ABC’s Scandal — A Full Two Season Review

After persistent pushing from my peers, I finally watched the first two seasons of Scandal. The show centers around Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington), whose sole job is to fix Scandals, most of which revolve around the White House, or any politicians associated with it.

Before even completing the pilot, the casting was already worth noting. Powerful protagonists are always welcome, and as an African American female, Kerry Washington falls outside network television’s conventional mold. To top it off, the President’s Chief of Staff is a homosexual in a Republican administration, another breakthrough choice on Rimes’ part.

The show is part crime drama, part love story. With each episode, there’s a new mystery, and though the episodes are somewhat self-contained, they are brilliantly tied together in subtle ways that create an addictive experience. Unlike many mystery shows, Scandal centers around each character’s personal life in addition to propelling the broad-sweeping plot-lines. We become invested in the inside lives of Olivia’s “gladiators,” and we like them, even when they double cross their friends.

Despite my aforementioned praise, there’s a few issues. First, although I’ve been a Kerry Washington fan since Spike Lee’s ‘She Hate Me,’ this role needs to be reigned in.  Her character lacks light & shade, using nearly every moment to monologue in a harsh tone, even when such monologues relate to her love life and not her occupation. Washington could stand to take notes from Bellamy Young, whose Emmy-worthy performance as the First Lady is extremely multi-dimensional.  Young waivers effortlessly between villainous and vulnerable, making it nearly impossible to decide if I like her — which is a monumental feat.

As for the President (played by Tony Goldwyn), he needs more flaws. He’s constantly proclaiming his love for Pope, declaring his unwavering desire to leave his wife for her. Though it’s unequivocally impossible for the President to publicly leave his wife for his mistress prior to his second term, Pope’s mishandling of their romance has reached a cartoonish stereotype of nearly all women, who adamantly declare their desire for something only to reject it upon receipt. And since the President’s wife knows of his affair, the conflict that’s kept him away from his mistress is far too depleted to justify Pope’s rejection. In short, she’s being a girl about it, and as a “Gladiator” — that seems odd. If I were lending my unwanted advice, I’d give Olivia a substantial love life (that doesn’t include the President), and I’d resurrect the President’s relationship with the First Lady, since it’s clear there’s some semblance of existing love, and that would create a justified conflict in the show’s romantic relationships. 

I recently tweeted this criticism to Shonda Rimes, who understandably told me that “I’m welcome to stop watching it.” The problem with her suggestion is — I can’t stop watching it. It’s one of the only scripted shows on television with a substantial, complicated plot, and it’s  addictive. So if you haven’t discovered it yet — I’d advise you to do so quickly.

‘Grey’s Anatomy’ Addresses Abortion — Great Episode

I have to give Grey’s Anatomy creator Shonda Rimes a lot of credit. There are very few shows that can climb out of a writing slump so successfully. The show has been completely resurrected, and it’s better than ever. In the scene below, watch the very gifted Sandra Oh and Kevin McKidd discuss abortion.

Katherine Heigl Wants to Return to Grey’s Anatomy — Shonda Rimes Laughing?

When actors become breakout stars of a television series, they inevitably want out of their contract to star in movies. Studios get angry, actors become defiant, and finally, after a predicted media meltdown, the network and studio decide they would rather have to rewrite a story-line than deal with a difficult, unhappy actor. But the actor soon discovers that the movie business brings more fame than money, because offers, no matter how big, are few and far between. Such was the case with Katherine Heigl, who kicked and screamed her way off of Grey’s Anatomy until she was finally released from her contract. And like the many actors before her (see David Caruso) — she wants back in. Shonda Rimes is probably tickled pink.

Grey’s Anatomy Musical Episode — It Didn’t Work

I just watched this much talked about Grey’s Anatomy episode, and I really wanted to like it — I promise I did. Unfortunately, it simply didn’t work. The plot surrounded Dr. Callie Torres, who was near death following a car accident. In the process of trying to save her, just about every doctor breaks into song, which is loosely justified by Callie’s hallucinations. There’s a few problems with this. First, in order to justify awkwardly singing in the middle of a hospital operation, each song must take place in Callie’s presence, otherwise it’s not a hallucination, and it’s instead just a crazy doctor that should be fired for singing on the job. Second, the song choices should have been somewhat thematic. It just doesn’t make sense to sing Chasing Cars by Snow Patrol and Breathe by Anna Nalick. It felt too random, as if they picked the songs out of a very large hat. I realize that Shonda Rimes has some very talented cast members whose voice she wanted to feature in her show. But if I were advising her, I’d tell her to take a note from Ally McBeal instead of Glee, and have the actors randomly sing at a bar after work instead. It would have made much more sense that way. Watch a clip of last Thursday’s episode below.

Peter MacNicol Rescues Grey’s Anatomy — Ally McBeal Nostalgia Ensues

I was elated to hear Peter MacNicol joined Grey’s Anatomy. He was my favorite actor on Ally McBeal, and he hasn’t had a similar role in years. In recent Grey’s Anatomy episodes, he’s played a cold-hearted doctor, but series creator Shonda Rimes delivered in last Thursday’s episode, when MacNicol showed his emotional side and asked out a nurse he has a crush on. If I knew Shonda Rimes, I’d beg her to make him a series regular instead of just a guest-star, because I fear he only has a few episodes left on his contract. The scene I’m referring to is on minute 35 of the video below. Enjoy!

Private Practice Rape Episode — I Object

I have a lot to say about the much publicized Private Practice rape episode, so get comfortable.  I have been watching television for most of my life, because it’s an escape.  It’s meant for entertainment.  It’s meant to take me out of my own world and put me in another.  I understand that there are many ways to entertain a fantasy world, but I don’t think any of those ways should include acting out rape on television.  It’s unnecessary, and it’s a very easy way to go.  KaDee Strickland promoted the episode on The View, where she said that she was honored to play the part, and that she spoke with many rape victims so that she could accurately portray the scene without offending anyone.  I don’t disagree that it was accurate, respectful, and risky.  But that’s not the point.  The point is that Shonda Rimes (the creator) makes very easy choices to produce the emotions she hopes to produce.  That includes giving characters cancer, killing off a man with a young daughter, and finally — getting someone raped.  You might think it was brave to write this episode — but I don’t — I think it was easy.  There’s a very loathed writing practice that they tell you about in film school, and it’s called “kick-the-dog.”  In a nutshell, it means that writers often execute the very cheap tactic of letting the audience know that a character is bad, by having that character kick a dog.  It’s easy and looked down upon because there are many other more creative ways to inform the audience about a character, and having him kick a dog is an easy way out.  I consider Shonda’s writing to fall within the kick-the-dog umbrella.  Think of another way to create emotion, and another way to create drama.

Grey’s Anatomy Spoiler Alert: I Know Who Dies on the Finale

If you don’t want any idea about who dies on the season finale, stop reading this.  I wasn’t tipped off, and this is merely speculation.  I’d put money on it though.  Why?  Because Miranda Bailey’s love interest, Jason George or “Dr. Ben Warren,” has signed on for a new Shonda Rimes medical show that was just picked up.  That means he can’t do both shows, and I’m guessing Shonda Rimes will send him off in style.  It isn’t like her to let anyone leave happily, and I can’t imagine that she’ll lose more than one cast member in the finale.  Poor Miranda.  I feel bad for Miranda’s character and for Chandra Wilson herself, who finally got a juicy, original story-line, just to have it taken from her after a limited number of episodes.  Even if I’m wrong about the death, I’m certain he’ll leave the show – it’s just a matter of how.

‘Private Practice’ Spoiler – What Happens to Mya?

It looks like Shonda Rimes is up to her old tricks again.  And by “old tricks,” I mean taking what was once a fun show and turning it into something so depressing that you want to kill yourself by the end of the episode.  Watch a clip from next week’s episode below.