This is major in terms of character development, as Keating’s bisexuality wasn’t explored at all in the first season.

Characters on Rhimes’ shows come from all over various spectrums in regards to race and sexuality. On “Grey’s Anatomy,” one of the characters, Arizona Robbins, is a lesbian and another character, Callie Torres, is bisexual. The couple, dubbed “Calzona” by fans, was one of the best known and positive lesbian couples depicted on TV, eventually getting married. On “Scandal,” former Chief-of-Staff Cyrus Beene is an out gay man. The show even featured a gay wedding with Cyrus marrying his new boyfriend. Last season, viewers quickly fell in love with the stereotype-defying relationship between characters Connor and Oliver on “How To Get Away With Murder,” even giving them the ship name of “Coliver.” Rhimes also has many biracial couples on her show, from Olivia Pope and Fitz on “Scandal,” to Cristina Yang and Owen Hunt from “Grey’s Anatomy.” Rhimes isn’t afraid to take risks when it comes to her TV characters and represent all different kinds of people.

Rhimes is what makes the TGIT lineup work. Last season, Rhimes was the only female showrunner to have her own night of TV, especially on the coveted Thursday night block of TV. She has consistently been praised for her casting method, as Rhimes employs a colorblind casting system, in which she writes and casts roles without thinking of the characters race. Rhimes also implements these techniques within her own production company, ShondaLand Productions, which is one of the most diverse production companies in the television industry, which has been praised as the all male production companies have slowly been diversifying in terms of race and gender.

And that’s why you should never underestimate the power of Shonda Rhimes.