Grey's Anatomy guru Shonda Rhimes knows about gracefully dealing with PR landmines, thanks to certain former cast members, and now she's mining the world of crisis management for a new show: Vulture has learned that Rhimes is creating a series for ABC inspired by the career of legendary public-relations consultant Judy Smith — the woman who's helped guide Bill Clinton, Michael Vick, and New York Governor David Paterson through various scandals and snafus. But it won't be just a ripped-from-the-headlines procedural about famous folks trying to bounce back: Based on the show's description, there will be more than a few Rhimes-esque soapy twists involved.
Per the logline we've heard, the currently untitled project (which some development trackers had been calling In Crisis) will revolve around the life and work of a professional fixer and her dysfunctional staff. Rhimes is writing the script for the pilot and will executive produce with her ABC Studios–based Shondaland production company. (Smith is also set to be a producer on the project, which is being developed for the 2011–12 TV season.) The potential show is still in its infancy, but the idea sounds like something ABC executives might be keen on. The network hasn't had much luck developing a Law & Order–like procedural in the legal or police arenas, and the untitled Rhimes hour could deliver the sorts of pulp-y stories L&O offers, but without the increasingly tired cops-and-lawyers motif. And who knows: Maybe Smith might be able to convince some of her ex-clients to do ironic cameos: Vick as a pet-shop owner, perhaps? Ha-ha-ha, ick?
The Smith-inspired crisis project isn't the only potential series in Rhimes's increasingly packed hopper. In addition to the new medical drama Off the Map (which premieres on ABC in January), Shondaland is developing Life After Marriage, a comedic drama that uses a divorce as the starting point for a show about new lives. Rhimes is supervising this show as an exec producer; the writer is Danny Brocklehurst, best known for his work on the award-winning British TV drama Shameless (the U.S. adaptation of that show debuts on Showtime in January).