Why Scandal Is Scandalously NOT Great

Mother and Child premiere - Roy Thompson Hall ...
If she were any badder, it’d be, dare I say, Scandalous.  Roy Thompson Hall – (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Confession time.  I tried, with all the good-black-girl-solidarity within me, to like Shonda Rhimes’ show, ‘Scandal.’  

It’s a black girl’s dream show: Kerry Washington in the lead role being bawse-y in Louboutin’s and Outre Remi, sexy black guy-candy, sexy white guy-candy, annoying whiny women upstaged by Kerry’s awesomeness, powerful white man sprung on Kerry’s goods…you get the idea. Theoretically ginormous win all around. Score one for the black girls!

Except, watching the reruns for ‘Scandal’, I was reminded of why I am not really excited about the show’s return this fall: it’s not great television.  ‘Scandal’ is in a fantastic lineup, following Shonda’s mega-hit ‘Grey’s Anatomy’, but Kerry Washington’s DC-based drama pales in comparison to its sister show.  Here’s why:

1.  Someone Stuck the Dialogue Button on Fast-Forward.  Can anyone, please, please, tell me why Shonda Rimes adores fast-paced dialogue so much?  I understand that the nature of scandalous business demands urgency, but does everysingleconvo needtoruntogether

infastmo? The actors spit out, rather than deliver, their lines, as if the scripts were written in bullets. Shoot me, already!  No one talks like that in real life.

2. Olivia Pope. Huck. Harrison. And the Other People.  This one might be on me, but I have no clue who the other characters are. Shonda has created an ensemble cast of 2D individuals about whom she makes me care very little. We love Olivia and want her on our team!  But the minions in the conference room? Why are they special? Right, because Olivia needs people to carry out the bullet-point orders she fires off. I live only to see Harrison in gingham.

3. Olivia Pope, In Action, Does…Nothing?  Her hype precedes her and leaves you wondering: WTF just happened?!  And maybe that’s the mystique of Olivia Pope, but the most we see her do is bark orders from delicately lined lips, pick up phones and vaguely threaten folk. And when Olivia does set things in motion, it is the minions who do the scurrying, the dirty digital data scrubbing, and the planting or removal of evidence.  Olivia Pope, I don’t believe you; you don’t need more people…you need to actually DO something.

4. About That Presidential Affair.  I suppose every sheroine needs an Achilles heel, but does it have to be such a douche of a character as the marginally attractive Pres? The most powerful woman in DC…is the president’s side piece? He ain’t that fine, no way. I still cannot decide if that’s a brilliant plot device or just…a scandalous choice in character development.

I may stick around just for this Gladiator…

5. All the White Women are Whiny. But then again, this is a Shonda Rhimes show.  Never mind, Meredith Grey.  There can only be one main character, but the aggrandizement of Pope’s character reduces every other female to bitchy lackey or whorish side piece. Great for Olivia, bad for feminist womankind.

BONUS: 6. The Scandals Look Alike. Sex, murder, gayness, sex tape, cheating wife, missing cheating husband, hooker sex, gay sex, office sex… ad nauseum.  And if we already know that Olivia is great at having sex, cleaning up sex tapes, spinning hooker sex into stand-by-your-man sex…then what’s really at stake?

Nevertheless, I may still try to check out Season 3; maybe the producers will slow the dub down. Scandal isn’t awful, per se; I just wonder if the black girl acclaim it receives is more due to Kerry Washington! at the lead! of a network television show! with a black female producer! These are great strides. But I sure do wish the show itself produced as much excitement as the promise of it once did.

Note: I originally wrote this September 2012 before Season 2. It still rings true for me. 

28 thoughts on “Why Scandal Is Scandalously NOT Great

  1. I guess. I wrote this post so long ago, I think it’s a bit dated. But I STILL stand by the premise of the show, that she’s politically savvy and well connected, assertive and good at her job. Now? She’s just well connected. I cannot stand the current Liv.

  2. Someone needed to bring her down, don’t understand how she had such a front when she was essentially prezpiece. But then, even if it was a black woman in the lead role, to be palatable to a mainstream white audience, she kind of had to be all about the man didn’t she.

  3. You know, I stopped watching by the time Daddy Pope came on. I was down to catching the highlights by then. I think maybe you and I are the outliers on this one. Most people I’ve heard LOVE Joe Morton’s character and his scolding of his daughter. (Probably b/c they want to scold her themselves…) But I laughed out loud at your characterization of his speech. I think you nailed it.

  4. When I saw Olivia’s father I was looking forward to having a black anti-hero that people could get behind. Black fathers tend to get the ‘saint or monster’ portrayal. Neither is balanced, or particularly human. This guy was high status, low profile, violent, intelligent, ruthless, and patriotic. Sad times for us that he’s also fucking HORRIBLE at delivering line. He vocalises his fullstops, I can hear hyphens. Why? Most magnetic role in the show ruined by terrible delivery after identical terrible delivery.

    “Olivia. You. THINK – you want a Man, what you have. What. you. HAVE. Is a boy, a boooy (head nod) Don’t. ask. what you don’t WANT. to. know.”

    After he speaks I genuinely want to go to sleep. It makes me too stressed.

  5. I find that’s the only thing I miss about not watching Scandal; the sense of community you get when you know what everyone is else talking about and can join in.

  6. This is largely why I quite like my approach to TV and films… I’m usually about 2 years behind everyone else! By which time if something is truly good then I’ll watch it and conversely if it’s bad I can save myself the time investing in character and storylines that I come to dislike. Only problem is it means you can’t join in with the coffee-machine chats!

  7. Harrison IS foine, but you’re right I wish we knew more about the other characters to care (besides that they work too long hours and always pick up the phone when Liv calls). I thought I was the only one who thought they spoke too damn fast, I make fun of my bf for using captions, but with this show if you miss one conversation, you missed the mole. I think with the 3rd season it’s too much going on and I don’t care about none of it, but maybe just her mother being bought back in the picture which makes you feel kind of sorry for Liv.

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  9. I never thought about it like that! Pulling from my other hated wife, Mellie reminds a lot of Skyler White from Breaking Bad. Everyone hated Skyler, but she bore an awful lot of her husband’s crap and bent, but never quite broke until the close of the series.

    Mellie is complicated b/c she deserves sympathy but does not inspire it. She’s made to look vindictive and petty, as if she should take the affair lying down. I suppose Scandal fans love to hate Mellie, too. 🙂

  10. I totally disagree about who is strong – Mellie is incredibly strong. Olivia is made weaker every episode by Fitz and that is the twisted reality that pulls me on.

  11. I am constantly rewinding my tv/dvr to figure out what they just said. My television is turned up, I’m leaning in, and squinting (because that makes you hear better) trying to catch eachwordthatrunstogetherlikethey’veneverheardofaperiodorasemicolon.

    Huck is my favorite character. Maybe because I wanted to be an assassin when I grew up…*sigh*

    Lastly, the affair gets on my nerves. As a wife, i will NEVER root for the side piece/mistress/homewrecker/extramarital lover to win. Ever. If y’all love each other so much wait until the divorce is final to be together. Oh – you can’t get divorced because of _______?? Poor baby…guess you’ll have to chalk it up to ships passing in the night.

  12. Thanks for catching my humor…it can be couched sometimes. The post was mostly tongue-in-cheek.

    I honestly think the affair is the most realistic part of the show. I know I’ve thought about friends, “You’re going through all that drama for HIM?!” Like you said, the heart wants what it wants.

    And, for the record, I LOVE Breaking Bad. The best-written and acted show on TV, bar none.

    I’m not ALL THE WAY crazy. 🙂

  13. I love Scandal and absolutely adore Kerry Washington. I end every episode with heart palpitations. Despite my unending love and devotion to Scandal, I found your post hilarious.
    In regards to point 4: I hate Prez Fitz as well. He is annoying, manupulative, and needy but the heart wants what it wants and it makes for an interesting plot.
    You don’t have to like Scandal, that is your perogative. Although if you say that you hate Breaking Bad, we may have a problem. LOL.

  14. LOL! The battle over a fictional character’s moral character does get interesting. I can’t lie, though, I’ve watched some shows where folk be creeping and I’m glued to the TV. I don’t even approach it from a moral standpoint, ’cause that’s a losing battle. Fitz won’t let Olivia be great though; that’s what I hate.

  15. You know, aside from the whole since when was I supposed to be all twitterpated over adultery. And their insistence on “you’re not a mistress”….um….::flips through dictionary::

  16. Law, I don’t know if it’s as cut and dry as ‘we are what we consume.’ I did watch the entire 1st season and up until the affair plotline thickened, I was all in. The affair depiction itself is standard television, but I guess I just don’t like her weakness on full display. I do think, however, it’s what makes Olivia Pope an Emmy-worthy character: the dimensions.

  17. 1) LOL. Point well taken! I listen slowly.

    2) I concede this; I wrote it before Huck’s backstory unfolded and the other characters were fleshed out more.

    3) But oh, whyy can’t she scrub a classified disk just once? It’d be great to see her get her hands dirty!

    4) This aspect of your comment is weak, too; Side pieces for unemployed dudes need love, and not shade. Not saying that she can’t be a side piece, but for Fitz?! I don’t see it. Call me picky.

    5) Melly whines, Quinn whines, etc etc. It means that Olivia is not only the strongest character on the show, but she’s the strongest woman. Juxtapose this with ‘Girlfriends’ where there were four women, but each one had strengths and not one came off as particular weak in comparison to, say, Joan. It’s wishful on my part, but I like strong women characters across the board.

    6) Cheating, drugs, sex, sure, all those are scandalous. But she works in DC. Surely folk need things other than their closeted sex lives handled?! But touche!

    I appreciate you reading and commenting! I give Scandal a shot at the beginning of every season, so you Gladiators may convert me yet. 🙂

  18. Meh.

    1) Keep up!

    2) Each associate is dynamic in their own way. I don’t know anyone who watches who feels they don’t know the other associates.

    3) Why yes. That’s EXACTLY the mystique.

    4) yeah yeah we know. She’s just a side piece. Complains the women that are side pieces to an unemployed dude with 18 kids.

    5) that’s just weird and means what??

    6) Err. Definition of Scandal means bad stuff. Cheating/drugs/inappropriate sex.

    It’s perfectly okay to just not like it…but the critique is weak, at best.

  19. the new female heroine is just a side piece smh lol. couldn’t agree with you more. I personally would not date a woman who watches that show as well as basketball wives and the likes. We are what we consume.

  20. Oh, I know, Sunday absolutely kills me. I’m glad True Blood, Breaking Bad, and Dexter are going off the air. I already watch Sunday Night Football and I can’t have the conflicts. And I can’t wait until House of Cards returns–THAT was awesome.

    Speaking of humorous, I am getting absolutely lambasted on Facebook by the Scandal Nation. LOL. They missed the humor part.

  21. interesting and humorous take. I haven’t watched Scandal, not one episode. Partly it’s due to my other tv commitments. got so many other shows I do watch, didn’t feel like a new one. second, the premise and plot just wasn’t my thing. House of Cards has given me all the sordid DC I can take! but, with all the buzz, and with a WoC lead, said I’d give it a Netflix try…provided I can fit it in between Boardwalk Empire and Breaking Bad and Walking Dead…and when is Being Human back?! too much tv…

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