ABC’s Channing Dungey is making her mark with some high-profile early renewals.
The early pickups — typically reserved for the most high-profile shows from important producers — will bring Grey’s into its 14th season, Scandal to its seventh and Murder to its fourth. The fate of fellow Rhimes-produced drama The Catch has not yet been announced as the series will not premiere until Murder ends its run this season.
The early pickups come as Scandal‘s return has helped solidify ABC’s Thursday night, which also marked the return of the network’s “TGIT” branding. Since Scandal‘s return, the TGIT lineup has helped ABC win Thursday night for the past three weeks in the core adults 18-49 demographic. Scandal‘s Jan. 26 return — which featured the show’s president-elect murdered as he was giving his acceptance speech — helped fuel ABC to season highs.
“Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal and How to Get Away With Murder continue to keep viewers on the edge of their seats and wanting more. I’m thrilled to bring back these shows and the OMG moments that come with them,” ABC Entertainment Group president Dungey said of the early pickups.
Grey’s, starring Ellen Pompeo, ranks as ABC’s No. 1 show among the advertiser-coveted 18-49 demo, an impressive feat for a show in its 13th season. It’s also a top 10 series in the demo and the No. 3 drama on all of broadcast. Its midseason return on Jan. 26 marked its most-watched telecast since September 2014. With the renewal, Grey’s ties Ozzie and Harriet as the longest-running scripted series, seasons-wise, on ABC.
Scandal, starring Kerry Washington and Tony Goldwyn, was bumped to midseason to accommodate Washington’s second pregnancy. Rhimes has noted that the series will likely feature a reduced episode order as the drama likely heads toward its endgame. The prolific producer has also noted that Scandal isn’t a show that will have the same longevity as a show like Grey’s, given the rate in which it burns through plot. (Scandal scripts are 20 pages longer than the typical drama.) The series will mark its 100th episode this season, and Dungey told The Hollywood Reporter in January that they’ve talked about an endgame. “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,” said the exec. “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.”
Murder, starring Viola Davis and from executive producer and Shondaland disciple Pete Nowalk, returned last month to a season high and its best performance in a year — driven largely by its Scandal lead-in.
Without Scandal at 9 p.m., ABC limped until its return in the slot after opening the season with freshman drama Notorious in the coveted post-Grey’s slot. The Piper Perabo and Daniel Sunjata starrer, which had its order reduced, is not expected to return.
All three shows are produced by Shondaland and exec producer Betsy Beers. They’re from ABC’s sibling studio, ABC Studios, where Rhimes and Beers’ Shondaland banner is under a lucrative overall deal. The company also has Still Star-Crossed (which will change its title) due later this season, as well as a drama pilot in contention.
For ABC, these are the first drama renewals for the 2017-18 broadcast season. They join comedy The Middle, produced by Warner Bros. Television, as having scored early pickups. The network also has at least one new show ordered straight to series for next season in Marvel’s The Inhumans, which will debut in Imax theaters over Labor Day before launching in September with expanded episodes on ABC.