This article contains information that could be considered too revealing according to our spoiler policy. Proceed with caution. You can't unsee it!Reason Contains details about the series premiere we gleaned from our screener.
Shonda Rhimes Wants Your Entire Thursday Night
Resistance is futile, so pour some red wine and assimilate with her latest sure-to-be-hit, How To Get Away With Murder.
What Is This Thing?
Behold, Shondaland's latest attraction. The premiere episode hasn't even aired yet and it's already blown up the internet. (ICYMI: a NYT columnist labeled show producer Shonda Rhimes an "Angry Black Woman" and vomited up several more incendiary race-specific assertions, then subsequently got her ass handed to her.)
Here's an overview that will -- fingers crossed -- not offend the general populace and incite a Twitter war: Viola Davis takes that old "turn to your left, turn to your right" ball-busting law professor trope, gives it a shot of adrenaline, and sticks it into a sharp pencil skirt. She plays law professor Annalise Keating, a savvy Philadelphia defense attorney who enlists her best and brightest students to help her win her real-life cases. The law students' extracurricular activities include lying, cheating, stealing, and sexing. Also, there's murder, because, you know...the title.
When Is It On?
Thursdays at 10 on ABC.
Why Was It Made Now?
Rhimes & Co. already has scads of drama-holic devotees tuning in each Thursday for Emmy-winners Grey's Anatomy and Scandal. The piling on of a third consecutive hour is just a brand-extending, money-making no-brainer. Now, if Rhimes and her think tank could just bind them all together with a Schoolhouse Rock-type edutainment interstitial, they'll have covered all the bases.
What's Its Pedigree?
The show was birthed by the aforementioned Rhimes and Peter Nowalk (Grey's writer, Scandal co-executive producer, and confirmed non-"Angry Black Woman"). It's been reported that he handed the idea to Rhimes and she deemed the idea of casting Viola Davis "cute," thinking the Oscar-nominated star would never go for it. Davis is, of course, best known for her film roles in Doubt and The Help. But since the small screen is chockablock with Hollywood types these days, she fits right in.
The roll call in this, the most ethically-breached of all law school classes, includes Orange Is The New Black's Matt "Bennett" McGorry, Katie Findlay from The Carrie Diaries, and Alfie Enoch, a.k.a. "Dean Thomas," a.k.a. Hogwarts's only black student with a speaking role in the Harry Potter films. Meanwhile, on the professor's legal team, there's Liza Weil, known to some from her role on Gilmore Girls and others from Bunheads. But Shonda fans know her as the White House intern who pulled a Lewinsky on Scandal. On HTGAWM she spends a lot of time side-eyeing her student-banging officemate, played by Charlie Weber. If you don't remember him from that painful "Ben is Glory" arc on Buffy, you're a lucky soul. Rounding out the cast, there's Sons Of Anarchy's Billy Brown, who plays a shady cop by day, and the professor's boy-toy by night.
Everyone has great hair, perfect wardrobes, snarky comebacks to spare, and way more secrets than the average non-Shondaland human. In the very first scene, we learn that the teacher's pets have one massive secret in the form of a dead body wrapped in a carpet.
Even though these students are (young) adults, we're still saddled with the same old high-school movie archetypes: the kiss-up; the brooding, edgy one; the amped-up bro; the conniving, catty one; and the nice guy who just wants everyone to get along. It remains to be seen whether these characters will be allowed to break out of those molds. Will the goody-goody turn into a psychopathic "Quinn" type? Will the slimy one have a "come to Jesus moment" and expose them all for their sins? Will the bro transfer to labor law once he realizes he's essentially sold his soul in exchange for an unpaid internship? It doesn't take long for the reveal that Professor Keating's death glare and take-no-prisoners demeanor are masking vulnerability and issues galore. Perhaps the flashbacks -- this show's narrative mode of choice -- will reveal some compelling alter-egos for the students as well.
Good-looking people being ruthless for an hour is a proven recipe for success. Knowing Nowalk's work even casually, you can expect weekly bombshells, over-the-top meltdowns and long-winded monologues. While it's definitely fun to watch, three uninterrupted hours of it may be a bit much. But, as a stand-alone show, HTGAWM will easily hit all its targets. Your aunt will plaster her FB wall with to-the-minute reactions. The moms at soccer practice will say they feel like pervs for lusting over a Harry Potter character, even though he's legal now. And the lady who always manages to corner you in the break room will make declarations about which of Davis's jewel-toned leather jackets she wishes she could find at the mall. You can't not watch.