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How to Get Away With Murder Series Premiere Attracts 14 Million Viewers: Watch Viola Davis in Action

How To Get Away with Murder
How to Get Away With Murder starring Viola Davis attracted a whopping 14 million viewers on Thursday, Sept. 25 -- watch a preview of the series here! ABC/Nicole Rivelli

New girl crush alert! ABC’s “TGIT” (Thank God It’s Thursday) swept the small screen on Sept. 25, with the help of Shonda Rhimes‘ new executive-produced series, How to Get Away With Murder.

According to preliminary ratings from Nielsen, the pilot of Murder, starring Oscar nominee Viola Davis, opened with 14 million viewers at its 10 p.m. ET slot. To give perspective, Scandal‘s season four premiere, which aired one hour earlier, drew in an audience of 11.9 million — its biggest ever.

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ABC marked an overall win after Rhimes’ triple-header of Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, and Murder gave the network its highest-rated Thursday evening in five years.

The shocking legal thriller, created by Peter Nowalk, tells the story of criminal law professor Annalise Keating (Davis) who teaches at Middleton University — a school loosely based off of the University of Pennsylvania. The series’ pilot opens up with four of Keating’s students, Wes, Laurel, Connor, and Michaela, arguing in the woods about how to dispose of a body. With their promising legal futures on the line, they flip a coin to decide the fate of the body. The scene then flashes to three months prior when the students arrive on campus for their first day of Keating’s class.

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“I don’t know what terrible things you’ve done in your life up to this point, but clearly your karma’s out of balance to get assigned my class,” Davis’ fierce character tells her students. “I’m Professor Annalise Keating and this is Criminal Law 100, or as I prefer to call it: How to Get Away with Murder.”

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The premiere also featured multiple racy sex scenes (and an extramarital one at that!) between Professor Keating and a hot detective. Another unexpected scene shows Keating’s student Connor using his sexual prowess in a bar to bed a tech man — and uncover a key component to a case.

At the 2014 Television Critics Associations in July, Davis discussed her new character and what compelled her to say yes to the TV drama. “I dove at [this role]. I love the fact that she’s messy and mysterious,” Davis, 49, told Us Weekly. “She’s not necessarily nurturing and ‘Come sit on my lap so I can talk to you, baby.'”

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Added the star, “She’s a woman. She’s sexual. She’s vulnerable. I wanted a character that took me out of my comfort zone.”

How TO Get Away with Murder
ABC/Nicole Rivelli

According to Nielsen, if ratings hold, How to Get Away With Murder may become the most-watched TV show on prime-time television, possibly even knocking down CBS’ coveted top-performing Thursday Night Football.

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