Shonda Rhimes has been winning awards left and right recently! There was the Director’s Guild Diversity Award last year (which got all sorts of controversial press because of Shonda’s statement that she was “pissed off” that they even needed an award for such a thing) and recently the Sherry Lansing Leadership Award, which made headlines as Shonda broke the glass ceiling analogy by explaining that all the women who came before her cracked it first. Now she’s set to receive another award: The Paddy Chayesfsky Laurel Award for Television Writing Achievement (isn’t that a mouthful) from the Writer’s Guild of America.
Named after one of the most influential writers in entertainment history, the Paddy Chayefsky Laurel Award for Television Writing Achievement is the WGAW’s highest award for television writing, given to writers who have advanced the literature of television throughout the years and made outstanding contributions to the profession of the television writer. Past Television Laurel Award recipients include Steven Bochco, Susan Harris, Stephen J. Cannell, David Chase, Larry David, Diane English, Marshall Herskovitz & Ed Zwick, Joshua Brand & John Falsey, and, most recently, Garry Marshall.
See the names of those who have previously won this award? All white people. Only two women. Shonda will be the first black women, or woman of any color to receive this award — the guild’s “highest” award. That’s amazing. That’s inspiring. In a world where people of her gender and color are often marginalized, Shonda is not only making strides but giving opportunities to others who are pushed to the side. She’s showing us that you can have black leads and a diverse cast and dominate the ratings (competing even with football of all things). She’s providing complicated characters of varying colors who aren’t stereotypes but aren’t perfect either. And she’s writing (and/or producing) compelling television that has people tweeting and talking about episodes weeks after they air.
I love that she is getting all of this recognition and while Grey’s Anatomy is in its 11th season (!!), this should still be considered just the beginning of her career. I can see her name being attached to loads of TV shows, even if she’s not writing them, à la a lot of the other names on that list of Laurel Award recipients past.
Shonda’s not a perfect writer. There are think pieces all over the internet with regard to her characters and her writing style, but she hadn’t written TV before Grey’s Anatomy and all writing is a process. I think she is, more and more, realizing her brand and sees what’s working best for audiences and is adapting to it. Rhimes herself, in awards speeches she’s made, has mentioned how competitive she is, so receiving these awards means she’s only going to continue to grow and try to outdo herself. And I am excited to see what she’ll come up with next.
Check the press release here: Shonda Rhimes to Receive WGAW’s 2015 Paddy Chayefsky Laurel Award.
Check out the Post’s article on the PoC led dramas coming this fall. And a few are led by women! Numbers are getting better, but no where near where they need to be.
The link and a couple of quotes below.
With “Scandal” commanding $200,970 per 30-second advertising spot, it’s a cash cow.“The color Hollywood loves the most is green,” says Wilmore. “Shonda Rhimes really showed that you can have a black lead in your thriller and you can have a great show. She broke down that wall, and Hollywood follows success.”
Hollywood definitely follows the money. Hopefully these new shows prove to be great television as well. The problem we’ve faced in the past has not always been a lack of content (well, yes, this is the problem, but) sometimes the content put out there isn’t good. There are a lot of times people of color will watch a show featuring someone of their background and that will boost ratings, but ratings will drop off if they don’t consider the show good. It’s not just about representation in numbers, but representation in quality and content. Don’t just give us a show with a black person and say it’s diversity, the content has to be good as well.
Rina Mimoun, executive producer of “Red Band Society,” says that, because of the Rhimes effect, “people will open up their casting. There’s no reason not to.”
More and more producers are realizing this, but things still aren’t where they need to be. The Emmy’s certainly showed that with the small amount of PoC nominees and smaller winners (most weren’t even televised). Hopefully, with this new crop of PoC led shows, next year’s Emmy’s will feature more PoC nominees and winners (now that Breaking Bad is finally out of the race; and maybe Emmy voters will finally be over Modern Family).
(In addition to these current shows, let’s not forget Sleepy Hollow, also led by a black female–I don’t think the article mentioned it.)
via Minority actors land the lead roles in fall’s diverse TV lineup | New York Post.
Who are the people who vote for Emmy awards? Because who in their right mind sees Tatiana Maslany pull of five different roles and not give her an award for it? Seems to me the Emmy voter committee might need a diversity upgrade, like every other prestigious institution.
Shonda Rhimes is ABC’s biggest money maker right now. She’s been re-upped through 2018 and nearly all her shows get greenlit without much effort or fuss. Scandal is one of television’s hottest shows right now and Grey’s Anatomy has been 10 years strong, so it makes sense to keep that legacy going. And of course, if Grey’s starts to falter and Scandal has a tentative “end date,” then ABC wants to get some Shonda shows in there that could overlap and continue the dynasty. This fall, Thursdays become Shondalnd Thursdays. In addition to Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal, Shonda Rhimes’ new show, starring Viola Davis–How to Get Away with Murder–will premiere in the 10pm slot. Talk about a strong lead in. We know just from the Shonda brand that it will be highly watched, highly talked about, and will get ABC the Thursday ratings they want for the first few weeks at least.
But can she sustain it? Doing two shows at a time has got to be rough. The last time Shonda Rhimes had three shows on the air–no one remembers Off the Map, in conjunction with Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice? Exactly, that’s what happens when you have three shows on the air. Grey’s was in it’s seventh season and Private Practice in what became it’s second to last. Three shows is draining. Three shows is stretching yourself thin. Three shows is hoping you can trust the people in charge of your other shows with the characters, with the storylines. And while there are shows with big names attached spread across multiple shows (Dick Wolf (L&O), Jerry Bruckheimer), they don’t have the showrunner, creator, creative input that Shonda has. So we’ll see how well each show does with Shonda spreading herself across them like this.
My biggest example of a highly involved creator trying three shows at once is 2002 Joss Whedon.
As he was entering Buffy the Vampire Slayer‘s seventh season and Angel’s fourth season, Firefly came out. Cult hit that it (and the other two shows as well) was, that was a rough year for Whedonites. Yes, there were other factors to Firefly’s cancel (cough*FOX executive meddling*cough), but season 7 of Buffy and Angel’s 4th are some of the most contested seasons among fans. There’s a lot of dislike in the character development, storyline speed and progress, and just a general division among fans about whether or not they’re the weakest seasons in the bunch. Firefly was cancelled after 13 episodes (well, more like 10?), it became Buffy’s last season, and Angel’s second to last. In addition to all the other pressures that caused each show to go through it’s personal rough patch, it could not have helped that Joss had to concern himself with all three shows, in some way. Focusing on Firefly doesn’t mean that he could have completely ignored showrunner responsibilities for Angel and Buffy. That kind of stretching takes a toll on the showrunner and the shows.
I hope this doesn’t happen to Shonda. Both Grey’s (simply due to it’s length) and Scandal already have many fans once in love with the shows expressing apprehension about the coming seasons. Grey’s is losing a major, fan favorite character. Scandal’s struggled with White House saturation. With these cracks in the armor, can Shonda risk dividing her attention to another show? Only time, and ratings, will tell.
Tonight is the #Scandal season finale! I haven’t been recapping Scandal lately (busyness–I often don’t get home to watch it live, then had things to do Friday morning, no writing time–and my recap style fit more when the show was a tad bit more serial) but doesn’t mean I’m not still watching it. I’ll watch the finale as soon as I get home late tonight, but ahead of the episode, the internet is giving us loads of Scandal content to get us through the day.
These two links, both from Vulture, are different takes on Shonda Rhimes’ Scandal monologues. One is a monologue generator that I haven’t gotten to play with yet (but Shonda Rhimes has: )
and the other is breakdowns of 4 monologues from this season, by Joe Morton, Bellamy Young, Kate Burton, and Jeff Perry. These are fun games but also very useful for me.
Earlier this year I was writing a Scandal spec script for a TV writing class I was taking. I got pretty far, but Scandal fatigue and adding other things to my writing interests put it on hold for a while. But something I was struggling with was figuring out how and where and who to give a brilliant Scandal monologue to. It’s hard work. The obvious choice would be Joe Morton’s character Eli, but he wasn’t quite giving me one. And I was so focused on trying to give him one (because he is my favorite character on the show) that I ruled out everyone else and I think I was suffering for that.
He could still get the monologue, but now I have a new idea! Use the Vulture Scandal Monologue generator! Obviously not to take whatever I get when I play, but I think the generator breaks down the monologues from the show in ways that would be beneficial to me looking at my spec and including one. It starts off with themes and goes from there. Once I break down the theme of my episode (another aspect I was struggling with–Shonda is very theme heavy in her episodes and it’s always good to know what yours is, but I haven’t broken down the theme to go with the plot of my episode), I can use this generator to get a monologue for it.
Sometimes you have to know how to use the fun of the internet to actually do work and understand things that were giving you trouble. I can’t wait to try it. If you use it, comment with your monologue!
I think another brilliant thing I just came up with could be to use all those Buzzfeed quizzes to learn more about your characters, just take them in their voice and use the end result as a way to understand your characters more. Or maybe your character wouldn’t take a Buzzfeed quiz. That’s telling too!
This week’s episode started off with a bang. Well, two bangs. Olivia and Fitz meet up and “review the numbers” then have an all out RAGING fight. All with poor Jake awkwardly chatting with the Secret Service right outside the door. I loved the fight and it was about time Olivia stood up for herself. Fitz is getting more and more ridiculous with the things he says and the things he demands from the people around him, especially the women. He doesn’t appreciate Olivia for what she brings to the table, what she wants, what she needs and Liv finally let him know. He didn’t really do anything in the rest of the episode that told me he was adjusting or changing, so we’ll see if this is just his character and the way the writers are going to continue to write him or if this is leading to a character development arc. Because Fitz, of all the characters on the show, needs the most character development in order for fans to continue to like him or believe that Olivia loves this man. (You may say, but Quinn needs some character development too! No, Quinn needs to die.) I suppose, in lack of a Papa Pope Speech of the Week, we can give Kerry some serious award noms for her part in the fight. She really did tell him about himself and that not everything is about him. I almost forgot to look for Kerry’s baby bump!
Some of the episode flashes back to the California governor’s mansion 14 years ago. Andrew Nichols, in the present, owns to some prescription drug use that someone is planting to use against the Grant campaign. But back in 2000, it was Mellie who took the pills. She was feeling sick and tired of her life, unable to look at Fitz or even touch him, scared that her kid wasn’t his and really feeling overwhelmed. Nichols finds her and stays up all night to make sure she makes it through and boy does he fall hard. But Mellie has a backbone and resists his charms, despite everyone kind of understanding and knowing where Fitz is headed in terms of his own marital screw-ups. But two wrongs don’t make a right, until the present day, when Mellie couldn’t take it anymore. Nichols certainly gets to touch the First Lady (and with Mellie’s hair like it was, she looked so great!) and he did it once, so he decides to do it again–this time the painting of Jackie O he was admiring before he had another first lady to admire. Fitz is already pissed about Jake being “a fox in his hen house” so it’ll be interesting to see what conniption he experiences when he finds out his other “loyal” “trusted” friend is a fox. Even with how he dismisses Mellie, he wants to have his cake and eat it too, he doesn’t want her to do anything he doesn’t want. Fitz’ control issues are spiraling out of control and I believe it’s all because he found out about Defiance. And he started drinking.
Speaking of spiraling (weak transition, I know), poor Jake. He’s been command for over a month now, but B6-13 let him get settled before delivering the whammy. He gets a suitcase of mysterious files, all of the nations secrets. With very daunting words like “protect the republic.” Jake doesn’t seem like he was ready for this; he’s seeing how lonely it is at the top. The suitcase clearly stated that he was to act with no interference from the executive branch and to stay a step ahead of the president, etc, etc. He thought he was going in with Fitz by his side, but between Olivia and the weight of his office, his buddy is getting farther and farther away and the weight is getting heavier. I know many of us certainly loved the scene where he uses his “boyfriend of Olivia Pope key” to demand some real food in the house and to go take a shower. But the seams are more visible and the pressure will get to him more and more, I am sure.
Well, I suppose at least Jake isn’t James. James is about to shake right out of his skin, he really wasn’t made for this covert ops, behind his husband’s back stuff. The littlest sound is setting him off and his meeting with David under the bridge (or wherever that seemed to be) made me laugh at how cliche it was for a secret meeting between “spies.” He’s not ready for B6-13.
And neither is Quinn (I’m really killing these transitions aren’t I ;-)). Quinn makes me more and more angry as the season progresses. She wants to find her own way? So go back to being the girl you were before you were Quinn. Olivia and Huck made you Quinn and if you want express your independence, why not go back to whatever your name was before (you make me so angry I’ve chosen to forget what your real name is)? Don’t pull a gun on the person who’s best suited to save your life when the time comes. She walked into Jake’s office cocky as I don’t know what, but you got caught on your first go round by Olivia. Not Rowan, not Charlie, but Olivia, who isn’t exactly covert ops material herself (she’d be in the command station doling out orders). You didn’t even try to hide when spying on Rowan and someone is going to get fed up with you and kill you. And the entire audience is going to cheer with glee (we’re all still kind of on Huck’s side about the torture thing–he just went a little too far with the licking). Huck kinda made me nervous though, bringing Olivia coffee like he was. Who knew what could have been in that coffee, considering his background. But it was apology coffee. Not for hurting Quinn, but for Olivia’s anger about it. Huck doesn’t let his desire for an apology stop him from telling Olivia about himself and herself. “You should have never given me someone to love. Monsters eat people, Liv. It;s what we do.” Oh Huck. It’s so telling about how he sees himself and his relationship with Olivia. And he loved Quinn. He took her under his wing and loved her and she went betrayed the master (if we’re sticking with Huck’s puppy metaphor), so he had to take a couple bites out of her for that. I wish he’d gotten a couple of more bites in.
Finally, I sat on my last post for about a week, hoping to unleash my theory about Adnan Salif working with Mama Pope and they reveal it the very next episode! I still KNEW IT! I really wonder what they’re up to, though. Adnan has now gotten her way into the Grant campaign camp, despite Cyrus knowing how criminal she is, and it was Mama’s idea? What’s the plan? And how will it interact with Eli’s plan to destroy Fitz? No way Maya wants Fitz to continue being president (certainly not without some damage somewhere), he knows about her and was the man who pulled her trigger. But if she does something to destroy Fitz, how does that play with Eli’s plan? Will they end up working on the same team somehow? What dangerous red strings of fate are being intertwined as we hurtle toward the end of the season?
Spec Inspiration: How to Raise the Stakes by Challenging a Character’s Identity
Make the character prove his point. Once your character’s identity has been challenged, make him or her prove that the challenge is incorrect.
This idea might help me with my Scandal spec. I’ve been struggling with giving Olivia more to do. She has some role in the major plots of the episode, sure, but a lot of that is easily delegated. I’m struggling with her wanting something, more than “to clear his name” or whatever the case may be. But this helps.
I’ve been trying to find a way to explore Olivia’s relationship with both Fitz and her dad and by using this idea, I can have one refer/label her relationship with the other, then have her rebel against the idea. Haven’t figured out which way yet.
Shonda used this herself, when she had Cyrus question Fitz’ “balls.” Fitz went off and proved himself and went back to Cyrus asking, “How presidential are my balls now, Cy?” The audience loved it, but it also gave Fitz something to do, something to want in that episode. I need to use it with this one.
More spec updates soon! Once I stop distracting myself with other blog thoughts (new blog coming soon lol).
via How to Raise the Stakes by Challenging a Character’s Identity [Read to Write Stories]