Media ‘Shade’ Not Stopping Runaway Success Of ‘How To Get Away With Murder’

by on October 8, 2014


How To Get Away With Murder (HTGAWM for short) debuted on ABC as a record breaking smash hit, but it somehow managed to pick up an enormous amount of negative media. Millions of Shonda Rhimes, Scandal, and Grey’s Anatomy  fans alike were looking forward to the show’s debut since the day the trailer arrived. In that trailer, Viola Davis introduced her law school students to the course Criminal Law 100 by her preferred name for it: “How To Get Away With Murder”. The way Davis delivered this line was utterly captivating!

The show has had an extremely successful debut, although most media articles won’t mention this. In fact, the show has broken records and topped both Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal in viewership for 2 weeks now. How To Get Away with Murder is no doubt a major success for ABC, but for some reason, articles about the show are desperate to stomp it to the ground. Want to take a stab at why? Your guess is as good as mine. Let’s compare the show’s actual success with a few of the articles mainstream media outlets are posting. So Just How Successful Is How To Get Away With Murder?

1. Its Breaking Records


Its debut weekend, the show had 14.3 million live viewers. It gained 6 million additional viewers after 3 days of playback, bringing total viewership of the pilot to 20.3 million viewers before a week had passed. This marks a record for the “largest-ever Total Viewer increase in L+3 for any telecast on any network,beating the previous record holder (NBC’s The Blacklist) by 7% (TVByTheNumbers).”

2. It Has Consistently Beaten Scandal and Grey’s Anatomy In Viewers


If you weren’t aware, Scandal and Grey’s Anatomy are fantastic Thursday night ratings performers as well. Both shows have held down ABC Thursday night ratings for years. On its debut night, How To Get Away With Murder, with 14.3 million live viewers, beat Scandal, which had 12.2 million live viewers, and Grey’s Anatomy, which had 10.1 million live viewers.The second week, it had beat both shows again by similar margins.

3. It Beat Thursday Night Football In Total Viewers Its 2nd Weekthurdaynightfootball

The show’s second episode grew to 17 million total viewers after 3 days of play back. This beats the viewership of Thursday night football which attracted 16.54 million viewers. “HTGAWM was Thursday’s most-watched show for the 2nd week in a row, topping CBS’ NFL game by 400,000 viewers (TVByTheNumbers)”

So clearly the show is a star. If you were concerned about cancellation you can take a breather. Its not going anywhere. Which begs the question – why the awful backlash? Viewers certainly love it. But media outlets refuse to acknowledge its success.

Here are some examples of the insane backlash that I’m speaking of

1. New York Times Calls Viola Davis “Less Classically Beautiful”


Author who called Viola Davis Less Classically Beautiful

An article published here on NY times contained the following exert in which Viola Davis was called less classically beautiful than Kerry Washington or Halle Berry.

“As Annalise, Ms. Davis, 49, is sexual and even sexy, in a slightly menacing way, but the actress doesn’t look at all like the typical star of a network drama,” TV critic Alessandra Stanley wrote in the Times. “Ignoring the narrow beauty standards some African-American women are held to, Ms. [Shonda] Rhimes chose a performer who is older, darker-skinned and less classically beautiful than Ms. [Kerry] Washington, or for that matter Halle Berry, who played an astronaut on the summer mini-series Extant.”

What frustrated me most about reading the above quote is the authors refusal to own up to her opinion on Viola’s beauty. The phrase “classically beautiful” is cowardly because the author is hiding behind a beauty standard, “classical,” that has no clear definition. I can hear her defense already “I didn’t say she wasn’t beautiful, I said she wasn’t classically beautiful. I don’t agree with classical beauty standards personally.”

Furthermore the same NYTimes author, Alessandra Stanley, went on to throw more shade on Shonda Rhimes’ produced shows in yet another article in which she said “When Shonda Rhimes writes her autobiography, it should be called ‘How to Get Away With Being an Angry Black Woman’.” She then reduced Shonda Rhime’s shows to something that slipped through TV executives filters”

“Ms. Rhimes’s achievement is that in a business that is still run by note-giving, nit-picking, compromise-seeking network executives, her work is mercifully free of uplifting role models, parables and moral teachings.”

Perhaps some of you readers can recommend some religious or children’s programming to this most pious TV critic who craves parables and moral teachings? Whatever the New York Times and its authors’ think, the American public thinks How To Get Away With Murder is more worth watching than Thursday night football. So there’s that.

2. People Magazine Publishes And Deletes Viola Davis Tweet


people-magazine-bigoted-viola-davis-tweet-blallywoodDuring the show’s first airing, the quote above was posted on the People magazine twitter account. Clearly the person who wrote this tweet’s knowledge of Black film and television history is so limited that this was the best idea they could come up with. I get that its an attempt at being funny, but I’m still waiting for the punch line. Really, please make me giggle.

3. BuzzFeed Criticizes Plot Device


According to BuzzFeed, the show’s plot isn’t quite good enough and the whole flash forward aspect needs to be rethought. I might be the only one who feels this way, but I think 15-20 million viewers a week is proof the plot can handle itself. In the BuzzFeed article titled How To Get Away With Murder Doesn’t Quite Get Away With Its Framing Device, the author concluded “As it stands now, How to Get Away With Murder might be pushing boundaries when it comes to race and sexuality, but it seems to be killing its potential longevity at the expense of genuine storytelling.”


We could go on and on about negative response to How To Get Away With Murder. Just Googling the show’s name will bring up articles about what someone thinks is wrong with the show. Whether some of the complaints are valid or not, the amount of hate this show is getting is ridiculous. Have you ever seen a show that debuted as an absolute smash hit, and attracted such a big audience, get so much negative media? Post why you think this is in the comments below.


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