ConStar Clicks #2, a little later than usual, but full of Jane the Virgin, Annie and Shondaland goodness.
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 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.
a ZEN PENCILs comics drawn from Shonda Rhimes' Darthmouth commencement address tells us to DO in classic Shonda speak.
More Diversity in Prime Time: It’s Not Your Imagination – The Root
This article mostly talk about black-ish in the aftermath of it’s premiere yesterday, but it also spotlights Jane the Virgin, which I must say was probably my favorite pilot this fall. Check it out!
Also check out two more articles regarding blackish:
In ABC’s ‘Black-ish,’ everyone has racial issues [Washington Post]
Black-ish: “Pilot”: Don’t call it the black Modern Family [AV Club]
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.
This Is What Black People Watch And Don’t Watch On Premium Cable
Wow all sorts of great articles about black TV viewership and creation today!
This one is about black premium cable audiences. It seems that black people have higher percentages on black shows (new Starz series Power, The Wire and the short-lived No 1 Ladies Detective Agency–which I totally mean to watch one day, Jill Scott and mysteries?! Two of my favorite things!) and a lot of popular, mainstream shows with little to no diversity don’t make the top ten list. Game of Thrones, a show I know quite a few black people who watch, has 13% black audience, but I think that’s definitely not counting alternate means of viewership.
This quote, about Power creator (who I am surprised but pleased to hear is a woman, considering what little I know about the show, I wasn’t expecting it): “Courtney Kemp Agboh — who, as a woman of color who is not Shonda Rhimes, is an extreme rarity.” It’s true. A black woman creator in scripted TV who isn’t Shonda? Shocker.
Check out the article and the percentages in the link at the top.
“Let’s not pretend we’re there yet,” when it comes to the television industry accurately reflecting the demographics of America, ABC president Paul Lee said at the Television Critics Association press tour Tuesday. “I think we’re taking a very good step along that journey. But to be able to pull this off, you need not just stars on air […] [y]ou need the storytellers and you need the executives. I’m very proud of the fact that if you look at the executives who do development and do programming and marketing, across ABC, it’s a very diverse group of people.
via ABC Heralds Diverse Lineup Of Shows At TCA.
Seems like the president of ABC, Paul Lee isn’t trying to say they’ve reached Diversity (yes, capital D) on TV just yet, despite ABC’s wide selection of both supporting actors, leads, and full series that feature diverse families as the lead (though not sure how I feel about Asian “clan,” you already used family twice, either use three different words for family or all the same. Anyway–). It’s nice to see that ABC isn’t trying to say they’ve won anything or that there isn’t more work to be done. There definitely is.
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!
Last week, I was blessed to have been able to attend a NYWiFT Panel on the current state of black women on screen at Harlem venue My Image Studios (MiST). It was very inspiring and I got to watch Scandal afterwards with a room full of Gladiators. It was pretty amazing. Here are some of the questions and responses below (featuring general essence of their answers, with direct quotes from my notes).
The panelists for the evening were: Neema Barnette, Julie Dash, Sharon Hope, Chenoa Maxwell, and Rachel Watanabe-Batton with Ylana Kellar as the moderator. You can google them and check out their work like I have been. They’ve all been working in Hollywood trying to get the stories of black women told in the right ways and the things they had to say were very inspiring for all future black artists: whether actors, writers, directors, producers, any kind of black content creator.
The questions and answers are below as slides, click one and read through! These ladies were really inspirational and it was great to just be in a room with other like-minded people. Hopefully the roles portrayed by black actresses will continue to expand in number and in character dimension.