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Early Reviews Say 'How To Get Away With Murder' is Very Much in the Style of 'Scandal.' Good Thing or Not?

Photo of Tambay A. Obenson By Tambay A. Obenson | Shadow and Act July 9, 2014 at 1:06PM

Great! Exactly not what I was hoping for.
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How To Get Away With Murder
How To Get Away With Murder

Here's early reaction to the Viola Davis/Shonda Rhimes-created drama for ABC titled "How To Get Away With Murder," courtesy of TV Line who've seen some of the upcoming new series.

I should first note what one of my main anxieties about the upcoming series has been since it was first announced - that, while, on the surface, this is the kind of work that I've long wanted to see Viola Davis in, and I certainly hope it delivers, I also have said that I hope it's absolutely nothing like "Scandal," which is child's play to me. And, to be clear, I'm speaking specifically about the style of the show (I suppose we can call it Shonda-Style), and not the stories it tells.

Well, apparently, according to the below review, it's quite similar in some regards, as the first sentence states: "The latest ride to open at Shondaland, Murder (or HTGAWM?) is very much in the style of Scandal..."

Great! Exactly not what I was hoping for. The writer later refers to it as "the new 'Scandal'"... potentially; although he doesn't explain further. One can only hope that, the fact that both shows star a black woman, and were created by the same woman, aren't his only reasons for wondering whether it'll be "the new 'Scandal'" 

Despite any comparisons to "Scandal," I'm still hoping for something much more adult, darker, challenging, slower-paced, even grittier and suitable for an actress with the strong presence of Viola Davis; Something that's more on par with other female-led acclaimed dramas like "Damages" for example. I'd love to see Viola Davis as a powerful, fearless, egotistical, cunning, manipulative, dangerous, and even at times evil character like the all-too complex Patty Hewes (the notorious lawyer in "Damages" as played by Glenn Close; Davis also plays an attorney in "How To Get Away With Murder" whose description is actually somewhat similar to Glenn Close's in "Damages"). I don't want to see another Olivia Pope-style character and series, and I hope Davis is given enough to really chew on here, and make the character (and show) her own.

When you've got someone with her chops and commanding presence, you have to utilize those traits fully, otherwise, what's the point.

The TV Line review adds, maybe helpfully: "Be forewarned, this pilot demands your attention — the story abruptly toggles between timelines and it will take some time to get the assorted telegenic kiddies straight, so if you’re the type to zone out after the 140th character of a tweet (or article), this is not for you. Murder invites you to wonder, throughout its first hour, what (and who) it is about; those who play the game will get reeled in, real quick, and in turn possibly discover a new TV obsession."

The writer also adds: "Davis is expectedly commanding in her scenes, be they in a classroom, courtroom or (a makeshift) bedroom."

But of course she is; as I posited above, as one of her screen traits.

Aja Naomi King also gets some love in the review, which is good news. 

Overall, the writer seems to have appreciated what he saw, but does express some concern with how quickly the series may catch-on with audiences, stating: "The question is, will it grab an audience straight away (as “the new Scandal” and all) or will it, too, need time to cultivate a fanatical following?"

The project, produced via Rhimes' Shondaland production company, with her partner Betsy Beers, is described as a sexy, suspense legal thriller that follows a brilliant criminal defense attorney (played by Davis) and her ambitious law school students who become entangled in a murder mystery that could have major ramifications on their entire university as well as change the course of their lives.


Davis plays the lead character named Annalise DeWitt, the brilliant law professor and accomplished criminal defense attorney, who is further described as an excellent manipulator of people, particularly the law students who work at her law firm. And even juicier, she's married to a psychology professor, while also having an affair, and calls her law class "How to Get Away With Murder."

Rounding out the cast are Aja Naomi King, Matt McGorry, Alfred Enoch, Karla Souza, Jack Falahee and Charlie Weber.

Peter Nowalk ("Grey's Anatomy") is scripting and executive producing the ABC drama, alongside Shondaland's Rhimes and Beers. 

Michael Offer directed the pilot, which was shot in Philadelphia.

This marks Viola Davis' first full-time TV series role. It will air on Thursday nights from 10-11pm. 

Thursday nights will be Shonda nights, because all 3 of her ABC series will air in primetime on that day: "Grey's Anatomy" (8-9 pm); "Scandal" (9-10 pm) and "How to Get Away With Murder" (10-11pm).

Watch the trailer below:

This article is related to: Viola Davis, Shonda Rhimes, TV News


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