Friday, April 27, 2012

Four episodes in, is Scandal a win?

Warning: This post contains spoilers about Scandal through episode four.

It seems like many times when I read an article about Grey's Anatomy, there will be a disparaging comment like "People still watch this?" or some other variation. You can feel free to send some judgment my way, but I have to admit that I'm one of those people still watching Grey's, and even more, I enjoy it.


So when I heard that Shonda Rhimes had a new show coming out, Scandal, and it looked half-way interesting (I never watched Off the Map due to a failure to meet this last criteria), I decided to give it a shot.

One of my biggest problems with Scandal is that is tries extremely hard to be clever and sassy. This causes problems like painfully bad catchphrases ("gladiators in suits" from the pilot being the worst). It's almost as if there's at least one implicit "oh snap" written into every scene. Frankly, this becomes somewhat exhausting to watch. I do have to say, however, that this aspect has toned down a bit from the pilot, and I feel like it will continue to improve with time as the show becomes more comfortable with itself.

Another big problem with Scandal is its characters. Kerry Washington's lead character, Olivia Pope, is the only character with a strong sense of personality. Even so, the writers seem to be so determined to make her strong and unassailable that it's been hard to connect with her character thus far. She has had a few "tender moments" where her walls come down, and Washington is truly a magnetic lead. I just feel like Olivia could use a little bit of work. The other characters, however, could use quite a bit of work. They seem like they're mostly there to serve as sidekicks to Olivia, and they don't have a whole lot of personality. Honestly, out of all of them, the only whose name I even remember is Quinn, the new girl to the group. For the others, I only remember a couple of facts (this one left an abusive husband, that one just proposed to his girlfriend, ect.).

I've been pretty harsh on Scandal so far, but there's also plenty of good aspects to the show. For one, it's a nice twist on the typical procedural. Instead of solving a crime every episode, they work towards fixing a scandal. While this scandal may be a crime, their job may likely be to prove who didn't commit the crime rather than find out who did. This is a fun idea, and so far, there's been a good variety of types of scandals.

Scandal doesn't just focus on a "scandal of the week" format, but also incorporates an overarching scandal concerning the president. I'm a sucker for shows that incorporate weekly plots with overarching ones, and Scandal has found a good balance between the two so far. The presidential scandal is pretty silly and dramatic, but I'm finding it to be pretty interesting. There's been plenty of twists and turns in both the season arc and the weekly stories. Although a few of them have been quite predictable, some have taken me genuinely by surprise.

The characters may not be all that strong, but I've enjoyed all of the familiar faces in the cast. My Lost-loving self was excited to spot both Henry Ian Cusick (Desmond) and Jeff Perry (Frank Duckett who Sawyer shot/Grey's Anatomy's Thatcher Grey). Also starring in Scandal are Darby Stanchfield (creepy Glen's mom on Mad Men) and perhaps most excitingly, Liza Weil (Paris on Gilmore Girls). Honestly, I kind of just like to pretend that Weil is playing a version of Paris who changed her name because her character Amanda Tanner is somewhat Paris-esque.

Scandal is kind of a ridiculous show. You know what, though? That's not necessarily a bad thing. It's the Grey's Anatomy treatment given to the political world. It's melodramatic, but it's entertaining. So far, it hasn't seemed to take itself too seriously, but rather seems to embrace its dramatics. Why just settle for a presidential affair when you can throw kidnapping into the mix? Why not have a dictator back down from taking his children away from his wife after Olivia gives him a little speech? Scandal is not going to appeal to everyone, but if you can accept it for what it is and deal with some silliness, it's worth a try. I may not stick with the show forever, but I plan to at least keep watching throughout the season.

Plus, the fact that I marathoned the first three episodes in one afternoon and added the show to my already full Thursday night DVR line-up has to say something good about it, right?

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