Story Lines We Won’t See On How to Get Away With Murder Now that the Show Ditched Philly to Film on the West Coast


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Watching the debut of super-producer Shonda Rhimes’ new show, How to Get Away with Murder, was a little like spotting one of your exes strutting around in a T-shirt you lent them and never got back. The new legal thriller, created by former Scandal and Grey’s Anatomy writer Pete Nowalk, shot its pilot here this past March. It was later picked up by Rhimes-obsessed ABC — a victory punctuated by the entire operation moving to the West Coast.

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It’s a common occurrence for a television series — a more flexible shooting schedule and more control over sets are obvious boons for the production team, though The Daily Pennsylvanian notes that star Viola Davis actually had language in her contract stipulating that shooting be shifted to Los Angeles in the event of a full-season order. (Whatever, Vi!) So that leaves us with shots of Center City (above), scenes filmed on-campus at Bryn Mawr and Ursinus and varying B-roll of familiar corridors scattered throughout episode one — nice touches in a series that’s actually set in Philadelphia, and doesn’t expect the city to stand in as a facsimile for somewhere else. (Look out for the TV reporter with the 6ABC microphone.)

The pilot features Davis as Annalise Keating, a renowned Philly defense attorney described with all sorts of flattering adjectives (“brilliant, charismatic and seductive”“deeply mysterious”!), who also teaches Criminal Law 100 at the Penn-like Middleton University. When she’s not ripping kids new ones from her lectern, she’s manipulating her first-year pupils into lying, cheating, stealing and soullessly banging to drudge up illegally obtained evidence she can use in her active cases. In addition to dealing her latest client, an administrative assistant who allegedly poisoned her boss, the lawyer and her acolytes find themselves wrapped up in a number of other crimes, including a coed whose body is found floating in a sorority house water tower and the juicy murder of a major character that’s being telegraphed as a season-long arc.

This got us thinking of all the brilliant localized plot progressions Murder must abandon, at least in the capacity us Philadelphians would appreciate, now that the show has ditched us for California. Shonda, if you’re reading this (you’re not), these are all totally free ideas, take-a-penny leave-a-penny style.

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(It should be noted that in the scene above, Vi scrawls those three things on the chalkboard and literally goes “And that’s how you get away with murder!” while dusting her hands off. Titular line!)

– The Phillie Phanatic, long known as a Jeter-style ladies’ man (“Exactly how many women have you invited to dance on the dugout with you, sir?”), finally has his randy reputation catch up with him, as the body of a promising young Main Line cellist is discovered, covered in blood-soaked neon feathers, near Grady Sizemore’s locker. Sizemore is cleared — he was playing an away game in St. Louis the night of the crime, going 0 for 4 — shifting blame squarely to the sexually deviant mascot. Are Keating and her duplicitous students able to develop a defense that will keep the Phanatic out of the maximum security mascot prison? (Spoiler: It was the Phanatic’s evil red twin. That’s not actually a spoiler, of course it was him. Commie.)

– Everyone loves Kasaba, Mali, Msinga and Sabi, aka the ungodly cute lion cubs at the Philadelphia Zoo, right? Everyone except the bubbly pharmaceutical sales rep from Manayunk who accidentally tumbles into their habitat and is eaten alive, adorably, by the vicious foursome. But was it an accident? Not according to prosecutors, who drop a first-degree murder rap on an unassuming groundskeeper with a checkered past. It’s up to Keating’s team to prove that he’s being framed by a shadowy coalition of Winston Wolf-esque fixers working for Big Zoo.

– The badly mutilated body of a middle-aged man, dressed in nothing but a Jon Dorenbos jersey and midnight green Zubaz cut-offs, is discovered on the cobblestones of Headhouse Square, a series of Wawa hoagies organized around his corpse in a nearly ritualistic manner. After questioning employees, it becomes clear that someone — or something — held a grudge against the regular, who was last seen alive struggling with the touch-screen to order an Italian Shorti at 3 o’ clock that morning. (Investigators determine that the murder weapon was actually a limited-edition Gobbler, and/or an Egg White Sizzli.) An embattled sandwich artist from Port Richmond is pegged for the crime — can Keating exonerate her before the coveted Hoagiefest promotion ends?

– The never-ending clash between city cyclists and motorists comes to a bloody head when a blacked-out SUV plows through the annual Tweed Ride, crushing a handful of jauntily dressed thrill-seekers beneath their old-timey penny-farthing bikes. The apparent culprit? An angry Uber driver and disgraced Mummer from Pennsport who hates anything and everything on two wheels. The crime bitterly divides the city, sparking bikes-vs.-cars riots in all of Billy Penn’s five original squares. But some illegal digging by Keating and her students uncovers evidence of a conspiracy, involving a series of elaborate kickbacks, union corruption and a new target: Diner en Blanc. This one goes all the way to the top — and Keating, who has deep ties to the Froggy Carr wench brigade, finds herself implicated. Her students go undercover, getting super-drunk on Mad Dog 20/20 and Miller Lite tallboys and stumbling down Two Street to discover the truth.