ABC has been planning the return of TGIT — and Scandal — for months. Breathless promos featuring the grand dames of Scandal, Grey’s Anatomy, and How to Get Away with Murder drinking red wine and eating popcorn have already aired. So why did a one-hour special about the inauguration of Donald Trump suddenly become more important than the much-anticipated return of Olivia Pope?
Unfortunately, Shonda Rhimes couldn’t explain why America’s First Family: The Trumps Go to Washington was more important to air on Jan. 19 than the premiere episode of Scandal — which promises an explosive reveal to the election between Mellie (Bellamy Young) and Frankie (Ricardo Chavira). When asked at a press conference this morning if the premiere episode’s content may have prompted net execs to want to postpone TGIT until Jan. 26 (a.k.a. after Donald Trump’s inauguration), Rhimes said, “I am not commenting on conversations with my boss. I like my job. Anything about scheduling, ask the network.”
Publicly, ABC said the move was made to ensure TGIT would return with three original episodes, but the timing of the special is suspect since there was no talk of it before of the holidays. “I’m fine with whatever they do,” Rhimes said dismissively on Tuesday. “It has nothing to do with my job. I like to stay in my lane.”
Besides, members of the Scandal cast — who gathered in Pasadena, California, while Rhimes was present via satellite — said real-life politics had zero impact on the narrative for season 6. “What is beautiful about this season is that Shonda is taking the show in a whole fresh direction,” said Tony Goldwyn, who plays President Grant. “The fact it’s a counterpoint to this crazy political world that America is going through is interesting but it’s not the same. We aren’t in reaction to that. Five episodes were shot before we knew anything.”
Added Rhimes: “I don’t know that there are any similarities. I don’t think that the candidates have any similarities to the candidates in real life. Francisco Vargas is very hopeful, a very different kind of democratic candidate. These candidates don’t equate. So I don’t think that you can correlate the two.”
In an earlier conversation with EW, Rhimes said she and the Scandal writers had to rethink some upcoming episodes given what’s happened in real-life politics. (Five episodes of the drama were shot earlier in 2016 to accommodate Kerry Washington’s pregnancy. She delivered in October.) “We literally had a storyline where the Russian government was trying to destabilize the United States government by messing with the election,” she told EW. “We were building that into the storyline. The writer’s room was full of people staring at the board going, ‘Oh, my God.’ It comes from the fact that we all read all the papers, we’re all paying attention to the news. We try to stay up with everything both conservative and liberal and then try to extrapolate it to its most crazy degree. Unfortunately, reality is extrapolating itself to its most crazy degree right now.”