'Scandal' Showrunner Shonda Rhimes on Peabody Win: 'A Complete Shock'

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Shonda Rhimes

The prolific producer also sees the recognition as vindication for a show that many have written off as a guilty pleasure.

This story first appeared in the April 18 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

PBS, Tom Brokaw and … Scandal? The soapy ABC political thriller was a surprise among the 46 winners of the prestigious Peabody Award revealed April 2 by the University of Georgia.

The series, starring Kerry Washington and inspired by the life of Washington fixer Judy Smith, was called "part West Wing and part Dynasty" by the awards committee, referring to its storylines involving election rigging, assassination attempts and adulterous affairs by both the U.S. president and first lady.

STORY: 'Scandal's' Tony Goldwyn Defends Fitz, Warns 'None of Us Are Safe' in Season Finale

PBS scored 12 awards to lead all outlets in Peabodys, which honor excellence in TV, radio and the Internet at a May 19 ceremony. Scandal showrunner Shonda Rhimes calls the recognition alongside such weightier fare as AMC's Breaking Bad and Alex Gibney's church abuse documentary Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God "a complete shock." But the prolific producer also sees the win as vindication for Scandal, which many have written off as a guilty pleasure more akin to her Grey's Anatomy than to West Wing.

"It's the dark underbelly of Washington that we all desperately hope doesn't exist but probably does in some way," she says with a laugh. "I don't think the show is a soap opera at all. It's interesting when people say, 'Olivia loves Fitz, but he's not a good guy.' I'm like, 'You need to look around the landscape because they're all murderers!' "