Shondaland's #TGIT: Promoting Live-Viewing & Flow Through Block Programming

Curator's Note

ABC’s current Thursday night lineup of Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, and How to Get Away With Murder (HTGAWM), known “TGIT” is a direct retooling of the network’s TGIF programming block from the 90s era, although with significant revisions to accommodate the current television landscape. Thursday nights are already one of the most crowded on network television, and with basic cable, premium subscription, and over-the-top services offering stiff competition to ABC’s viewership, the TGIT lineup takes advantage of block programming’s ability to engineer flow and uniquely embeds social media into the marketing strategy to promote live-viewing.

In the attached commercial, we can clearly see how ABC has designed TGIT in the same vein as TGIF, as they advertise the entire night’s primetime lineup as one distinct program. However, in a slight difference, the shows are not grouped by similar theme, such as TGIF’s family friendly sitcoms, but rather by showrunner Shonda Rhimes, who serves as creator of Grey’s and Scandal and as executive producer of HTGAWM. TGIF could rely upon the “flow” of each successive program throughout the night, but with TGIT, ABC has had to engineer that unconscious desire to keep watching television, and to stay tuned through the ever-important network commercials. It has accomplished this by direct integration with Twitter to promote simultaneous live conversation (#TGIT accompanies near every advertisement and is displayed prominently throughout the three programs) and through subliminal advertisements like this one, which command the viewer to make sure they’re watching live. Like the ad says, “Your DVR can’t handle TGIT. So watch the best, and DVR the rest!” By using these two strategies, old-school block programming, and high-tech Twitter integration, ABC is virtually ensuring that their Thursday night lineup will be appointment television. Already, Rhimes’ high-stakes drama series are some of the most popular on television, but by moving all three to the same night, viewers are much more likely to tune in. And then combined with the live digital conversation, watching TGIT while #TGIT unfolds in the Twittersphere is a viewing experience that can’t be replicated anywhere but Thursday nights on ABC. 



I enjoy these three programs separately, so I love the idea of this auteur-based block programming. (If Joss Whedon had a block like this, I would have been all over it in the early 2000s when Buffy and Angel were still going strong.) I like how you pointed out the use of social media, though, and how this commercial plays into that role of continuing the conversation between acts in the episodes. However, while I love these shows, I almost wonder if it is too much of a good thing for one night. They all three have this heavy-drama aspect that Shonda Rhimes delivers well, but I almost want to know the media effect of consuming this much heavy-drama in one sitting.

I really like this piece. Like the other subjects covered in this week's posts, #TGIT has fascinated me as a scholar and as a viewer. I have been struck by the fact that #TGIT promotes flow by devoting an entire night's worth of programming to the series of one showrunner. It has also occurred to me that by encouraging viewers to tweet along with each show's cast and crew during the broadcast, #TGIT has promoted the need for a person to watch television live instead of delaying his or her viewing for a later time. Because I have found these and other aspects of it fascinating, I am glad someone has done a post about #TGIT.

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