AS SEEN ON

by Allison Levy | 2/1/11 11:00pm

Screenwriter, director and producer Shonda Rhimes '91 is the ruler of a burgeoning TV empire, commonly known as Shondaland. Her shows "Grey's Anatomy" and "Private Practice" are chugging along on ABC just fine, she has a pilot already picked up for the network's fall lineup and her production company's newest show "Off the Map" is slowly finding its footing after its Jan. 12 debut.

However, it seems like Rhimes is taking on too much, and lately it's been casting an ominous shadow on the future of my relationship with Shonda.

By relationship, I mean the emotional rollercoaster I've endured over five years of watching Rhimes' series and dealing with the endless ups and downs in the quality of her material.

Shonda and I first started dating when a friend suggested I check out the "Grey's" pilot. I fell in love instantly with the show's honesty and believable characters, with its ability to have fun even in a hospital and with Shonda.

Shonda and I hit the first bump in our relationship when ABC announced that Kate Walsh's character, neonatal surgeon Addison Montgomery would leave "Grey's" for a spin-off that Rhimes was developing around the character. I resented Shonda for removing one of the strongest characters from my favorite show. Rhimes assured audiences that the move was because the "Grey's" writers had run out of material for Addison. They convinced me that the move was a good thing a way for me to spend more time with Shonda.

I agreed to give the new arrangement a try, but it only weakened our relationship as "Grey's" began to disintegrate with bizarre story lines (sex with Denny's ghost, anyone?), "big event" episodes and cringe-worthy romantic recombinations of the doctors at Seattle Grace. I stopped watching "Grey's" entirely and stuck with "Private Practice" only out of curiosity.

This past fall, I thought Shonda and I had successfully moved past our differences. I began watching "Grey's" again, which was enjoying a much-publicized creative resurgence following last spring's suspenseful season-ender about a shooting at the hospital. Meanwhile, "Private Practice" had found its niche exploring ethical dilemmas in medicine and power dynamics among its characters.

But then "Off the Map" happened. The series is best described as "Grey's Anatomy" in the jungle, although Rhimes who serves as an executive producer of the show and not a writer has sworn it isn't. However, the characters and storylines thus far have felt recycled at best and seem to be insignificant variables plugged into the Shondaland equation at worst.

With the debut of "Off the Map" and a new series about a crisis manager consultant coming in the fall, I worry that Rhimes risks spreading herself too thin again. Rhimes is not the first TV producer to achieve brand status, but there is a limit to how many series one can successfully helm without sacrificing the quality of their content.