*This an old post from a few months ago for another website I write for. Let it be known I was on the Scandal train before you! (I’m sorry for that)*
If you are an active, living, breathing person, then you are fully aware that the only show anyone seems to be discussing at the moment is ‘Homeland’. If you’re active on social media, it’s the show that’s taken over Sunday nights (along with The Walking Dead). The show has become inescapable, and though it’s been a rocky second season, the show is killing it in the ratings and critics and fans are still eating it up. Even though it has a smaller (live) audience, Homeland seems to be overshadowing a broadcast show that is kinda doing the same thing (and, in my opinion, a little better…) but isn’t getting the same recognition. This week, ABC’s Scandal had its “moment”. Or rather, it was its moment before its actual moment. Regardless, it went up in viewership, left us with a deliciously old-fashioned cliffhanger (#whoshotfitz) and got people’s attention. Now it’s time it has yours.
Before I watched Scandal it had been a very long time since I watched a “Shondaland Production”. For those unfamiliar with the term, it’s the name of the production company headed by the creator of the show, Shonda Rhimes. Shonda is the creator of Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice and Off The Map. Like most, I was big fan of Grey’s Anatomy’s until season 4 or 5 when it started to become a mess. Since then it’s repaired itself but the damage had been done. I watched one very good episode of Private Practice and I never wasted my time with Off The Map. Now, good or bad, Shonda always delivered an entertaining show. Even the worst episodes of Grey’s were, arguably, still entertaining to a degree. Even if the quality isn’t there, Shonda knows how to entertain and when it’s done right, it’s impressive (the bomb episode of Grey’s is a favourite).
I’d never given Scandal more than 5 minutes of my time, but I always kept my eye on it. When I’d check the daily ratings, it always performed consistently and that impressed me. A friend of mine whose taste in television is identical to mine told me to watch, so I did. I caught up on all 15 episodes of the series (a 7 episode first season and 8 episodes have aired so far for the second season) in a week. It’s addictive. It’s ridiculous. It’s cheesy. It’s demanding and it’s maybe the most entertaining drama on TV right now. And while no one is talking about it, judging by the last two episodes, I feel like that’s about to change.
I compare Scandal to Homeland because they share a lot of the same qualities and plotlines. An endearing but ultimately polarizing female protagonist, politically charged storyline, strong and intriguing supporting cast and twists and turns a plenty. I also compare it because there’s been a shift in the last decade where cable dramas have overshadowed major network dramas. Yes, the former has been superior in quality, but lately, I think that’s beginning to shift or just evening out the playing field. With Parenthood, The Good Wife, The Vampire Diaries and newbies like Elementary and Scandal, the dramas on major networks want back their crown and they’re putting up a good fight.
Now, the one thing that sets Scandal apart from Homeland is how much fun it is. If there’s anything I’ve noticed about the growth in Shonda’s work is that she’s learnt to let her characters have fun when they can, realizing how overzealous they’re all written and be serious when absolutely necessary. Homeland is great, yes (and I’m not being anti-Homeland right now even though that seems to be the “in” thing at the moment), but it does take itself a little too seriously for a show that featured Blackberry Skype. Scandal knows how over-the-top it is (even if it’s based on a real person) and you can tell everyone is having fun delivering Shonda’s zany dialogue. Kerry Washington is magnetic as Olivia Pope and her enunciation skills are impeccable (seriously), but what cemented my loyalty to the show is her chemistry with Tony Goldwyn who plays the President. Oh, did I mention that the President of the United States is having an affair with a communications director/PR fixer? Need I say more?