Five years. That’s how long it’s been since we’ve witnessed the arrival of a new Shonda Rhimes TV show. Sure, we’ve seen a number of Shondaland-branded series, like How to Get Away With Murder and The Catch, debut, but one created and written by Rhimes herself? You’d have to go all the way back to 2012 and the premiere of a little show called Scandal for that.
So, what’s the holdup?
The buzz in some industry circles is that she could be waiting to unleash her next Grey’s Anatomy or Scandal for a very special occasion — like the launch of her own Shondaland-branded network or Netflix-style streaming platform or, at the very least, an independent studio (following in the footsteps of fellow Grey’s EP Mark Gordon). “She’s definitely planning something,” notes one longtime producer. “And my guess is it involves having ownership of her shows.”
As another insider notes, rumors that Rhimes would “break off and pull an Oprah” began circulating late last year when, in the span of two months, Shondaland made a slew of high-profile hires — all in newly created positions — including a Head of Production (Sara Fischer), a Director of Branding (Sandie Bailey), a VP of Marketing and Communication (Kristen Andersen) and a VP of Strategy and Development (Chris DiIorio).
Another telltale sign: Earlier this month, Rhimes started building a viewer database on Shondaland.com, while also hinting that the site would soon be home to original content — but the nature of that content remains unclear. The buzz is she may be fashioning it as a lifestyle/editorial destination, equal parts Goop and Huffington Post.
“You are never alone in Shondaland,” read the message, which appeared directly above the sign-up form. “It’s where all the badasses live. The ones who stand up for themselves. The ones who do what they want and say what they want and dance how they want and wear what they want. And you don’t give a crap what anyone else has to say about it. Shondaland is for the warrior in all of us. Shondaland is for the mighty, the competitive, the smart, the daring, and the bold. Add your voice. Join the tribe.”
As one longtime network exec shares, “She’s taking her brand to the next level — beyond just one night of programming on ABC.”
Of course, contractually speaking, Rhimes’ hands are tied until May 2018 when her current four-year, eight-figure pact with ABC Studios expires. And she continues to fulfill her end of the deal. Just last week, ABC announced it had picked up a new Shondaland drama pilot, written and created by Scandal scribe Paul Williams Davies. And the Romeo and Juliet-themed soap fka Still Star-Crossed remains on the horizon. But, again, in both cases, Rhimes is involved solely as an executive producer.
A Shondaland spokesperson declined to comment for this story. A rep for ABC also had no comment.