TV Review - Scandal

Tony Goldwyn and Kerry Washington in "Scandal"
Kerry Washington (Ray and The Last King of Scotland) stars as Olivia Pope, a lawyer who runs a crisis management firm. She and the people with whom she works are self-described gladiators in suits. Whether it's murder, rape or a politician with his pants down, Olivia and her firm's job is to jump before her client is arrested or before the press splashes her client's name all over the news.

Washington is beautiful and fierce in this role. Yet, initially, I didn't like her character. Olivia Pope is again another slick, fast-talking, smartest person in the room. So many shows have this kind as a main character. House and The Mentalist are two popular examples. The problem is that those characters are annoying. They're annoying know-it-alls, and Olivia is definitely in that class.

Aside from the cases of the week, the underlying story involves Olivia's relationship with the President of the United States. She used to work for the White House, but we soon learn that Olivia had an affair with the married Commander-in-Chief. There's a high-stakes, soap opera intrigue over whether the two will get together or not.

Tony Goldwyn (Ghost and The Last Samurai) plays the President and he's great. I could buy him as the leader of the free world. I could also buy him as someone who Washington could love, but, as of the first three episodes, his politics have not been overtly established. Who knows if he's a Republican or Democrat? That doesn't really matter though. My question is why is he white?

Shonda Rhimes created this series. Rhimes is known for also creating Grey's Anatomy, a show credited for its diversity. We currently have a black president, and several TV shows have already depicted black presidents, though not enough, so why this show doesn't depict its president as black baffles me. What also baffles me is if Olivia is so skilled, so gladiator-like, why would she even have the adulterous affair in the first place? Falling in love with him is one thing. Being complicit in him cheating on his wife is another.

Considering this idea of a politician having an affair, and the lawyers on various cases, this series could draw comparisons to The Good Wife, but this show is way more over-the-top and not as intelligent. It's more like a soap opera, which puts it more in-line with Grey's Anatomy and its audience.

So far, the cases haven't been any more compelling than the ones on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. The first case, however, dealt with an issue that I thought was worthy, but the way it went about it was indicative of how perhaps tone deaf this show is about that issue. Spoiler alert! A young, Republican war hero is revealed to be gay. Kudos to Shonda Rhimes for presenting a gay character that doesn't live up to the usual, effeminate stereotype! Kudos to Rhimes for not making the gay guy the criminal!

Yet, the revelation that he is gay is supposed to come as an even bigger surprise because he's Republican and because he's a war veteran, or it's supposed to come off as an even bigger reason for him to stay in the closet. In the wake of the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and the increasing support nationally for marriage equality, the show plays the "doth protest too much" angle too much. Him being a Republican war veteran or him being a staunch evangelical preaching homophobia is now the ultimate cliché of what a closeted gay person is. For Rhimes to use that cliché either speaks of laziness or tone deafness.

Two Stars out of Five.
Rated TV-14-DS.
Running Time: 1 hr.
Thursdays at 10PM on ABC.


  1. Like most TV shows, this one has its flaw, but I find it odd that the thing you object to most, is the fact that the president isn't black. For starters, this is a fictional piece that certainly doesn't portray all the White House members in the best light. The last thing she would want, is for people to start making connections with the current government. Also, this show is loosely patterned after the life of Judy Smith, who is an African American crisis manager who worked for George Bush.

    Shonda Rhimes is known for her color blind style of casting, which is an admirable quality that most producers (and viewers) seem to lack. In a Shonda Rhimes production, it shouldn't matter whether the president is white or black, and if you notice, she rarely brings up race issues in her plots.

    Realistic or not, this show is fun and addicting, and that's where the brilliance lies. The cast is great, and the chemistry between many of the characters is fascinating. I have mixed feelings about the dialogue. Sometimes it borders on being too preachy, but other times, it's pure gold (for example, Cyrus' monologue in the most recent episode)

    This show is actually better than I thought it would be, and I'm fully willing to suspend disbelief, if it means that I'll be this entertained for an hour. If I need reality, I'll watch a documentary.


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