×

Scandal

"Scandal," with its Washington, D.C. setting, exaggerated situations and overblown politics, feels like "''The West Wing' for Dummies."

With:
Olivia Pope - Kerry Washington
Stephen Finch - Henry Ian Cusick
Harrison Wright - Columbus Short
Huck - Guillermo Diaz
Abby Whelan - Darby Stanchfield
Quinn Perkins - Katie Lowes
President Fitzgerald Grant - Tony Goldwyn
Cyrus Beene - Jeff Perry

While Shonda Rhimes’ dramas seldom traffic in understatement, the “Grey’s Anatomy” creator has traded a scalpel for a meat cleaver in “Scandal,” which with its Washington, D.C. setting, exaggerated situations and overblown politics, feels like “?’The West Wing’ for Dummies.” As usual, Rhimes’ workplace characters talk very fast, but the manic visual style can’t obscure a series flawed on most every level: The plot twists are predictable, when not ridiculous; the moralizing is heavy-handed; and star Kerry Washington — while beautiful — suffers from a serious gravitas deficit, in a show that too frequently lurches toward camp.

If only “Scandal” merited its prominent post-“Grey’s” placement. Instead, its seven-episode spring tryout looks like TV nepotism of the highest order.

Washington’s character, Olivia Pope, is spoken of in hushed, reverent terms by employees, who make clear her company isn’t a law firm; rather, they “manage crises,” “solve problems” and “save reputations.” Sounds a little like crisis PR meets the Justice League of America.

If that’s confusing, the show tries to make life simpler by employing a “Law & Order” approach, ripping most of its cases from the headlines — including a D.C. madam, a Monica Lewinsky-type who claims to have slept with the President of the United States (Tony Goldwyn), and a crashed plane where the flight crew might have been drinking.

Beyond the episodic elements, there’s a larger, serialized story running through all the episodes, one that ties into Olivia’s past working for the President and serving as a protege of his chief of staff, Cyrus (Jeff Perry, one of several “Grey’s” alums on hand, and easily the best reason to watch the series).

“My gut tells me everything I need to know,” Olivia says early on. But the more time viewers spend with her, the less trustworthy her judgment becomes. Her minions, meanwhile, are glib and diverse — the most prominent being “Lost’s” Henry Ian Cusick — working nonstop and having no appreciable lives, while occupying an office that’s less corporate domicile than a better-lit version of the Batcave.

All of this is introduced through the eyes of a new hire, Quinn (Katie Lowes), but the best moments come from outside Olivia’s office, including Perry and Joshua Malina as a droll D.A. who keeps clashing with her. Unfortunately, most of his scenes are opposite Washington, who — even when shot in adoring slow motion, as she occasionally is — proves unconvincing as the peerless power-broker her co-workers describe. (Judy Smith, a former White House aide who once oversaw PR at NBC, serves as a producer on and inspiration for the series.)

“Scandal” does become a bit more interesting toward the end of the seven episodes ABC made available, but as much out of curiosity — and where its political caricatures will lead — as merit.

Having stuck close to medicine since “Grey’s” with spinoff “Private Practice” and the short-lived “Off the Map,” Rhimes also brings a cudgel to politics likely to antagonize conservatives. Then again, “Scandal” is too campy to be taken too seriously, and enjoyment likely hinges on engaging the material on those terms.

Stranger things have happened, including ABC now having introduced a series that actually makes another one of its new serials, “Revenge,” look plausible by comparison. Even so, a few more shows this silly, and somebody’s going to really need to save reputations.

Scandal

ABC, Thurs. April 5, 10 p.m.

Production: Credits: Filmed in Los Angeles by ShondaLand in association with ABC Studios. Executive producers, Shonda Rhimes, Betsy Beers; co-executive producer, Judy Smith; director, Paul McGuigan; writer, Rhimes.

Crew: Camera, Oliver Bokelberg; production designer, Marcia Hinds; editor, Matt Ramsey; music, Chad Fischer; casting, Linda Lowy, Will Stewart. 60 MIN.

Cast: Olivia Pope - Kerry Washington
Stephen Finch - Henry Ian Cusick
Harrison Wright - Columbus Short
Huck - Guillermo Diaz
Abby Whelan - Darby Stanchfield
Quinn Perkins - Katie Lowes
President Fitzgerald Grant - Tony Goldwyn
Cyrus Beene - Jeff Perry
With: Joshua Malina.

More TV

  • Sean Hannity Reveals Broadband Plans for

    Sean Hannity Reveals His Broadband Plans for Fox News (EXCLUSIVE)

    Sean Hannity sometimes tells younger colleagues at Fox News Channel that he is “the bridge between two generations of Fox” because he has been part of its primetime lineup since 1996. Now he may serve a similar purpose for a third. Fox News will next week bring Hannity to the world of video-streaming, launching “Hannity [...]

  • SUITS -- "Whale Hunt" Episode 812

    'Suits' Renewed for Ninth and Final Season at USA Network

    “Suits” has been renewed for Season 9 at USA Network, which will be the show’s last. The announcement comes ahead of the premiere of the back half of Season 8, which debuts tonight. The final season of “Suits” will consist of 10 episodes. The series, which hails from creator Aaron Korsh, has aired on the [...]

  • Sundance Doc ‘Stieg Larson: The Man

    Stieg Larsson Doc Screening at Sundance Gets First Trailer (EXCLUSIVE)

    “Stieg Larsson: The Man Who Played With Fire” is the latest documentary feature from famed Swedish TV director Henrik Georgsson, and tells the story of the life and work of Swedish journalist and author Stieg Larsson, best known for his “Millennium” book series featuring journalist Mikael Blomqvist and punk-rock hacker Lisbeth Salander. The film’s sales [...]

  • NBC Promotes 'Saturday Night Live' PR

    NBC Promotes 'Saturday Night Live' PR Chief Lauren Roseman

    NBC has promoted longtime “Saturday Night Live” PR chief Lauren Roseman to senior VP of NBC Entertainment Publicity. Roseman oversees the NBC Entertainment Publicity team in New York in addition to leading PR for “SNL” and “Late Night with Seth Meyers.” With the promotion, she will also focus on media relations, strategy and events in [...]

  • Patrick Wachsberger Lionsgate

    Patrick Wachsberger Launches TV Company With France's Federation Entertainment

    Patrick Wachsberger, the former co-chairman of Lionsgate who recently created Picture Perfect Entertainment, is joining forces with France’s Federation Entertainment to launch a new TV production company called Picture Perfect Federation. The banner will be dedicated to the development and production of premium TV series for the U.S., as well as international co-productions. Wachsberger and [...]

  • Kate Winslet Avatar

    Kate Winslet to Star in HBO Limited Series 'Mare of Easttown'

    Kate Winslet will star in and executive produce the limited series “Mare of Easttown” for HBO, Variety has confirmed. Winslet will play a small-town Pennsylvania detective whose life crumbles around her as she investigates a local murder. The series is a co-production between HBO and wiip, the CAA-backed independent studio headed by Paul Lee. Brad Ingelsby created [...]

  • Songs for Screens Powered by Mac

    Songs for Screens: Beyond 'Bohemian Rhapsody,' 2018 Was a Record Sync Year for Queen

    As “Bohemian Rhapsody” approaches a landmark $800 million at the global box office, another Queen milestone quietly took place in 2018. With appearances in nationwide campaigns for Amazon, Ram Trucks, Google, Peloton, Silk Almondmilk and many more, Queen’s music was licensed by more blue-chip brands than any other calendar year. And in the first few [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content