It’s always a bummer when Netflix cancels our fave binge-worthy shows, but they make it up to us by sinking more money into instant-classic originals like Glow and Stranger Things. Netflix’s most recent content move is a huge one: They’ve taken Shonda Rhimes from ABC in a multi-year, multi-million dollar development deal that will see her production company Shondaland’s future shows as Netflix original series.
Rhimes’ current hits — Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal (heading into its last season), and How to Get Away With Murder — will continue to air on ABC as the TGIT block, and the upcoming Grey’s Anatomy spinoff seems set to stay put as well. Sources at ABC seem confident that little will change with the remaining shows, but Shondaland will have a whole new playing field at Netflix, where the rules are a little different than traditional broadcast TV.
There’s no doubt that Netflix has led a significant change in TV viewing habits. Shows go up on streaming services all at once, designed to be binge-watched and, as a result, conceived and executed differently than a TV show that airs over many months. You don’t have to write or edit around commercials, and there are no last-minute story or character changes based on week-to-week ratings, no inconvenient time slots, and fewer content restrictions than on broadcast networks.
Rhimes’ current shows are appointment viewing (have you been on Twitter when Scandal or HTGAWM are on?!), so she definitely knows how to thrive in a traditional TV environment. But Netflix might not lend itself as nicely to the weekly cliffhangers and of-the-moment story and character arcs we’ve come to expect from Shondaland.
But it could, of course, open up a whole new world of storytelling options that service the vision more than the network. When, in 2015, NBC passed on Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and Netflix picked it up, the show’s creator Tina Fey said it gave them a kind of creative freedom they wouldn’t be afforded on network TV. “It will take time to find a new rhythm, but now you can say and do whatever you want,” she told the NYT. Netflix, at the time, asked for no creative changes in the show, which was already deep in production for TV. They were also able to let the episodes run longer than would have been possible on still-commercial-reliant TV.
“We always lost between five and seven minutes of 30 Rock [in the editing process],” Jane Krakowski said at the time. “I think we all started talking so fast on that show so our jokes wouldn’t get cut.”
With all of the differences, both subtle and obvious, between making a show for Netflix or making one for TV, there will no doubt be some changes to the Shondaland formula. Even if they don’t work for her existing audience, there’s the possibility of attracting a whole new set of fans, and either way, it seems a sure bet that a lot of people will be watching to see.
Are you excited to see what Shonda Rhimes brings to Netflix? Let us know @BritandCo!
(Photo via Andrew Toth/Getty)