Spring 2012 Review: Scandal

18 Apr

Sometimes when describing shows like The Wire, or maybe now a show like Girls, critics, or myself, may describe them as “real” or “not TV,” placing them in juxtaposition with typical television.  Rarely is something described as extremely TV, though I suppose it’s partly because TV is the default setting for a TV show.  Scandal, for better or worse, is extremely TV.

While I’d argue, if I had to make a general rule, “not TV” is better than “TV”, if only because it’s more interesting because TV has been done a thousand more times, TV is by no means necessarily bad.  TV has positive attributes, and within TV, there’s a wide range of quality.  That said, because of the repetition, it’s a lot harder to stand out in “TV” than in “not TV.”   Scandal’s not bad.  But maybe it’s just that watching so much really good TV makes it hard for me to take something so TV seriously without some humor or irony, intentional or unintentional.  I think on some level, NCISs and CSIs, certainly CSI:Miami, at least are semi-self aware of their nature and all the easy ways to make fun of their techno speak and one liners, at least implicitly.  Maybe not, but, although I don’t watch those shows very often, I can enjoy the tropes and viewer humor on a level if I do.  Scandal is just so over the top and fully serious it’s making it difficult.  I usually develop an appreciation for over the top tropes, such as in rom coms, but it’s just not happening here.

Kerry Washington plays Olivia Pope, former White House employee, and current head of Olivia Pope and Associates.  What does Olivia Pope and Associates do, you ask?  Well, they’re lawyers, but they don’t practice law.  They SOLVE PROBLEMS.  They FIX CRISES.  Insert similar euphemism here.  Pope leads a team of dedicated associates who follow her lead and believe in her with all their hearts; they don’t always agree, but they trust her decision making.  Among her team are Stephen (played by Henry Ian Cusick – best know as Desmond from Lost), who requires a pep talk from Olivia convincing him to get engaged, Abby, Harrison, and Huck, the resident techie.  Introduced in the first scene is new hire Quinn, who goes to a bar thinking she’s been set up on a blind date, only to find out upon talking to Harrison that she’s been hired by Pope.  At Pope & Associates, they’re “gladiators in suits.”

Olivia Pope is a living legend.  She’s the best and whatever it is she does, the force for ULTIMATE GOOD and Quinn is literally (maybe not literally) foaming at the mouth to start working for her.  After she’s hired, Quinn and Harrison go back to the office, where the Quinn, the new girl, who only knows of the legend of Olivia Pope, learns how her new firm really works. She’s tutored by Harrison, who gives her constant guidance about Olivia, such as “Never say I don’t know.  Olivia doesn’t believe in I don’t know.”  Well, then.  That solves that.

The firm’s primary case in this episode (they’re not lawyers though, they remind us – so maybe case isn’t the right word) is the defense (but not legal defense) of a Iraq (might have been Afghanistan – don’t quote me) war hero who is now a big time conservative republican speaker, who found his fiancée dead, and knows he’ll be accused of the murder.  The team goes on an interview montage to see whether they should take the non-legal case and although three of the four votes go against taking it, like the old Abraham Lincoln story (I can’t find a good link in two minutes – but google “the ayes have it Lincoln”), Pope’s vote for it takes the day.  Her gut tells her the marine didn’t do it, and her gut is ALWAYS RIGHT.  Remember that!

Olivia is so badass! Within the first fifteen minutes of the show, she tells a presidential aide, that the PRESIDENT of the UNITED STATES had damn well better make time for her if he wants her services.  He does, though, and he wants her to shut down a woman who claims that she slept with the Prez.  She worked for the president before, and she trusts her gut, so she’ll do it, but we get a little Kerry Washington twinge indicating HER GUT MAY REALLY BE BE TELLING HER HE’S LYING.

Olivia fixes cases, of course, as we’ve seen.  But she doesn’t just fix cases.  Oliva fixes PEOPLE.  So says Huck (Guillermo Diaz from Half Baked; apparently she fixes careers as well (way harsh; Diaz has had a perfectly respectable career, including recently the bizarre “I Wanna Go” Britney Spears video)).  Of course, the only one Olivia can’t fix is herself.  She doesn’t date she tells us, but that’s kind of a lie.  We’ll get to this in the first episode spoiler section upcoming.

Just when it seems like every shred of evidence is against their GOP marine, it turns out a a camera captured him and his (FIRST EPISODE SPOILER) GAY LOVER on tape.  At first, he’d rather go down with the ship than admit his homosexuality; he’s supposed to be a hero after all.  However, Pope uses LIFE EXPERIENCE to convince him to let the tape exonerate him from spending at least 20 years in jail.  “She’s not one of the good guys.  She’s the best guy.”  is the last line of wisdom mentor Harrison tells the rookie Quinn.  Olivia is THE BEST GUY.

I’m sorry.  I don’t know where along my years of growing up I lost an ability to take anything seriously, but I certainly can’t take this seriously.  I’m probably not entirely supposed to, and honestly, if you ask me what the real difference is between this and Leverage or any of any number of other shows, I don’t really have a good reason.  Maybe I’m just not watching it in the right mood.

First episode spoiler #2:  SHE HAD AN AFFAIR IN THE PRESIDENT!  THIS IS IN THE FIRST EPISODE.  That’s it.  I’ve changed my mind.  If you’re going to go in, at least go all the fuck in.  You do your thing, Olivia Pope.  You can FIX everyone and everything but you can’t fix yourself.  I take back everything I said earlier in this review.  This show is wonderful.  THE PRESIDENT LIED TO HER AND NOW SHE IS OUT TO GET THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES.  MORE PLEASE.

Will I watch it again?  Yeah, it’s probably not going to happen.  Though, writing this was fun.  Maybe I’ll recap the show.  Also, Desmond’s in it.  That might be enough.

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One Response to “Spring 2012 Review: Scandal”

  1. Anonymous April 19, 2012 at 2:46 am #

    Your mistake was in trying to take it seriously, just embrace the fact that it’s ridiculous and Desmond is in it. Also, drink before you watch it like I did.

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