Thursday, April 5, 2012

Pilot Review: Scandal

Scandal (Thursdays at 10:00 on ABC)

I won't mince words on this one: I hated almost every second of Scandal. It's a completely unrealistic and often stupid show which follows a crisis manager named Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington), an aptly named woman who is seemingly worshiped by everyone in Washington, DC. Pope is an attorney, though no longer practicing, who used to work with the now-President of the United States and now runs her own firm fixing people's horrible messes.

Scandal annoyed me from the outset with its utterly ridiculous script. It's so outrageous that it borders on camp, but it's played totally straight. With lines like "I'm not a lawyer, I'm a gladiator in a suit," how is that even possible? And the worst part is that exact line is repeated ad infinitum throughout the pilot, as if it is Pope's firm's professional motto. Over the course of the pilot's 45 or so minutes, there are several gems like that one:

"Olivia's a fixer, and you need fixing."
"My gut tells me everything I need to know."
"You tell the President of the United States to make time."

Add on a totally convoluted plot to the terrible dialogue, and I just don't understand how this ever got off the ground. Pope prides her firm on being the best, and it's made clear by several characters that she's "the best guy" out there, but when they investigate a murder suspect's alibi they don't check out the last place he went until 20 minutes before he's to be arrested. Wouldn't that be the first location on your list? Then there's the sloppy throughline of Pope's past relationship with the President (the ever creepy Tony Goldwyn) and his current relationship with a fragile new hire. All of it races at breakneck speed, complete with ultraquick cuts and the sound of camera flashes, toward a finale that provides no closure. The episode's main storyline, a decorated war hero accused of his girlfriend's murder, is never resolved; there's even a line thrown in about how it doesn't matter who killed the girl because Olivia did her part of the job. Well why the hell did you just force me to care for the past half hour if it didn't matter?

And all of this happens in the most condescending way. Scandal has such an air of inflated ego and self-importance. The characters are all no-nonsense and humorless. A scene between Guillermo Diaz and Katie Lowes (I don't remember their names, nor anyone else's, because the only one that was ever uttered enough to commit to memory was Olivia's) in the firm's bathroom was so straight-faced that it was baffling. Diaz's hacker character walks in on fresh-faced lawyer Lowes's character crying and convinces her that Olivia doesn't believe in tears, and there's no room for emotion in the office. Appropriately, everyone walks around with a stone face. I can't care about anyone because they're all so flat, including Olivia Pope, to a certain degree. She talks really fast, spits out legal mumbo-jumbo, threatens everyone she comes into contact with, and turns on a hell and rushes off. It made me feel like creator Shonda Rhimes (Grey's Anatomy, Private Practice) thinks Pope is the most extraordinary character to ever grace a television series, and she's doing the most important job on the planet by cleaning up other people's messes. There is so much emphasis placed on how amazing Pope is, how awesome her work is, how life-changing working for/with her can be. But to me, she just seems like an egomaniac.

Scandal is such a frustrating hour of TV. I could go on and on, but if I continue to think about the plot holes, the unreality, the cliches, the nose-in-the-air tone, the flat characterization... I'll just give myself a headache.

2 comments:

  1. Thank you! I could not agree more. Olivia pope is one of the lost irritating and trot characters on television. Just stop trying so hard, you are not all that persuasive! Also, "I'm never wrong"...uh...you were!

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  2. Argh! I could not agree more with your review...I started watching it because I liked Grey's Anatomy and thought "well...since this is Shonda Rhimes, I'll give this show a shot" and I literally could not have been more disappointed! it's pretty much the most over-rated show on television

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