Here’s the thing: I like a good night soap. I’m not going to lie about that. I grew up watching typical nerd things like TNG and Batman: The Animated Series, yes, but I also watched stuff like Beverly Hills 90210 and Melrose Place. It doesn’t weigh on my soul. Soaps are like anything else on television — there are good ones, there are shit ones, and there are ones that flip-flop wildly between the two. Grey’s Anatomy flip-flops like no one’s business. Desperate Housewives was good, but only for one season. The remake of Melrose Place — or at least the pilot — was the worst thing ever, bloodless and dull.
The best night soap I’ve seen in a while, the one that has better plotting than half the other shows on television?
Here are some reasons Scandal is worth your time.
Very Basic Plot Synopsis:
Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) leaves a career in the White House behind and starts her own business — she and her associates are fixers, and they make their clients’ scandals disappear. Of course, they each have their own scandals and secrets too.
Some Reasons To Watch:
1. Mostly likable yet hugely morally ambiguous characters.
Words cannot express how big of a deal this is for me. I get very bored of characters who come this close to doing something bad, only to step back from it at the eleventh hour because of some Friend or Lover’s Moving Speech. That kind of thing is okay, now and again, but if you’re always pulling back, then we can’t ever think, “Oh shit, is she really going to go there?” Because of course she’s not. She’s the Good Guy.
On the other hand, I don’t really want to waste my time watching a bunch of assholes be assholes. I’ve said that before, and I’ll say it again. It’s the same reason I don’t bother watching most reality TV.
But Scandal is different — the greater majority of characters are witty, sharp, and a lot of fun to watch, but they do some naughty, naughty shit. I have never seen a show that so exemplifies the idea, “The ends justify the means,” before, at least, not on network television. And this includes our heroine, Olivia, by the way. Olivia does some very, very bad things.
2. Kerry Washington, and really the whole cast, is pretty great.
After all, it’s not just writing — you need a really good cast to keep these characters sympathetic, despite the shit they pull. The only actor I flip-flop on is Tony Goldwyn as the president. Some moments, he plays really well. Other ones . . . well, it’s difficult. He’s easily my least favorite character, though. (My other least favorite character is Quinn, the Useless Guppy of the Show, but she’s getting better in second season, now that she has things to do other than gape and stammer and blink like a deer.)
Everyone else, though, is pretty consistently awesome. Kerry Washington is a strong, compelling lead that keeps Olivia from veering too far into the whininess or bitchiness that seems to plague female heroines — and, not for nothing, she’s also the first black female lead on a network TV drama since 1974. That’s both awesome and depressing, all at the same time.
Also, there’s this guy:
Admittedly, I’ve been a fan of Joshua Malina since he was Will Bailey in The West Wing, but as his character is the most, er, morally responsible on the show? He definitely has the potential to be righteous and shrieky. I can easily imagine many other actors being really tiresome as David, and yet, Malina is totally snarky and charming. He and Huck (Guillermo Diaz) are definitely my favorite characters thus far.
3. This is a show rife with government conspiracies . . . and I don’t even mind!
Big Conspiracy Stories are a hard sell for me. Because, oh, it will start out with something simple, like, who killed the president, and you’ll eventually find out that it was, say, Lester, a traitorous secret service agent. Okay, fine. But then it will turn out Lester was actually a Soviet spy from Russia. And then you’ll realize that Lester is actually Harry, Lester’s identical twin brother. And then you’ll find out that Lester/Harry was actually just working under the First Lady’s orders the whole time, and the First Lady? Oh, she’s actually a he. And a Freemason. And the protagonist’s dead father. And an alien.
Any big plot-driving mysteries, conspiracies or otherwise, are hard to do well. Show runners like to solve them and then backtrack when they’ve run out of new material. (Or they just don’t solve them at all and keep piling up new, shinier mysteries.)
But so far, Scandal is doing a pretty decent job of introducing a whole bunch of insane shit, then adding some more insane shit, and then wrapping it all up in ways that mostly make sense. They actually solve their mysteries, before adding new ones. Weird, right? I know! Also?
4. Scandal has crazy plot twists and cliffhangers like whoa.
Every episode throws you some kind of curveball, and almost every episode ends on that curveball, leaving you desperate for the next installment. I spent this last weekend marathoning the first two seasons of Scandal (the first season is only seven episodes long) so I could be caught up by this Thursday — only to find out that they’re now on a three week hiatus.
I hate you, Scandal! I HATE YOU!
And, finally . . .
5. Shameless Eye Candy
Okay, I like Harrison as a character too, but so far, he hasn’t had as much to do as some of the other associates. I hear he’ll get more major storylines in season three, which is good. I hate underused potential.
In the meantime, eye candy. Cause, damn. Even wearing some ugly suspenders, this man is very good looking. Love you, Harrison! (Even though I’ll always remember you as Pooch.)
The show isn’t perfect because no show is — I would give money to work as a script editor for Shonda Rhimes, because her signature monologues would be a lot stronger if she would just cut about twenty words from them. (Also, you only need so much repetition. White hat, gladiator in a suit . . . I GOT IT.)
But it’s a fast-paced, addicting drama with interesting characters and a likable cast, and these next few Scandal-free weeks aren’t going to go quickly enough.
GRADE SO FAR: