Review: Who Doesn't Like a Juicy Scandal?

Spring has sprung, and with it comes more than a dozen TV series premieres. Perhaps the buzziest of the bunch arrives this week, from the pen of Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice creator Shonda Rhimes and revolving around a doctor — of spin. Our review:

THE SHOW | ABC’s Scandal, premiering Thursday, April 5 at 10/9c (watch the first seven minutes here)

THE COMPETITION | CBS’ The Mentalist, NBC’s Awake, Bravo’s Kathy Griffin-hosted talk show (premiering April 19)

THE CAST | Kerry Washington (Ray), Tony Goldwyn (Ghost), Jeff Perry (Grey’s Anatomy), Henry Ian Cusick (Lost), Joshua Malina (West Wing), Darby Stanchfield (NCIS), Guillermo Diaz, Columbus Short, Katie Lowes

Save the Dates: April’s Big Premieres, Returns and Finales!

THE SET-UP | Washington stars as Olivia Pope, an elite crisis management consultant inspired in part by Judy Smith, a former White House press aide and onetime Monica Lewinsky spokesperson. With her Oval Office servitude behind her, Olivia now lords over a team of lawyers, investigators and snoops that leaps into action to help D.C. elite dodge publicity bullets both large and larger. Goldwyn plays the President of the United States with whom Olivia used to work quite closely, Perry his protective chief of staff. That complex past association is rekindled in the pilot when a young woman claims to have had an affair with the married POTUS, and Olivia is enlisted to shut the lass down.

THE PROS | Ever since The West Wing, I’ve been drawn to D.C.-based fiction — from The American President to Dave to even the Alex Cross novels and Murder at 1600 — and the sleek, sexy and shamelessly juicy Scandal scratches that itch. And while what went down with Lewinsky is long behind us, Scandal serves up a fresh spin on that saga, by giving Olivia and the “whistleblower” more than a little in common. Early episodes also exploit the exploits of a D.C. madam, a spoiled rich boy accused of rape and a military hero who looks good for murder (lest he part with a damning alibi). Yet all the while, the White House storyline simmers, boils and then outright boils over, as the president’s alleged fling gives Olivia & Co. reasons to alternately champion her and chuck her. If there’s ever a tawdry twist to heap on, this show isn’t at all shy to do it.
    The cast, despite some underwritten roles (see below), is solid, led by Washington in a role that pops (and not just because Olivia wears the hell out of a white pantsuit). Perry in particular quickly dismissed the prejudice I held against his loathsome Grey’s dad by delivering an engaging take on the all-too-familiar role of the commander-in-chief’s consigliere, one who is not without his own secrets; a 2-1/2 minute monologue he lets loose with in Episode 4 alone will make you a fan. Fun fact: After experimenting in the original pilot with an “American” Henry Ian Cusick, the show has since restored his accent.

THE CONS | While Olivia is painted vividly (and often) as a leader of “gladiators in suits” who is “not one of the good guys” but “the best guy,” it’ll be several episodes before you learn anything about any of her minions. (But when the time comes, it’s an eye-opening info dump as the associates’ dicey dossiers are reviewed by a rival. You see, their boss likes to fix “broken” people.) Olivia’s unabashedly titillating POTUS connection too often makes it seems like Goldwyn’s leader of the free world is too focused on his love life. Rhimes’ writing, as familiar as ever, being rife as it is with repeated mantras of empowerment, occasionally runs the risk of making Olivia’s greenest hire (played by Lowes) sound like one of the Grey gals. The lengths to which the script goes to puff up Pope’s chest — at one point, she verbally dresses down a dictator likened to Castro! — can be a bit much.

THE TVLINE BOTTOM LINE | With CBS rumored to be pondering Thursday tinkering of its own come fall — The Mentalist to Fridays? To make room for Person of Interest at 10 o’clock? — a provocative and at-times over-the-top drama such as Scandal would seem poised to crane some necks. If Private Practice can outperform bubble show Body of Proof as it moves to Tuesdays starting April 17, ABC could have a win-win.

Watch a video preview for ABC’s Scandal, then vote in our poll below.

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. rebecca says:

    i have a girl crush on Kerry Washington, so I will probably check this out.

    • Going to pass , I find it repulsive that the most wealthy in America can get away with murder, theft , etc ,
      So the idea of a team that bails out the bad boys and girls of this country so they can get away with their deeds has little appeal to me.

    • Tarc says:

      I hope her acting is better than the ads indicate – she does not impress.

      • Kristen says:

        I saw her in a rerun of Psych the other night and her acting didn’t seem much better there. I usually don’t notice these things, but it really drove me crazy watching that episode and I found it distracting when I first saw previews for this show. Although she keeps getting cast in movies and shows, so she must be impressing other people.

  2. Bee says:

    saw the pilot already and LOVED it. already hooked. it’s like the west wing meets grey’s anatomy, with an occasional CSI mixed in. shonda said she wanted to design the show like a british mini-series so i’m excited to see what comes next. great cast all-around and kerry rocks it.

    • Tarc says:

      I kind of have to agree with some of the other posters – isn’t more than a little distatseful to glorify wealthy people getting to skirt the law simply because they can throw enough money at an ‘problem’ that comes along?

  3. James P. says:

    I loved the first episode, I couldn’t but feel bad for the case they were working on. Shonda Rhimes always gets you to feel something.

  4. Russ says:

    I’m not to sure, while I like Washington, Cusick, and Diaz. I think without establishing anything about the workers the show will loose viewers and by the time they do it will be too late to get them back.

    • Dizzle says:

      But then, look at the million CBS procedurals on which you rarely discover anything about the supporting characters’ personal lives until quite far into their run. None of them are hurting for viewers.

      It’s quite normal for any new show to focus on their leads before rounding out the supporting cast (We didn’t know much about Alex, Bailey, Burke and Webber during the early episodes of Grey’s either), although I’ll wait to see just *how* long it takes Scandal to do the same before calling it a success or not. Nevertheless, I’m intrigued by a Shona show that isn’t a medical drama!

  5. Josh says:

    I’m just tired of all of Shonda Rhimes strong female characters always having these men which seem to screw their lives. They have their hands straight but then a man comes along and it’s Christina Yang and the case of the missing badass.

    Though I don’t think I’ll be able to stomach a President who’s life revolves around his love life. It’s bad enough seeing doctors do it(while their patients die let and right) but the President?

  6. ahallen says:

    Just watched the first two episodes and met Judy Smith. I’m really excited to see where this goes. It’s a little like if Shonda hungout in the West Wing writer’s room. I just hope it captures all of the good of the early days of Grey’s before it decides to get extra murky.

  7. juan says:

    Definately will watch, sad that PP will move to thursdays but at least a show that looks good will take over. My whole fam and I, even my mom who only watches telemundo and I will watch. hope its awesome

  8. Kaia says:

    I watched the free preview on iTunes and started off liking it, until Shonda Rimes once again goes out of her way to make infidelity seem totes acceptable and sexy. This is one of the things I’ve always loathed about Grey’s. The moment Patrick Dempsey’s character was revealed to be married, and then the continued drama with him and Meredith and Addison and all the cheating, I’ve hated his character. He’s never been McDreamy to me, he’s McCheater and an ass. Since this is a well Shonda likes to revisit, including on Private Practice, I’m assuming at some point in her life she must have had some kind of extramarital affair that she thought was romantic and hot. Cheating is not hot to me, it’s weak and a turnoff. Another issue is the fact that Olivia is written very strongly, until she gets around her former man and then she turns weak. This is something that also happens on Grey’s and PP. The way the character of Cristina has been diluted down to nothing more than someone pining about Owen instead of being kick-ass Cristina is deplorable. So…I wanted to like this show, and I love seeing Liza Weil on my TV – I’ve adored her since Gilmore Girls, but unless there’s more to this show than beating the old sexy infidelity horse, I’m going to pass.

    • Lauren Maule says:

      I think that’s a bit harsh. In my eyes Addison and Derek were separated – she cheated on him and he left her. The worst thing he did was to Meredith by not telling her he was married. Although he did cheat on Addison in the season two finale. But it wasn’t an ongoing affair, he was planning to tell Addison. Addison on the other hand had the ongoing affair with Mark. In my eyes Addison was the one more in the wrong in that scenario. I do hate when they use extramarital affairs as a thrilling spin on a relationship though, it is not thrilling, it is wrong.
      I agree that it’s annoying how they’ve butchered Cristina, she used to be my favourite and now she annoys me to no end. Although I stopped watching this season so I don’t know what she’s like right now. Ooh Liza Weil is on the show? I was going to watch it for Henry Ian Cusick but I loved Paris so yay!

      • Sorry but this is like the argument from Friends when they went on and on about being on a break and if hooking up was cheating or not.

      • Christy says:

        This reads like you are making a case for whose cheating was worse…….and IMO neither is good.

        • Lauren says:

          Obviously neither is good, but I do think Addison’s was worse. There is a vast difference in having an ongoing affair with your husband’s best friend and getting pregnant with his child, and having a one-off and immediately telling your wife.

    • Ashley says:

      You make a valid point about the cheating. While I think it goes on in a lot of marriages, they have not made the story lines on GA or PP well written. McDreamy turned me off in the first season when he told Meredith she “earned” some information about him after she threatened him to keep her pants on unless he told her about his life. He gets away with it because he looks like THAT. This current Christina is not in keeping with the character who has been shown for all these years. I hope she kicks his butt to the curb.

      Not sure if I’ll watch Rhimes’ new show of not. Not sure if I want to get invested in a show where the main characters are continually beaten down, like GA and PP, and politics bore me to tears. Have to also agree that just because you have the money to get you out of situations that this is a good message to send to anyone. It’s TV and made up but this is ripped from the headlines and is an indication of our society. Kind of pathetic.

  9. deb says:

    The previews have done nothing for me. To be honest it looks boring. This is one show I’m not even going to try.

  10. Bee says:

    i’ve only seen the premiere and don’t know if future episodes are different, but i didn’t get the indication that olivia and her crew “help rich people get away with crimes.” i don’t think the show is about covering up their guilt and helping them get away with murder lol

    • Tarc says:

      That’s certianly the way they make it look. If they weren’t covering up illegal behavious, then they’re probably cover up legal, but just as bad (or worse) behavior. Any way you slice it, It’s not likely to be terribly palatable.

    • Matt Webb Mitovich says:

      You would be correct, it is not about helping “rich people get away with crimes” (though I can’t say more without spoiling twists in any of the cases I mentioned in review).

  11. Velvet says:

    No thank you

  12. MC Maine says:

    When I see Josh Malina in a cast, I groan. He always seems to play the same self-satisfied little toad. I thought he was unwatchable in Sports Night, almost as bad on The West Wing.

    I’ve been happy he hasn’t shown up in a regular role on any series I wanted to watch, but now here he is. I’ll have to DVR this thing so I can fast-forward through his bits.

    • Susna says:

      I was happy to see Josh Malina on the show. I’m not sure why Shonda chose to write the thing trying to channel Sorkin though, it didn’t work.