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Friday, April 6, 2012

Scandal!

I’ve been waiting 7 months to watch Scandal, the new show from Grey's Anatomy scribe Shonda Rhimes and starring actress Kerry Washington. At first blush, I have to say I was a tad bit disappointed. I mean, it’s too soon for a verdict I know, but I already have strong opinions.

Did you watch it? I’m not going to spoil it if you haven’t but suffice to say that it’s classic Shonda- that’s not a compliment.

I, like every review I read, liked Kerry Washington. Although they needed to do something different with her hair- her forehead is too big for that half-bang thing she’s rolling with now. And she needs to gain a couple pounds, not a bunch, just a couple- she looks as the West Indians would say “maaga”. And if you look like you could use a meal on TV, then you need IV nourishment in real life, or a feeding tube. Also, I really hope that this is the only episode in which she constantly rocks that white trench- it’s a really nice coat but the way she whips around in it the whole episode, it makes her look like a cracked-out superhero-IMO. And then there’s the fact that besides her the only interesting people are the Scottish dude from Lost (Henry Ian Cusick), Columbus Short and Tony Goldwyn. Oh and the dude who used to be on West Wing but is a district attorney – or states attorney in this- he’s potentially interesting too. I want to see where their relationship goes or came from. Everyone is saying Shonda’s kinda copying West Wing but I think it’s a little of that and a little Good Wife too (they’ve even got a Kalinda-wannabe). There’s no character development in the first episode except for KW but I’m gonna give that a pass because it’s the pilot. Interestingly, the major sympathetic figure or audience identification figure is the white girl that KW hires- sight unseen- completely without obvious reason, like Patty did on Damages. Except you know Shonda can’t write in the same league as Damages so the explanation of why she was hired is so stupid, that it doesn’t bear repeating and more likely than not there will be no “real” reason added later. For all that, there’s actually only a smidge of Greys and unfortunately that smidge is one of the most annoying parts of Greys (in that they do the stupid repeating things eight times in one monologue).

Shonda needs to step back and let someone who knows how to write a show like this really get in it. The premise is good, the actors are good- but it’s gonna flounder if it doesn’t get some real teeth instead of the dumb Greys/PP veneers Shonda likes to work with. Don’t get me wrong, a little soap is good and juicy (and Shonda, IMO, goes hard with the major twist-ish thing- that true, if you’re paying attention you realize immediately in the premiere –but I mean it’s serious soap, like the industrial strength sh!t they wash cars with). Still, it’s gotta be more cleverly written without all the stupid moralizing and poor foreshadow/telegraphing she does in Greys/PP. It’s Washington DC and politics- it’s got to be dirty and immoral and darker. It can’t be cute. Shonda seems to be the only person writing for television currently that can make brown people palatable for white consumption, so she’s a good person to create and guide the show and Kerry Washington’s character arc but someone else needs to be writing the shows day to day. She doesn’t have the skill for anything that isn’t cute, melodramatic, romantic and/or sometimes comedic. I worry that she’s gonna make the same mistake that JJ Abrams made with Undercovers and in an effort to make the brown people in leading roles “safe”, make them facile and one dimensional, thusly undercutting the part of the show that actually makes it interesting.

In my humble opinion, this show could be AMAZING if someone like the Kings (who do The Good Wife) or whoever wrote Prime Suspect on NBC or even The Practice-era David E. Kelley was the showrunner. I believe that. The setup is good, the subject matter is deliciously bad, and the setting (ie. amongst the halls of power and privilege) is decidedly ugly. But I personally don’t think Shonda is equal to the task. And her margin of error is going to be decidedly smaller than it was with Private Practice and Off the Map, because the lead is black. Ironically, the only thing she has going for her right now, is that though the reviews haven’t been praiseworthy- most of the critics like the premise and they love Kerry Washington. I’m gonna tune in for a little longer to see if it gets better- or until the writing pisses me off sufficiently to make me stop watching.

If you saw it, what did you think?

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