*With its fall slate featuring shows with African American, Mexican American and Asian American families, diversity was a recurring theme at ABC’s portion of the Television Critics Association press tour Tuesday.
Entertainment President Paul Lee started the day announcing the network’s new overall deal with “12 Years a Slave” screenwriter John Ridley, but stopped short of calling ABC’s new efforts a play for diversity.
“In a way, that’s not so much diversity as authenticity if you’re reflecting America,” he said. “We went out of our way to approach some of the best storytellers. And when they come in with real specificity, when they bring you stories that are authentic – I mean Shonda [Rhimes] is one of the most authentic builders of character and story that exists out there, as is John Ridley – when they bring you authentic relatable stories, you really have no other option but to pick them up.”
The Shonda Rhimes project, “How to Get Away With Murder,” stars Viola Davis as a law professor and criminal defense attorney. The drama joins Shonda’s two other ABC shows – “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Scandal” – on Thursday nights this fall. And with “Scandal’s” Kerry Washington as an opening act, viewers will get to see two strong, black female leads back to back.
Asked if TV could learn any lessons from such a rare occurrence, Rhimes replied, “Do I think there are any lessons? No, I don’t. I feel like the shows speak for themselves, hopefully.”
Asked if she thinks the one-two punch of black female leads will have an impact on television, she said, “We’ll see. That remains to be seen. It hasn’t happened yet.”
Below, Rhimes is a bit more forthcoming when asked how she feels about owning Thursday nights this fall:
Meanwhile, “black-ish” creator/executive producer Kenya Barris and executive producer Larry Wilmore made the point several times that their show – about the head of an African American family (Anthony Anderson) dealing with the assimilation of his family – was less of a series about race, and more about culture and identity:
- “Black-ish,” starring Anthony Anderson, Tracee Ellis Ross and Laurence Fishburne, premieres Wednesday, Sept. 24 at 9:30 p.m.
- “How to Get Away With Murder” premieres Sept. 25 at 10 p.m.
Below, ABC’s Fall 2014 premiere dates (new shows in all caps):
Monday, September 15
8:00-10:00 p.m.: Dancing With the Stars
Monday, September 22
10:00-11:00 p.m.: Forever (Special Sneak Preview)
Tuesday, September 23
9:00-10:00 p.m.: Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
10:00-11:00 p.m.: Forever (Regular Time Period Premiere)
Wednesday, September 24
8:00-8:30 p.m.: The Middle
8:30-9:00 p.m.: The Goldbergs
9:00-9:30 p.m.: Modern Family
9:30-10:00 P.M.: BLACK-ISH
10:00-11:00 p.m.: Nashville
Thursday, September 25
8:00-9:00 p.m.: Grey’s Anatomy
9:00-10:00 p.m.: Scandal
10:00-11:00 P.M.: HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER
Friday, September 26
8:00-10:00 p.m.: Shark Tank
10:00-11:00 p.m.: 20/20
Sunday, September 28
8:00-9:00 p.m.: Once Upon a Time
9:00-10:00 p.m.: Resurrection
10:00-11:00 p.m.: Revenge
Monday, September 29
10:00-11:00 p.m.: Castle
Tuesday, September 30
8:00-8:30 P.M.: SELFIE
8:30-9:00 P.M.: MANHATTAN LOVE STORY
Friday, October 3
8:00-9:00 p.m.: Last Man Standing
9:00-10:00 p.m.: Shark Tank (Regular Time Period Premiere)
Sunday, October 5
7:00-8:00 p.m.: America’s Funniest Home Videos
Friday, October 10
8:30-9:00 P.M.: CRISTELA