Shonda Rhimes: The Most Powerful Woman in Television?

shondaIf it’s at all possible that you don’t know who Shonda Rhimes is, it is likely that you are familiar with her work.

She’s responsible for some of the highest-rated television dramas of the past decade, including the medical juggernaut Grey’s Anatomy, its now-canceled spinoff, Private Practice, the fast-paced Washington, D.C., crisis management drama Scandal, and now, announced at this week’s upfronts,  the upcoming Viola Davis legal vehicle, How to Get Away with Murder. This means that by fall, Rhimes will have her own three-hour block of primetime drama every Thursday night, which makes her one of the most powerful women in television.

According to, after lengthy negotiations, ABC Studios/Disney offered Rhimes a four-year extension, valued at eight figures, which will keep her at ABC Studios through May 2018.

Rhimes is incredibly prolific. She cut her teeth as a screenwriter (guess who wrote the Britney Spears film, Crossroads?), but also directed her own short films before becoming a producer. She’s been working nonstop since 1995 and her seemingly endless well of ideas gives her a lot of Hollywood currency.

Not everything she does takes off – her pilot for period drama Gilded Lilys was not picked up as a series after it aired in 2012.  ABC passed on the Rhimes-produced Issa Rae series I Hate LA Dudes last year, and Off the Map, a show Rhimes executive-produced, lasted only four months before it was canceled. But by keeping herself involved in multiple layers of storytelling and producing, Rhimes manages to keep a full stable of powerhouse shows going year after year.

Rhimes is big on pushing diversity, which not only gives us a break from the monotony of most primetime television, but allows for new and interesting talent to emerge. She loves to create feminist-leaning women, from the frank and gutsy Cristina Yang on Grey’s Anatomy to the bold and direct Olivia Pope on Scandal. It’s refreshing to see Asian and African-American characters front and center, given the same character development as their white counterparts.

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