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.
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.