Javascript is not enabled.

Javascript must be enabled to use this site. Please enable Javascript in your browser and try again.

Skip to content
Content starts here
Leaving Website

You are now leaving and going to a website that is not operated by AARP. A different privacy policy and terms of service will apply.

Shonda Rhimes’ Best TV Shows of All Time (So Far!)

From ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ to ‘Bridgerton’ (and beyond), we rank the TV hitmaker’s body of work

spinner image Shonda Rhimes at the 2020 Vanity Fair Oscar Party
Jon Kopaloff/WireImage


Television producer extraordinaire Shonda Rhimes, 52, has been having a very good year — but that’s nothing new. She’s been having very good years since Grey’s Anatomy premiered on ABC in 2005; now in its 18th season, it ranks as the longest-running prime time medical drama in TV history. In February, Rhimes premiered her Netflix true-crime limited series, Inventing Anna, and this month, her Emmy-winning period drama Bridgerton returns for its much-anticipated sophomore season. But how does the trio of shows rank among her best? Here, our ranking from one-season flops to all-time-great megahits.

spinner image Image Alt Attribute

AARP Membership— $12 for your first year when you sign up for Automatic Renewal

Get instant access to members-only products and hundreds of discounts, a free second membership, and a subscription to AARP the Magazine. Find out how much you could save in a year with a membership. Learn more.

Join Now

Don’t miss this: 11 Black Filmmakers You Should Know

11. Off the Map (2011)

The premise: What do you get if you take the grey out of Grey’s Anatomy? This one-season flop swaps out the rainy Seattle setting of Rhimes’ biggest hit for a remote jungle in an unnamed South American country, where a crew of idealistic doctors runs an underfunded clinic. The cast included future Grey’s stars Martin Henderson and Jason Winston George (50), plus Friday Night Lights actor Zach Gilford and Mamie Gummer, the daughter of Meryl Streep. Expect incidents involving zip lines, crashed helicopters, tropical parasites and even a giant anaconda.

The best part: You can’t beat the lush setting, with Oahu doubling for the Amazon. 

Watch it: Off the Map on ABCYouTube

10. Still Star-Crossed (2017)

The premise: This high-concept Shakespearean sequel is set in the aftermath of the deaths of Romeo and Juliet, as Verona is plunged into citywide riots between the warring Capulets and Montagues. In order to make peace, the newly returned Prince Escalus (Sterling Sulieman) orders Juliet’s cousin Rosaline (Lashana Lynch) to marry Romeo’s cousin Benvolio (Wade Briggs), kicking off a string of feuds, fights and mysteries, involving a secret society known as The Fiend. The series was dismissed by many critics as a lavish if emotionally flat melodrama, and it was canceled after seven episodes.

The best part: Despite the material, Lynch had undeniable star power, and she went on to star as Maria Rambeau in Captain Marvel and Nomi (the first female 007) in the latest James Bond film, No Time to Die.

Watch it: Still Star-Crossed on Amazon Prime, Apple TV, YouTube

9. The Catch (2016-2017)

The premise: In this stylish cat-and-mouse game, The Killing’s Mireille Enos stars as L.A. private investigator Alice Vaughan, who’s in for a rude awakening within the very first episode: She finds out that her fiancé, Benjamin Jones (Peter Krause, 56, Six Feet Under), is actually an international con artist who disappears after stealing her heart — and her clients’ money. Alice and her fellow P.I. team members set out to reveal his true identity. The series lasted for two seasons, but it never quite lived up to the promise of its sleek Catch Me if You Can vibes and Alice’s killer ’60s-inspired outfits.

The best part: Rose Rollins was a charming scene-stealer as Alice’s business partner Valerie.

Watch it: The Catch on Amazon Prime, Apple TV, Hulu, YouTube

8. For the People (2018-19)

The premise: This zippy legal drama follows six young lawyers — three public defenders, three prosecutors — as they embark on their new careers in the Southern District of New York federal court. The newbies, including future Bridgerton star Regé-Jean Page, are fun to watch, but you’ll get a special kick out of the quartet of veteran character actors playing the adults in the room, aka the legal versions of Grey’s Anatomy’s “grownup” residents: Hope Davis (57) as federal public defender Jill Carlan, Anna Deavere Smith (71) as clerk of court Tina Krissman, Ben Shenkman (53) as Roger Gunn, chief of the criminal division of the U.S. attorney’s office, and Vondie Curtis-Hall (71) as Judge Nicholas Byrne.  

See more Health & Wellness offers >

The best part: The show tamps down soapier elements in favor of a more issues-based procedural approach that will appeal to Law & Order fans. 

Watch it: For the People on Amazon Prime, Hulu

7. Station 19 (2018- )

The premise: After NBC had great ratings success with its Dick Wolf–created Chicago franchise (FireP.D. and Med), ABC decided to expand its own Grey’s Anatomy universe with its second spin-off, set among the brave men and women of the Seattle Fire Department. Our entry point into the new show is Dr. Ben Warren (Jason Winston George, 50), husband of Dr. Miranda Bailey (Chandra Wilson, 52), who decides to leave behind his surgical residency to pursue a new career as a firefighter. There are still frequent crossover episodes between the two series, meaning Grey's fans often have to tune in to keep up with the plot.

The best part: One of the most interesting parts of the show is the relationship between station captain Pruitt Herrera (Miguel Sandoval, 70) and his daughter, Lt. Andy Herrera (Jaina Lee Ortiz). 

Watch it: Station 19 on ABC, Amazon Prime, Apple TV, Hulu, YouTube

Don’t miss this: 13 Female Directors You Should Discover Right Now

6. Inventing Anna (2022)

The premise: Rhimes got into the true-crime game with this ripped-from-the-headlines limited series about Anna Delvey, a Russian-born con artist (real name: Anna Sorokin) who stormed the New York City society world and defrauded banks, hotels, restaurants and friends out of $275,000. Julia Garner, a two-time Emmy winner for Ozark, stars as Delvey alongside Veep’s Anna Chlumsky as journalist Vivian Kent, a fictionalized version of Jessica Pressler, the New York magazine reporter who broke the story. (Fun fact: Pressler also wrote the article on which the film Hustlers is based!) The cast includes Scandal’s Katie Lowes, Succession's Arian Moayed and Orange is the New Black’s Laverne Cox.

The best part: Garner created a masterfully bizarro accent, which she described as the hardest accent she’ll ever do — a mix of Russian, German and American. 

Watch it: Inventing Anna on Netflix

spinner image The cast of the television show Private Practice
The cast of "Private Practice: (Left to right) Taye Diggs, Paul Adelstein, Amy Brenneman, Kate Walsh, Audra McDonald, KaDee Strickland, Tim Daly and Chris Lowell.
Eric Ogden/Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images

​​​5. Private Practice (2007-2013)

The premise: Dr. Addison Montgomery (Kate Walsh, 54), the ex-wife of Derek Shepherd (Patrick Dempsey, 56), came in like a wrecking ball at the end of Grey’s Anatomy’s first season. She was such an instant fan favorite that Rhimes spun her off into her own six-season series, which saw Addison moving to Los Angeles to join a private practice. Much like Grey's before it, the sun-drenched spin-off featured a stacked ensemble that included TV and stage regulars such as Tim Daly (65), Benjamin Bratt (58), Amy Brenneman (57), Taye Diggs (51) and six-time Tony winner Audra McDonald (51). 

The best part: For a network series, Private Practice never shied away from tough topics, like sexual assault and drug addiction.

Watch it: Private Practice on Apple TVHulu

4. How to Get Away With Murder (2014-2020)

The premise: Viola Davis, 56, became the first Black woman to ever win the Emmy for best actress in a drama — and she earned it for a doozy of a role. Annalise Keating (Davis) is a criminal defense attorney and law professor at an esteemed Philadelphia university who chooses five students to intern at her firm. Their fates become forever entwined through a pair of murders, the details of which are slowly revealed through flashbacks and flash-forwards. Keating is one of the most complex characters in the Shondaland universe, or as she put it to a jury in the series finale, “I’m ambitious, Black, bisexual, angry, sad, strong, sensitive, scared, fierce, talented, exhausted.” Her monumental acting proved a stabilizing center for a show that often veered preposterous in its later seasons.

The best part: Did we mention Viola Davis? 

Watch it: How to Get Away With Murder on Amazon Prime, Apple TV, Netflix, YouTube

3. Bridgerton (2020- )

The premise: Shonda’s second stab at a period drama — and her first show after her reported $100 million deal with Netflix — was a much bigger hit than Still Star-Crossed. Set during the 19th-century Regency era in Britain, the soapy blockbuster follows the eight aristocratic Bridgerton siblings as they navigate high society, debutante balls and illicit romance, all under the watchful eye of an anonymous newsletter columnist known as Lady Whistledown (voiced by Julie Andrews, 86). Shortly after its premiere, Netflix announced that it was the streaming platform’s biggest series of all time (it was later surpassed by Squid Game), and it was nominated for 12 Primetime Emmys and Creative Arts Emmys, including outstanding drama series and best actor for breakout star Regé-Jean Page.

The best part: Queen Charlotte (Golda Rosheuvel, 52) is such a rollicking standout that she’s getting her own prequel limited series, penned by Rhimes.

Watch it: Bridgerton on Netflix

spinner image The Season 1 cast of Scandal
The cast of "Scandal": (Standing) Guillermo Diaz, Columbus Short, Jeff Perry, Tony Goldwyn, Henry Ian Cusick; (Seated) Darby Stanchfield, Katie Lowes and Kerry Washington.
Danny Feld/Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images

2. Scandal (2012-18)

The premise: The Peabody Award–winning drama had so many delicious twists and turns that it became appointment television: Viewers gathered around their TVs on Thursday nights, with giant glasses of red wine in hand, to watch Scandal in real time and follow along on Twitter. Kerry Washington starred as the impeccably stylish and unflappable Olivia Pope, who runs a D.C. crisis management firm that puts her in frequent contact, both politically and romantically, with President Fitzgerald Grant III (Tony Goldwyn, 61), his family and the White House staff. The series was nominated for six Emmys, including two wins for best guest actor, Dan Bucatinsky, 56, and Joe Morton, 74. 

The best part: Whether or not you were rooting for the central relationship — nicknamed “Olitz” — Olivia and Fitz had some of the steamiest chemistry on television. 

Watch it: Scandal on Apple TVHulu

spinner image The cast of Grey's Anatomy
The cast of "Grey's Anatomy": (Left to right) Kate Walsh, Isaiah Washington, Justin Chambers, Patrick Dempsey, Sandra Oh, Katherine Heigl, T.R. Knight, Chandra Wilson, James Pickens, Jr., Sara Ramirez and Ellen Pompeo.
Bob D'Amico/Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images

1. Grey’s Anatomy (2005- )

The premise: When it premiered as a mid-season replacement in spring 2005, who would have guessed that Shonda Rhimes’ first show would go on to become one of the biggest TV juggernauts of the 21st century? Most of its cast members — with the exception of Patrick Dempsey — were little-known actors, and Rhimes’ most notable projects up to that point were the scripts for The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement and the Britney Spears film Crossroads. And yet, something struck a major chord with audiences, who quickly fell in love with Dr. Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo, 52) and her fellow interns at Seattle Grace Hospital, played by Sandra Oh (50), Katherine Heigl, Justin Chambers (51) and T.R. Knight. Grey's changed the way Americans spoke (“my person,” “McDreamy”), it picked up Emmys, it launched careers, it stayed a ratings powerhouse for nearly two decades and it established the formula for a new type of sexy, funny prime time soap that dozens of other shows have tried (and failed) to replicate.

The best part: Pompeo doesn’t get nearly the credit she deserves for anchoring the series for 18 seasons and counting, growing from a young intern to the chief of general surgery, as she deals with dating, marriage, parenthood, the death of her husband (and mother and father and half sister and friend and … ), drowning, a plane crash, a bomb, a shooting and COVID-19.

Watch it: Grey’s Anatomy on ABCAmazon PrimeApple TVHuluNetflixYouTube

Discover AARP Members Only Access

Join AARP to Continue

Already a Member?