'Quantico': Why it's being compared to TV shows by Shonda Rhimes

Quantico premiered on ABC on Sunday. Why this show about young FBI trainees is winning converts among TV critics.

Guy D'Alema/ABC/AP
'Quantico' stars Brian J. Smith (l.), Johanna Braddy (second from l.), Yasmine Al Massri (second from r.), and Priyanka Chopra (r.).

ABC’s new show “Quantico” premiered Sunday Sept. 27 and the program is already winning over critics – and reminding them of some of ABC’s other successful shows.

“Quantico” centers on various young adults being trained to join the FBI, including Alex Parrish (Priyanka Chopra). The plot is reportedly going to reveal that one of the FBI trainees organized a terrorist incident.

The show is created by Joshua Safran, who served as an executive producer for the NBC show “Smash” and for the CW television series “Gossip Girl.”

“Quantico” has so far received mainly positive reviews from critics, including Robert Bianco of USA Today and Hank Stuever of the Washington Post, who write that the show “spark[s] our interest in the mystery and the hero” and that “Chopra brings a sincere, centrifugal force to this swirling storyline.”

Not everyone is won over, however. James Poniewozik of the New York Times wrote, “Too much... [narrative gymnastics], though, keeps you from investing much in the characters… it lacks the idiosyncrasy that grounds a show like ‘Scandal’ through its wildest flights.” 

Why do reviews of "Quantico" often reference “Scandal"?

 “Scandal” creator Shonda Rhimes isn’t involved in the show. But many critics note that features of “Quantico” – such as the storyline of a female character getting involved romantically with a male co-worker, the many plot twists, and a group of young people who work together – bear similarities to the shows created or produced by Ms. Rhimes. Those programs currently make up ABC’s hugely successful Thursday night lineup: “How to Get Away With Murder,” “Scandal,” and “Grey’s Anatomy.” “Scandal” and “Grey’s” were created by Rhimes, while Rhimes is an executive producer for “Murder.” 

But there are certainly worse examples for "Quantico" to copy: Rhimes’ programs have become a staple of ABC programming and her show “Grey’s,” which recently debuted its 12th season, is one of the longest-running programs on primetime right now. 

Rhimes has also been hailed for the representation of various races on her shows. (She herself said when being honored at the Human Rights Campaign’s Los Angeles Gala earlier this year, “I really hate the word 'diversity.’ As if there is something unusual about telling stories about women or people of color or LGBT characters on TV. I have a different word. I call it 'normalizing.' I make TV look like the world looks.”)

“Quantico” continues that. Chopra, who is a Bollywood star, has become one of several Indian actors on TV now, with others including Mindy Kaling of Hulu’s “The Mindy Project” and Kunal Nayyar of CBS’s “The Big Bang Theory.”

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