By Alberto E. Rodriguez/.
As Shonda Rhimes prepares to move from ABC to Netflix, the network has already taken steps to make sure it’s not left high and dry. The question is, will those steps be enough to fill the giant void that the show-running powerhouse will leave behind?
The Alphabet began by announcing a massive four-year deal with former Lost co-show-runner Carlton Cuse, another time-tested producer with several hit series under his belt. Then on Wednesday, ABC announced an intriguing individual project: a legal drama co-written by Marcia Clark, which seems heavily inspired by her real-life experience working on the O.J. Simpson trial.
Clark’s project is currently untitled and in the development stage; according to Deadline, it can be described as “part legal thriller, part confessional, part revenge fantasy.” The plot? “It centers on a female prosecutor who loses the trial of the century and is shredded by the media in the process. The drama chronicles what happens when eight years later the murderer who got off strikes again.” Yes, this is fiction, but for those who need a reminder: Clark was on the losing side of Simpson’s trial, and, as shown most recently by Ryan Murphy’s The People v. O.J. Simpson, the media was unkind to her throughout the case. It seems inevitable that Clark will draw on her life experience as she co-writes the project, which will also follow its characters home to show how the case affects their personal lives. The story also sounds similar to some of Clark’s work as an author of crime thrillers—in which she has also explored the relationship between celebrity, the media, and the criminal justice system.
In addition to Clark’s drama, ABC will also presumably have a steady stream of projects from Cuse, who after Lost went on to co-create and/or executive produce series including Bates Motel, Colony, and The Strain. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Cuse and his production shingle, Genre Arts, will get paid $20 million plus backend percentages.
It seems certain that ABC will ink plenty more deals as it charts its path forward without the woman who put its Thursday nights on the map. It will be interesting to see what path the network’s programming takes without its prolific auteur—and, at the same time, what shape Rhimes’s vision might take on a platform that offers fewer constraints than traditional network TV.
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