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Upfront Notebook: For ABC, Thank God It’s Shonda Rhimes

Despite never appearing on stage, prolific producer front and center at ABC upfront

Shonda Rhimes may have not made an appearance at ABC’s upfront presentation Tuesday afternoon, but ABC execs made sure buyers in the audience knew just how important the mega-producer is to the network.

"I should give credit to the person paying for this shindig. Shonda Rhimes, where are you?" joked Disney-ABC Television Group president Ben Sherwood during his brief remarks.

Sherwood, who was introduced by How to Get Away With Murder’s Viola Davis, came on after an opening video that parodied Viola’s opening monologue from the series premiere of Murder. The video swapped in ABC stars that were schooled by Davis, in character, in “how to get a win at ABC.”

Continuing the Rhimes theme, ABC aired a promo clip for its “TGIT” Thursday lineup that featured non-ABC shows including The Mindy Project, Parks and Recreation and Cougar Town that have plugged Rhimes’ shows on their own series. The Catch, the fourth Rhimes-produced drama, will join the “TGIT” lineup at midseason.

Jimmy Kimmel’s annual upfront roast did not disappoint again, taking jabs at TV’s lack of diversity, ABC’s climb out of last place … and Brian Williams.

ABC chose a strange closer to its upfront, having Montell Jordan come out and do an ABC-themed remix of his 1990s-era song "This is How We Do It,” with ABC stars dancing behind him.

Prior to the presentation, ABC’s stars from its hit shows including Modern Family, Fresh Off the Boat, Black-ish and Scandal patiently waited in “Selfie Booths” in the halls outside Avery Fisher Theater as buyers stood in line to get their picture taken with them.