Every Shonda Rhimes Show Ranked Worst To Best

Only a handful of writers in television history have built a bona fide empire. Few who have done so have been women or PoC. Regardless of what you think of her shows, TV royalty Shonda Rhimes deserves respect for her groundbreaking success. Rhimes' workplace dramas have biting dialogue, steamy workplace affairs, and characters fighting tooth and nail to win. There's a passionate fandom surrounding her work, which makes the viewing experience doubly exciting.

With eleven shows underneath the "Shondaland" banner, it's not a surprise that not all of them are hits. Few contemporary shows have come anywhere close to matching the success of her first project, "Grey's Anatomy," and each subsequent series, in some way, has to contend with that legacy. But Rhimes is nothing if not prolific. Her career has only gotten more expansive since that first smash hit. Since moving from ABC to signing a deal with Netflix, Rhimes shows no signs of slowing down soon. 

But how do the works of Shondaland stack up against each other? It's time to rank every Shonda Rhimes television series from worst to best.

Still Star-Crossed

"Still Star-Crossed" is probably the least popular Shonda Rhimes show. Based on the novel of the same name, the 2016 series was a loose sequel to "Romeo and Juliet." Lashana Lynch plays Rosaline Capulet, Juliet's cousin, and Wade Briggs plays Benvolio Montague, Romeo's cousin and the man Rosaline is (unwillingly) engaged to marry. With poor ratings and middling reviews from critics, the series lasted a meager seven episodes before being axed.

However, this was Rhimes' first foray into period dramas. Although it didn't achieve anything close to the success of "Bridgerton," it allowed her to experiment with similar themes that'll shine later on in her career. As in "Bridgerton," Rhimes employed "color-blind" casting, with many main characters played by black actors. While such an attempt to diversify the casting pool for classical pieces is admirable, the show's poor writing couldn't live up to the show's lofty aspirations. The connection to the source material is thin, which may delight those interested in preserving Shakespeare's legacy. Still, it never separates itself from the pack of mediocre period dramas. If given more seasons, perhaps it could have improved its quality.

Off the Map

"Off the Map" is another series many of Rhimes' biggest fans haven't watched. The show premiered in 2011 and ran for thirteen episodes before being canceled. Rhimes' third medical drama, the series follows seven doctors working at an underfunded clinic in an unnamed South American country. The cast of the series is quite strong, featuring the likes of "Grey's Anatomy" players Jason George and Martin Henderson, Caroline Dhavernas ("Hannibal"), "Friday Night Lights" star Zach Gilford, and Hollywood royalty Mamie Gummer.

Despite its strong cast, "Off the Map" isn't a memorable show. The series features some typically outlandish Shonda plots — the doctors face a giant anaconda and a zip-line accident at one point — but it doesn't quite live up to the standard Rhimes set with "Grey's Anatomy" and "Private Practice." While the fact that it was less outright sexy than "Grey's" could have been the thing that differentiated it from Rhimes' other hits, it ultimately meant that the series was less compelling than viewers expected. All of the actors did an admirable job bringing the source material to life, but the cast never had the chemistry seen in Rhimes' other shows. At times, the unforgivably earnest dialogue didn't help matters. More intrigue was sorely needed.

The Catch

"The Catch" marked a departure from Rhimes' usual fare, as it wasn't a medical drama or a legal thriller series. But it wasn't exactly a good departure. The problems with "The Catch" goes back to its early days in production. After a failed pilot, showrunner Jennifer Schuur left the series due to creative differences. Shondaland mainstay Allan Heinberg replaced the creator and several cast members were also replaced. When reshooting the pilot, Peter Krause came in as the male lead.

Unfortunately, the series' troubled journey to the screen didn't produce a favorable result. The series follows private detective Alice (Mireille Enos) on a mission to find her fiancé, Benjamin (Krause), who stole her money. She learns that Benjamin is a con man and the FBI is looking for him. Sonya Walger, Nia Vardalos, Gina Torres, and T.R. Night also star in the series.

Although it aired for two seasons (with only twenty episodes in total), the series never really took off. The characters were never as compelling as they should have been. Despite an impressive cast, the series wasn't as smart or sexy as it wanted us to believe it was. Everyone involved is extremely talented (just watch Enos in "The Killing" or Gina Torres in literally anything else). Frankly, they deserved better than this lackluster attempt at a slinky conspiracy.

Inventing Anna

"Inventing Anna" is Rhimes' first foray into the world of biopics and her second Netflix project. The series follows infamous scammer Anna Delvey (played by the brilliant Julia Garner), tracking her fall from grace through the perspective of a journalist (Anna Chlumsky). While the story behind the series is fascinating, the show never fully succeeds in telling a cohesive story or convincing us why we should care. Garner does her best to make up for where the script lacks, which means the series is at least entertaining — still, it's far from a slam dunk. 

The series' biggest sin is a muddled framing device, as it makes its dual storylines less cohesive. This Anna Delvey is a kind of post-feminist girl boss figure. But the journalism side of the story becomes framed more like a revenge tale. Our Chris Evangelista called the series a "frustrating mess too enamored with its main subject," which is a succinct diagnosis of the problem. While a more studied take on the subject might have aimed for complexity and nuance, "Inventing Anna" seems more interested in hashtagged hot-takes.

For The People

"For The People" is never going to be high up on a list of Rhimes' greatest achievements, though it's not the worst thing she's ever done. A fairly straightforward legal drama, the greatest downfall to the drama is that it's a (mostly) by-the-books procedural show. Sadly, Rhimes' penchant for flashy drama takes a backseat. Like "The Catch," "For The People" also had behind-the-scenes drama from the start. The show's two leads, Britt Roberston and Jasmin Savoy Brown, were late in the game replacements, and the series had to be rewritten before it premiered.

Robertson and Brown play Sandra and Allison, respectively, two young lawyers working in the Southern District of New York Federal Court. The characters are unique, and the legal drama is intriguing, but it's not exactly thrilling. There's nothing seriously wrong with the series, but there's also nothing that sets it apart from the dozens of other legal dramas of the era. If you watched "For the People" and wondered why Viola Davis didn't just walk in and shake things up, you're not alone! The show improved in its second season and started to find a reliable rhythm, but by this time, it was too late for redemption.

Station 19

"Station 19" is the second "Grey's Anatomy" spin-off and also the second best. Like its predecessor, "Station 19" takes place in Seattle, a city where horrific disasters (apparently) happen weekly. Dr. Ben Warren (Jason George), a firefighter and physician at Station 19, used to work at Grey Sloan Memorial and married Miranda Bailey (Chandra Wilson). Firefighter Maya Bishop (Danielle Savre) begins dating and eventually marries Dr. Carian DeLuca (Stefania Spampinato), an OBG/YN at Grey Sloan Memorial, which adds another inter-universe connection.

Crossover elements aside, "Station 19" attempts to define its tone within Shondaland while competing with NBC's successful firehouse drama, "Chicago Fire." The series does a respectable job carving out its niche within the genre, but it's also not as compelling as Rhimes' earlier fare. For one, the team isn't as dynamic as the characters on shows like "Grey's Anatomy" or "Scandal." Though Ben is lovable, he's no Kerry Washington. While "Station 19" has some of the reliable wit of a Rhimes drama, none of the leads are charismatic enough to make it stand out. Also, it's not a great sign that the drama is becoming overwrought after only six seasons, which is just the blink of an eye in procedural time.


"Bridgerton" is Rhimes' first project with Netflix and became a smash hit. Season 1 broke Netflix streaming records and season 2 broke that record again, becoming the most-viewed English language series in 2020. Based on the book series by Julia Quinn, the show takes place in Regency London and follows the titular Bridgerton family as they navigate the perils of high society.

The first season premiered while most viewers were trapped at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and audiences quickly devoured the series. "Bridgerton" looks beautiful — from the handsome actors to the period attire to the lush production design. The chemistry between said beautiful people is sizzling, and the more erotic moments are surely enough to satisfy fans of Regency romance novels. There are also delightful anachronisms, which include orchestral covers of Ariana Grande and Taylor Swift songs.

With two seasons under its belt thus far, "Bridgerton" has already been renewed for a third and fourth season — though Rhimes hopes for many more. Each season comes from the perspective of a different character, so there's a lot of story potential. It may be more like tooth-rotting candy than a healthy, well-balanced meal, but it succeeds precisely because it's so addictive.

How To Get Away With Murder

With "How To Get Away With Murder," Rhimes dominated ABC's weeknight lineup. At the height of her network TV ascendancy, Rhimes literally owned Thursday nights with a lineup of three wildly popular shows. Coming in at third in the evening's festivities was "How To Get Away With Murder," which premiered with huge ratings and immediately had audiences hooked.

EGOT-winning actress Viola Davis plays Annalise Keating, a tough-talking Philadelphia defense lawyer and professor. She selects five first-year law students from her course to intern at her law firm. Before they know it, the group becomes involved in not one but two murder plots throughout season 1. While the series declined in quality in later seasons, the first season is television gold. The shining star of the show is, of course, the great Viola Davis, who brings so much passion and gravitas to the role and carries the series on her back.

The supporting cast members are also impressive — "Gilmore Girls" star Liza Weil is especially great as Annalise's loyal employee — but Davis is unbeatable. The drama on the series is absolutely bonkers, but that's also what kept audiences coming back to watch week after week and contributed to the show's popularity on social media. No one does weeknight soap operas like Rhimes, which she proved again with this hit. Will there ever be a more iconic line than, "Why is your penis on a dead girl's phone?" Probably not.

Private Practice

A spinoff of "Grey's Anatomy," "Private Practice" follows Addison Montgomery (Kate Walsh) leaving Seattle for sunny Los Angeles to start a trendy private practice. She finds herself in an environment that's very different from the one she left at Grey Sloan Memorial, and she's surrounded by a charming cast that includes KaDee Strickland, Amy Brenneman, Audra McDonald, and Chris Lowell.

When she was on "Grey's Anatomy," Addison portrayed a kind of villainous character who manipulated people to get what she wanted. While Addison's biggest fans might still defend her actions then, "Private Practice" gave viewers a chance to see Addison in a new light as she became the hero of the story. Walsh was always incredible in the role, but she really gets the chance to shine in "Private Practice," and she's different enough from Ellen Pompeo's Meredith Grey that her story doesn't feel like a rip-off.

"Private Practice" attempted to differentiate itself from "Grey's Anatomy" in tone, and was mostly successful. Despite its sunny locale, "Private Practice" took on a darker tone than its predecessor, toning down the soapier elements of "Grey's Anatomy" in favor of slightly more relatable problems. The restrained nature of the show is a welcomed departure, but it also meant that the show never achieved the viral success of other Shondaland series. But with six seasons and millions of viewers, it's definitely a success in Rhimes' world.


When you consider the success of "Scandal," there's one person — apart from Rhimes — that is clearly responsible for its popularity: Kerry Washington. Like Viola Davis, Washington is a powerhouse of a performer, and she attacks the admittedly unhinged source material with brazen ferocity.

Washington plays Olivia Pope, a D.C. lawyer who runs a "crisis management" firm, which is a fancy way of saying she makes scandals go away. Olivia is the most talented "fixer" in the city, but she has very little luck fixing her life. Case in point: Olivia happens to be having an affair with the President of the United States (Tony Goldwyn), a disastrous entanglement that upends her life time and time again. One of Olivia's biggest enemies is her father, Rowan (Joe Morton), a former CIA commander who at one point threatens to murder Olivia's loved ones.

"Grey's Anatomy" may hold the Shondaland record for most life-threatening disasters, but in terms of plot twists, "Scandal" has them all beat. Many of the most deranged plotlines Rhimes have ever written appeared on "Scandal," and the only reason they work at all is because of Washington's ability to absolutely devour whatever farfetched scene she's given. The exaggerated tone of the show also made it a huge success fandom-wise. There are few contemporary shows as off-the-rails as "Scandal," and that's exactly what makes it so marvelous.

Grey's Anatomy

"Grey's Anatomy" may be the obvious choice for the greatest Shondaland series, but it's the correct one. If you don't believe me, go watch the pilot again. The passion, the intrigue, the pathos — all the elements that make this series work are there from the start. The first time Derek (Patrick Dempsey) says, "It's a beautiful day to save lives"? Chill-inducing!

Yes, "Grey's Anatomy declined in quality in later seasons. But that's true of all of Rhimes' lengthier shows. What makes this series different is it had so many incredible seasons before its decline. Plus, it has an incredible and unparalleled ensemble cast. Ellen Pompeo is excellent in the lead role, but so is everyone else — even the ones in smaller guest roles. Sandra Oh is transcendent and hilarious, Sara Ramirez is an unstoppable force, and McDreamy (Dempsey) and McSteamy (Eric Dane) bring stupefying charm.

"Grey's Anatomy" is also unmatched when it comes to romantic drama — even if every character on the show deserves to be fired because of it. Derek and Meredith are an iconic TV couple (even if Derek was never worthy of her), and Callie (Ramirez) and Arizona (Jessica Capshaw) were groundbreaking. Callie holds the record for being the longest-running LGBTQ character in TV history. The medical emergencies depicted in the series are as thrilling as the personal ones, and the writing manages to be heartfelt and biting simultaneously. "Grey's Anatomy" skyrocketed Rhimes to global fame because it's still that good.