The last thing TV needs is another show about doctors, cops, or lawyers. And the last format we need is the new hybrid of procedural drama linked with season-long intrigue popularized on shows like Burn Notice and destroyed by shows like Alcatraz. One of the many problems with Scandal, the new ABC drama from Grey’s Anatomy perpetrator Shonda Rhimes, is that it is both of these.
Oh, no wait. It’s not about lawyers. Well, they are lawyers but they think of themselves as “gladiators in suits.” These are the guys fighting the good fight, as they will tell you with assured and annoying frequency. What does that mean? Environmental lawyers? Pro bono crusaders for the 99%? Monopoly busters trying to rid the airwaves of Ryan Seacrest’s dominance? No, they’re just trying to help rich people fix their problems. Well, whatever helps you sleep at night.
The show centers on Olivia Pope (the normally wonderful Kerry Washington), a former White House operative who left working for the president so that she could become a professional “fixer,” helping rich people navigate their way through the scandal of the title. She’s joined by a bunch of other lawyers and investigators who are more functionaries than actual people, shepherding the story toward its conclusion rather than doing anything pesky like having an actual personality.
The same goes for two-dimensional Olivia, who spends the first half of the show depicted as some sort of force of nature, the baddest bitch in the room who is even more powerful and tougher than the president. Then she spends the second half as a weepy sad sack because she was sleeping with the president (spoiler alert!) even though he’s married. That’s why she left the White House, and it seems like her affair with the president is going to be an ongoing storyline. Yes, this is a show about the president’s mistress. Groan.
As if that wasn’t preposterous enough, Olivia has this really annoying habit about “trusting her gut” and “no lying” and looking at her clients in the eye and having to know they’re telling the truth before helping them. It’s a cool concept, but Olivia said “my gut” so often that it become like some ironic drinking game every time it happened.
Aside from sleeping with the president, Olivia helps clients in a case of the week style. Last night’s case was easily forgettable as the rest of the characters. It’s about a closeted Republican military hero who might have killed his girlfriend, even though you know he didn’t. The whole thing will have you shutting your eyes trying to catch a nap, when you’re not rolling them, that is. But then, at the end, after they exonerated their client, the crew is like, “Our job here is done. The police can figure out who really killed her.” What? Your job is done? No, it’s not. If you want us to get invested in these crimes, you have to tell us how they end. We need closure! And what sort of “gladiator in a suit” gets their client off but shirks the responsibility of finding the killer? Sounds like a lazy one to me.
Shonda Rhimes says that the show is going to turn into a “twisty mystery,” but I don’t think anyone’s gonna want to stick around to follow any of the clues.