At the moment, it’s not entirely clear whether or not a How to Get Away with Murder season 6 renewal would happen — and yes, that is a big cause for concern when you think about the finale being tonight.
Is this the first time that we’ve seen the show in this position? Hardly, but this time around feels different. We’ve seen the ratings decline, slowly and surely, over the past several years. It has an active social following and a top-level, Oscar-winning star in Viola Davis, but how far does that go? How big is the Shonda Rhimes stamp at ABC now that she is not a firm part of the studio anymore?
Since we did cite the ratings earlier, it makes sense to get more into that before we discuss anything else. So far, season 5 of How to Get Away with Murder is averaging a 0.7 rating in the 18-49 demographic, down more than 20% from the show’s season 4 average. Beyond that, this past episode generated its lowest rating yet in a 0.5. This is a cause for concern, as we’re getting to the point where this is one of the lowest-rated dramas on the entire ABC fall schedule. It’s close to The Rookie, but that show has going forward it a slightly higher-average in both the 18-49 demographic and also total viewers.
If you were to look at the numbers alone, it’d probably be okay to sound the alarm proclaiming that this show is in some deep trouble. So why do we still have any hope at all here? Well, much of that stems from the two people we’ve already mentioned in Davis and also Rhimes.
Let’s magically put ourselves in the shoes of an ABC network executive for a moment. What matters here? Well, for starters, we think keeping a great relationship with Davis is up there. With a star of this caliber, you want to keep the door open for future projects. This doesn’t mean just giving How to Get Away with Murder carte blanche for its entire future, but allowing it to have a chance to have a fitting end. This is not a show meant to last forever — it’s like Scandal in that sense. Based on the ratings at the moment, we wouldn’t be shocked if season 6 was the final one … but we’d also be shocked if it was canceled.
Now, let’s dive into the Shonda Rhimes of it all. She’s one of the most prolific producers in the modern-day history of network television, and with her gone now to Netflix, we feel like ABC’s going to cling to her shows as long as they can. That, at least to us, was one of the reasons behind For the People getting renewed despite low ratings. (We recognize that Rhimes does not run either How to Get Away with Murder or For the People, but they both carry with them the signature Shondaland stamp.)
If the ratings for How to Get Away with Murder decline again for a season 6, we don’t think that the clout of Shonda will be enough to save it beyond that point. That’s why we’d prefer a final season renewal now as opposed to some other point down the road. Give showrunner Pete Nowalk plenty of time to craft an end for one of the most-iconic shows of the entire social media era.
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