Sink or swim. The method gains new meaning starting Thursdays at 10 p.m. on ABC. Shonda Rhimes’s newest endeavor, How to Get Away with Murder, features an intensive Criminology 101 class taught by professor Annalise Keating (Oscar nominee Viola Davis) in America’s heartland: Philadelphia.
Keating, a successful defense attorney, and four of her students collaborate on her latest murder trial. Inevitably, they are interwoven in other crimes, the most notable being obtaining evidence illegally (one of Keating’s immersion tactics).
Shot on location in collegiate Pennsylvania, the latest legal drama has already set the bar higher with its promising cast. The dreamy Matt McGory from Netflix’s Orange is the New Black was first on board and is to play Asher, one of Davis’s law students. The criminology classroom is rounded out by ABC veteran Liza Weil (Scandal) and the beloved Alfred Enoch, who played Dean Thomas in the Harry Potter franchise.
How to Get Away With Murder could have easily been washed out in the slew of criminal dramas that steal our precious sleep. However, producer Shonda Rhimes, of Greys Anatomy and Scandal success, and lead Viola Davis set it apart. Without the “dreamteam”, it would, arguably, be predestined to follow the scores of ABC shows past: slow at first, then emergent as a cult favorite.
Murder seems to break this mold- already capturing strong tumblr and twitter fanbases that are prepared to defend their newest fandom in a way that would make Annalise Keating proud.
A recent article by the New York Times’s longtime critic Alessandra Stanley scathed Rhimes as being an “angry black woman” and Davis as being “not classically beautiful”. Stanley has received extreme backlash in letters and on social media; editor Margaret Sullivan deemed the article “at best- astonishingly tone deaf and out of touch.”
Stanley insists her article was misinterpreted and taken at face value- that it was her intention to praise Rhimes’s work within television. While the article was largely optimistic, the first line used a rhetorical advice that was misconstrued and admittedly racist.
“When Shonda Rhimes writes her autobiography, it should be called ‘How to Get Away with Being an Angry Black Woman’”.
It has inspired editing concerns among one of the largest newspaper publications in America.
Even before its debut, How to Get Away with Murder is changing the face of media. It has raised important questions and still maintained its purpose as a show: to entertain. Much like Keating’s law students, Rhimes’s endeavor must learn to sink or swim.