Will Season 6 Be the End for 'Scandal'?

SCANDAL - KERRY WASHINGTON - Wine - Dog-Whistle Politics -Publicity - H 2016
Courtesy of John Fleenor/ABC

After launching the 2016-17 broadcast season without its Shonda Rhimes-produced TGIT block, ABC will relaunch the Thursday night powerhouse trifecta of Grey's Anatomy and How to Get Away With Murder on Jan. 26 when Kerry Washington starrer Scandal launches its sixth season.

While initially pushed to midseason to accommodate star Washington's second pregnancy, Rhimes told reporters Tuesday at the Television Critics Association's winter press tour that she actually approached ABC executives about returning to the shorter episodic order that the political soap launched with in its first season. Season six will consist of 16 episodes — its lowest count since season one. Ahead of season four, Rhimes told The Hollywood Reporter that Scandal — inspired by the life of fixer Judy Smith — wasn't a "10-season or eight-season show," and had at the time "already decided when Scandal is ending." She added: "I think there's only so much Scandal you can tell satisfactorily. The Fitz-Liv thing can only be told so long and in such a way. … I've already decided how long that is and what that's going to be."

Read more: 'Scandal' Season Six Is Not Influenced by Donald Trump

With Scandal now entering season six — the show will celebrate its landmark 100th episode later this year — how much longer will the group of so-called Gladiators stick around, especially with the forthcoming run poised to elect a new president?

"We have talked about it," ABC Entertainment president Channing Dungey told The Hollywood Reporter when asked if she and Rhimes have discussed if season six will be the end of the road for Scandal. "It's really going to be up to Shonda because she's the person who really knows where she wants the story to go and where it will play out. I have always said that I will take as much Scandal as she will give me. We are in a universe where she's comfortable with slightly shorter seasons but my plan is Scandal is back next year and after that, it'll be a conversation that we'll have to have."

For what it's worth, Scandal arrives as ABC struggled in the 9 p.m. hour in the fall, with freshman Notorious dragging down the hour as well as Rhimes-produced How to Get Away With Murder. It's especially telling given that Notorious aired in the prime 9 p.m. slot following ABC's No. 1 drama — Rhimes' Grey's Anatomy.

As for the future of Ellen Pompeo starrer Grey's, Dungey said the show is in a "really good place."

"Ellen is really happy with the show and at the moment, everybody creatively involved with the show is feeling really good," Dungey said. "Someone said ER went 15 seasons and Grey's is in 13 and I said, 'We want to beat 'em and pass 'em!' So we'll see!"

Asked specifically if Dungey has had any conversations with Rhimes about a potential Grey's Anatomy spinoff centered around Kevin McKidd and exploring Owen's military past, Dungey made no secret of her interest for the project that Rhimes has, in the past, considered: "I will take everything Shonda is willing to give me."