If you’re wary of Shonda Rhimes after last year’s failed “Off the Map,” her newest offering, “Scandal,” may just lure you back to her team. “Scandal” stars Kerry Washington as Olivia Pope, a high-powered, elite “fixer” in Washington D.C. Though she and her team have law backgrounds, they are not lawyers; they are crisis managers.
Pope’s specialty is making problems go away. Big, the-president’s-mistress-just-tried-to-kill-herself problems. Washington is both sympathetic and commanding in the role — while Olivia’s got considerable baggage, her damage doesn’t hinder her or cripple her. (In other words, she’s no Meredith Grey.) In today’s television landscape, there is certainly something to be said for a powerful, headstrong black female lead — and lead she does.
The rhythm of the dialogue will be immediately familiar to “Grey’s Anatomy” fans — the repetition of key phrases and the tendency to speak in metaphor is signature Shonda. While certainly stylized, it doesn’t distract from the forward momentum of the show or venture into whimpering, which is a welcome change.
In fact, “Scandal” veers closer to “Revenge” territory than to Seattle Grace. It’s got a guilty pleasure feel without condescending to its audience; it’s sudsy, but restrained. There’s a certain procedural quality to it, with a case-of-the-week, but it’s the emotional arc that keeps us gripped. Olivia’s complicated relationships with President Fitzgerald Grant – as in, of the United States – and his right hand man Cyrus Beene are particularly compelling.
Basically, if you throw the “Revenge” knowing look and the signature “Seattle Grace” cadence into a pot with a dash of “The West Wing” walk-and-talk, you’ll serve up a big plate of “Scandal.” And it will be delicious.
Tune in Thursday nights at 10 p.m. EST on ABC.