CREDIT: ROBYN TWOMEY FOR NEWSWEEK (Taken March 2012)
The 7th season renewal that "Scandal" received earlier this year came as a bit of a surprise to some, who were expecting series creator Shonda Rhimes would end it after its current 6th season, especially after ABC cut the number of episodes it ordered for the 6th season from 22 down to 16, and moved it to a mid-season run, leading to speculation that the series may have been in danger of being canceled. It was also rumored that the episode cut and the move were due to star Kerry Washington's pregnancy (she was expecting her second child at the time of the announcement; she's since given birth).
Others assumed that the show's declining ratings were to blame. Season 5 was "Scandal's" weakest of the previous 3 seasons in terms of ratings, with live viewership specifically sinking from over 10 million for the first episode in September 2015, to just over 6 million for the season finale episode 8 months later - marking one of its lowest viewership draws in the history of the show.
But speaking with the AP last summer, Kerry Washington shared that the reason for the shortened season, and the move to a 2017 run, had nothing to do with her pregnancy. As she said, the decision to cut the number of episodes for the current season by about 27% was made before she told showrunner Shonda Rhimes that she was pregnant. The reason for the "downsizing," per Washington, was that Rhimes knows what the story is that she wants to tell for each season, and how many episodes she needs to get it wherever she wants it to go. In effect, it's a shortened season because the planned story dictated that it needed to be a shortened season. Rhimes didn't feel that she needed 22 episodes for the current season; only 16.
Although Rhimes has said in the past that she knows exactly how and when "Scandal" will end, previously sharing that it would be a 6 or 7-season series, at most. So of course as it currently happens to be the 6th season of the series, a question that came up when the show was renewed for a 7th season, was whether we should assume that "Scandal" is indeed near its end.
Not-so fast, Rhimes seems to suggest in a new interview she gave to The Hollywood Reporter (published earlier today, celebrating "Scandal's" 100th episode ), in which she said the following: "I used to know how it ended, and then Donald Trump was elected... We had a destination, and I don't know if that's our destination anymore."
She of course didn't elaborate on what her old or potentially new destination is for the series; although co-star Scott Foley also shared with THR that he "always heard Season 7 would be the last, adding, "But when they announced the pickup, it was not announced as the final season." So maybe we weren't far off in assuming that season 7 would indeed be its last.
Rhimes continued: "There was a very specific planned progression that was going to be easy to tell because Hillary was going to be president, and we were going to be living in the light... But it didn't occur. I'm still trying to come to terms with that. One bad thing after another keeps happening, and the world feels very unstable. So in a world in which all of the things that we would write on 'Scandal' are happening in real life, it's very hard to write 'Scandal' the way we used to, when it was like, 'Let's make Washington the most outrageous, horrifying place it could ever be'... Any of the stories we planned now just feel like we're copying what's happening in reality, which is insane."
So might we be talking "Scandal" season 8 (and beyond) in another year?
I'd be surprised; reading the THR piece, it sounds more like she hasn't made a definite decision yet; it's best not to say that season 7 will indeed be the last (even if she previously thought so), leaving the door for more, just in case there's still enough of an audience appetite, as well as more story that she wants to explore in light of Trump's election win and seemingly haphazard administration.
But another season why it may be just the right time to put "Scandal" to bed is that the series' star Kerry Washington launched her own production company a year ago, and has since put a number of film and TV projects into development, including a new production deal she inked with ABC also last year, that will see her develop new projects for the network, which is now being led by a not-so new president in Channing Dungey, who replaced exiting Paul Lee last year, making her the first African American - woman or man - to not only head ABC, but a major TV network.
Also Rhimes has other series to shepherd; joining veterans "Grey's Anatomy" and "How to Get Away With Murder" are "The Catch" (which returned for a second season a couple of weeks ago; although its ratings have been worse than those of season 1), and the upcoming "Romeo & Juliet" project from Shondaland, "Still Star-Crossed," which stars British actress Lashana Lynch.
Shondaland also sold at least 2 new potential series to ABC recently, and also optioned Luvvie Ajayi's book "I'm Judging You" to adapt as a comedy series, although for cable TV.
In addition, Rhimes is returning to her feature film *roots* (her breakthrough gig, we could say, was co-penning the script for the 1999 telepic "Introducing Dorothy Dandridge;" other early scripting credits include "Crossroads" and "The Princess Diaries 2: The Royal Engagement"). Earlier last year, she was reportedly eyeing what will be a feature-length film, set up at Fox, about the so-called Dare Divas - a group of Detroit women, led by Sheri Hunter, who have dedicated their lives to pursuing adventure and encouraging other women to also take risks.
Previously, she was attached to write the screenplay for a feature film titled "War Correspondents," which was to center on women war correspondents, for Sony Pictures.
So she and Washington are busy. And dropping one series in "Scandal" (which seems to be losing its luster, for some of its fans anyway), may actually be a good thing, as they both shift focus to other projects.
By the way, the inspiration for "Scandal," real-life “fixer” Judy Smith, is making some deals of her own, most recently setting up a new legal drama at Fox, titled “Controversy” which chronicles a sex assault scandal that shakes up a college campus; she also served as co-executive producer on the CBS Washington series 'BrainDead" and as a consulting producer on "Basketball Wives."
In the meantime, we know with certainty (barring any unforeseen circumstances) that "Scandal" will live to fight for another season; a 7th season. Beyond that is anyone's guess.
CREDIT: ROBYN TWOMEY FOR NEWSWEEK (Taken March 2012)