Film & Television

To Watch or Not to Watch: Two New Series Revisit Shakespeare

A prolific playwright once wrote, “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.” Prolific TV hit-maker Shonda Rhimes seems to have benefited from all three.

Rhimes, who is 47, was born to academic parents — her father was a college professor and her mother was a university administrator who went on to finish college while she raised Shonda and her five older siblings. Ms. Rhimes eventually earned her PhD, while Mr. Rhimes served as the Chief Information Officer for the University of Southern California. Shonda was an academic superstar herself, studying English and Creative Writing at Dartmouth, and earning her MFA at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts.

In Los Angeles, Rhimes found a valuable mentor in producer Debra Martin Chase. She worked a number of odd jobs and as a documentary researcher before selling her first script. Soon after, she co-wrote HBO’s award-winning Introducing Dorothy Dandridge (starring Halle Berry), which was followed by Crossroads (starring Britney Spears), and Disney’s Princess Diaries 2 (with Anne Hathaway and Julie Andrews). The following year, 2005, Rhimes’ first major television series debuted. It was Grey’s Anatomy. Thirteen seasons later, the show is still ABC’s highest ranking drama and one of the top performing series across all networks.

Rhimes’ story would be one of great success, regardless of her race or gender. But, it’s particularly exceptional for a black woman in an industry dominated by white men. Since Grey’s, Rhimes has created and produced a number of hits including Private Practice (a Grey’s Anatomy spin-off), Scandal, How to Get Away with Murder, and The Catch. In 2007, TIME magazine named Rhimes one of the “100 People Who Help Shape the World.”

The world that Rhimes creates on television (her production company is called “Shondaland”) is one filled with forbidden passion; high-powered intrigue; and love, requited and un-. But, 400 years before ABC celebrated its Thursday night Shondaland line-up as “TGIT,” someone else was covering the same sensational, crowd-pleasing territory.

His name was William Shakespeare.

And, later this month, TV viewers will experience what happens when Shakespeare meets Shonda.

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  • Chris Lombardi May 16, 2017 at 11:34 am

    Hate to say it, but Shonda’s bit looks dreadful. “Will” looks like a better guilt-watch, at least if (like me) you liked Luhrmann’s Gatsby.