ABC has been hot to capitalize on it’s Grey’s Anatomy market (as that show gets increasingly long in the tooth) for quite some time, and when other options aren’t surfacing, or working out, there’s no reason not to try out another effort by Grey’s and Private Practice creator/writer Shonda Rhimes. Last year’s Off the Map didn’t stick, but she wasn’t writing that one.
Of course, nothing could make more sense. If you’re looking for a show that people who watch Grey’s Anatomy will watch, why look anywhere else? And, generally speaking, if you’re looking for someone to create and write a TV show, why would you not look to the writer of Crossroads and The Princes Diaries 2: Royal Engagement? Some things in the business are just no-brainers.
On April 5th 10/9c, ABC brings you Scandal, a new legal drama about a collective of lawyers who don’t like to think of themselves as lawyers (and certainly not a firm), led by Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington), a powerhouse player and former communications director to the President.
The show kicks off with a fairly interesting entry as young attorney Quinn (Katie Lowes) is given the rundown on a job offer which she quickly dismisses, because she thought she was showing up at the bar for a blind date, and only showed up to cancel. It’s all a bit of a joke to Quinn, but when the name Olivia Pope is dropped, she’s in awe, and she’s in.
We quickly meet the crew at Olivia’s office – hipster lawyer Stephen Finch (LOST‘s Henry Ian Cusick), down-to-business Harrison Wright (Columbus Short), hacker extraordinaire Huck (Guillermo Diaz), and “investigator” Abby Whelan (Darby Stanchfield). Quinn is thrown into it before she’s even sure she’s officially hired, as one case wraps up with surprising results, and a man covered in blood stumbles into Olivia’s office.
From there, plotwise, we’re moving down the same general road as most police investigation and/or legal series, except the spin is that these people are problem solvers. They don’t intend to be anyone’s lawyer, or go to court, and they aren’t especially interested in solving crimes. Their job is to make their clients’ problems go away, and there’s a lot of chatting with the President. There’s also quite a bit more variety in the episodic run, because though we’ll get a murder in the pilot, clients may need help with just about anything.
Grey’s Anatomy is obviously a good starting point for comparisons, but as I said last year with Off the Map, it’s a tricky comparison to make. Grey’s Anatomy was a different creature when it started, hit a breaking point after about two seasons, and has slowly been devolving ever since. Scandal continues along that spiraling deathtrap path, and all but the most fervent fans of Grey’s Anatomy, as it exists now, are going to want to stay away at all costs.
Riddled with laughable dialog, and driven by plotpoints and a general construction that leave Soaps rolling their eyes, Scandal apparently aims at guilty pleasure, but spins things so far to one side that it is very nearly so bad that it becomes intensely watchable. From the worshipful awe characters direct toward Olivia (inspired by a theoretical character Kerry Washington comes nowhere near delivering), to overboiled dramatics from the clients, to a President you can read through even without holding him up to the light, the show plays at a great game of saying, “This is very dramatic,” at you, but it clearly means something far removed from “dramatic.”
But, the real trick to this show, insofar as trying to deliver some idea of whether or not you will like, is that it is ultimately struggling so hard against itself. Any show in this realm has to have some connection between the events that transpire and the method of delivering them. Whether extremely serious events are at play, or fairly ludicrous ones, they have to match up with the acting, scene construction, and even the soundtrack, or there is no way for the audience to engage. When a show clearly takes itself seriously to an extent that is the polar opposite of what’s actually going on, that’s train wreck television.
Worse still, the show almost gets you to play along for about the first fifteen minutes, which means there is some ability to deliver behind things, but the writing falls so far, so fast, that there comes a point when you have to wonder if there’s some joke in play.
I’m all for guilty pleasure television, but this show goes so far as to become a certain benchmark. There is a scene towards the end of the pilot which finds Olivia returning to talk to the President again, and if you can watch that scene play out and retain even the slightest interest in watching further episodes of the show… well, first, set aside your money now for the complete series DVD set, because you’ve found what will become your favorite show ever, and second, shy away from admitting it to people.
Everyone has a secret… and Olivia Pope has dedicated her life to protecting and defending the public images of the nation’s elite and keeping those secrets under wraps. Revered and feared at the same time, Olivia, a former communications director to the President of the United States, left the White House to open her own prominent crisis management firm. She is hoping to start a new chapter in her life—both professionally and personally—but she can’t seem to completely cut ties with her past. Slowly it becomes apparent that her dysfunctional staff, who specialize in fixing other people’s lives, can’t quite fix the ones closest at hand-their own. The creator and executive producers of Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice delve into the behind-the-scenes machinations of a mesmerizing top crisis manager in ABC’s highly anticipated new drama, Scandal.
Olivia’s accomplished staff, who would follow her anywhere and do whatever it takes to save someone’s reputation, include Stephen Finch, who has dated his share of women but is trying to settle down and have a family; Harrison Wright, a slick litigator; Huck, hacker extraordinaire; investigator Abby Whelan, who has an enduring crush on Stephen; and Quinn Perkins, the new young woman in the office who is in awe of Olivia, but is initiated in a trial by fire on her very first day on the job.
Olivia’s former boss, President Fitzgerald Grant and his chief of staff, Cyrus Beene, are never far from her beat. Her clients aren’t the only ones with secrets, though; surprisingly, she may need to exercise all her damage control skills on her own behalf.