To be frank, if you haven’t seen any of Shonda Rimes’ work by now I’m not sure I can help you. You’re clearly a hermit and one with appalling television taste at that. But, in the interests of philanthropy, I am willing to educate you. Because I’m a humanitarian.
In case you didn’t know, Rimes is the creator, head writer and executive producer of Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, and, her most recent brainchild, How to Get Away With Murder. I don’t feel like it’s a spoiler to tell you that the show involves people getting murdered and how the murderers endeavour to cover up what they’ve done. Swinging between snappy courtroom drama, long monologues and scenes that could have been lifted from a Saw movie this is no show for the faint-hearted. But it is so worth it. You will never have loved or hated characters this much and you probably never will again.
In the supporting cast you might recognise an all grown up Alfred Enoch from his Harry Potter days, Matt McGorry from Orange is the New Black and Liza Weil from a small part in the first season of Scandal. But it is Viola Davis who dominates as Annalise Keating; a lawyer and legal professor who takes on an ambitious group of students to be her personal lackeys for the academic year. They could seriously do the entire show with just her: she takes off her make up and you can’t look away, she turns her death stare to the camera and you’re cowering under the duvet. After several especially inspiring speeches I have actually air-punched and shouted ‘fuck yes’.
It would be remiss to discuss HTGAWM without mentioning its commitment to diversity. The cast is noticeably diverse with regard to race, sexuality and gender. And the storylines, like Scandal, repeatedly tackles race issues, women’s issues, gay issues, trans issues and just general privilege without so much as stopping for breath. None of this should be noteworthy in 2016, but it is, and HTGAWM owns this. This show is not just for your entertainment; it is also trying to challenge you. It calls out your privilege over and over again, and whilst this occasionally makes for uncomfortable watching, it is such a good thing.
Now fair warning: entering Shondaland is not to be taken lightly. These shows will make you so woke that most other TV will be ruined for you. And there is no going back. Once you enter you are basically Rimes’ bitch, and your entire happiness hangs precariously on her will. And her will is fearsome. Rimes cares nothing for how much you love a character or how much emotional commitment you have invested in a fictional relationship, and she definitely does not give a crap about your nerves. I imagine that emotionally one episode of HTGAWM or Scandal is a bit like raising a child. The screaming and pain and gruesomeness makes you never want to repeat the experience, but you love it so much you can’t stop.
Image courtesy of dirtshirt.net.