Trendy TV Report: Shonda Rhimes Extends Contract with ABC and Tyra Banks Tackles TransAmerica for VH1

The landscape of primetime television just got a little wider, thanks to new deals brokered by two women who have managed to create an empire based on their ability to keep audiences glued to their TV sets.

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Shonda Rhimes recently extended her contract with ABC Studios until May 2018, a move that isn’t necessarily surprising when you consider her impressive track record with the network. Rhimes and her producing partner Betsy Beers spearhead, Shondaland, which helped propel the long running Grey’s Anatomy and the unbeatable Scandal to great heights and profitable returns. Both shows will be back for the upcoming season, and a new offering – How To Get Away With Murder, starring Viola Davis, will join them. The suspense thriller will center on Davis, who plays accomplished defense attorney, Annalise Keating and four of her eager-minded law students as they dissect the mysterious pieces related to a murder mystery. It’s pretty safe to assume that this vehicle most will likely enjoy the success already afforded it’s counterparts. Rhimes and Beers are producing while Grey’s writer Peter Norwalk is extending his literary magic. This newest development also finds Rhimes once again navigating three shows on ABC. She was in a similar position when both Private Practice and Off the Map were still on the schedule. Those shows enjoyed moderate success but the most valuable asset has to be assigned to Scandal, the Kerry Washington starrer that has morphed into a cultural phenomenon, thanks to an elaborate following on Twitter and a dedicated fanbase.

Another savvy businesswoman with creative juices flowing through her veins is Tyra Banks, a former model and creator of the Top Model franchise.  Banks is now immersed in a venture that will have her teaming up with Viacom’s VH1. Transamerica, is an eight-episode docuseries that will showcase five young women, based in Chicago, and bonded by their transgender identity. The series will expose how every facet of their lives contends with the stigma often associated with their sexuality.

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There has been a growing interest in the LGBT community, thanks to the bravey of a few crusaders willing to share their personal journey in the hopes of breaking down the damning stereotypes and brutal judgments that soemtimes lead to tragic consequences.

Model and activist Carmen Carrera is poised to be the star and lead of this ambitious project that is expected to make its debut later this year or in early 2015.

Banks will partner with Gay Rosenthal (Behind the Music and Little People, Big World). Its hard to say if TransAmerica will help to break down the barriers that are so firmly in place but there is no doubt that this is a step in the right direction.

Susan Levison, executive vp of programming said it best when she summed up the basis for the show, “This is a show about a group of compelling, gorgeous young friends who are on a unique journey while staying true to their authentic selves. We believe that message resonates”.

We hope she’s right.