By Courtney E. Smith
This fall Thursday nights will include a block of television shows, spread over three hours, that were all developed by ShondaLand, the company belonging to superstar TV producer Shonda Rhimes.
The first evening of ShondaLand programming begins tonight (Sept. 25) and features the dramas Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal and the company’s new franchise, How to Get Away with Murder.
Many things are notable about this, including the fact that a woman (Rhimes) is executive producing so many franchises at once for a major network (ABC). Also unusual in the landscape of TV today is that all three ShondaLand shows are driven by strong female characters. ShondaLand has also teamed up with the network to create the #TGIT—Thank God It’s Thursday—hash tag strategy to help drive Twitter interaction and, in turn, ratings. It’s an unusual development in the world of mainstream TV, to the point that even the New York Times doesn’t seem to know how to talk about this without causing a “furor.”
But even aside from all of that, there’s another factor that sets the series of ShondaLand apart from the rest of the pack: the use of music.
The ShondaLand go-to music expert is Alexandra Patsavas, who has worked with Rhimes since day one of Grey’s and is currently her music supervisor for all three Thursday night shows. Inside the Shondaverse, Patsavas has helped to fill specific aural landscapes dreamed up for each show.
How to Get Away with Murder, created by ShondaLand writer/producer Peter Nowalk, airs its first episode airs tonight (Sept. 25) at 10 pm ET. And musically, it goes where no other ShondaLand show has yet gone: into the world of EDM.
“I wanted the show to sound fresh, young, edgy,” Nowalk said, by way of explaining his editorial choice. “I also wanted the music to have a fast-paced, driving energy that would match the pace we were plotting our stories. Electronic music hit the mark on all levels.”
None of the tracks used in the first episode of Murder have lyrics, which itself is a divergent musical path from how Rhimes has utilized music in previous shows, where sound-ups on the lyrics of a song are as important as the music scoring the scene.