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Gonzales Weekly Citizen - Gonzales, LA
  • Stay Tuned: Dirty politics meets its match in 'Scandal'

  • Taking a page from Aaron Sorkin, who made rapid-fire exchanges with repeating phrases a signature of “The West Wing,” creator Shonda Rhimes (“Grey's Anatomy,” “Private Practice”) uses the opening dialogue of “Scandal” for tempo and for a tease.

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  • The first scene of the new ABC series “Scandal” opens with a woman meeting a man in a bar:
    Woman: I can't stay. I don't do blind dates.
    Man: It's not a blind date.
    Woman: I can't stay. I don't do blind dates.
    Man: It's not a blind date. It's a job interview.
    Woman: What do mean this is a job interview?
    Man: This is a job interview.
    Woman: I didn't apply for a job with you.
    Man: You did.
    Woman: I didn't.
    Man: You did...
    Man: Ask me who I work for. You really want to ask me who I work for.
    Woman: Fine. Who do you work for?
    Man: Olivia Pope.
    Woman: Olivia Pope. The Olivia Pope?
    He tells her that people who work for Olivia Pope are “gladiators in suits,” and asks if she wants to be a gladiator in a suit. Awestruck, she slowly repeats that, yes, she wants to be a gladiator in a suit.
    Now go back and read the scene again as fast as you can and you'll get the idea of the pace of this show. Taking a page from Aaron Sorkin, who made rapid-fire exchanges with repeating phrases a signature of “The West Wing,” creator Shonda Rhimes (“Grey's Anatomy,” “Private Practice”) uses the opening dialogue of “Scandal” for tempo and for a tease. Namely, who is Olivia Pope?
    Pope (Kerry Washington) is a lawyer turned crisis manager who used to work for the president but now “fixes things” for private clients. She's smart, confident, connected and works by trusting her gut, which we are told more than once is never wrong. Her employees worship her with lines like: “Olivia's not one of the good guys. She's the best guy” and “She wears the white hat.” Despite these lines and plots that don't stray too far from Rhimes' comfort zone of clever people doing clever things, I found myself wanting to see more of Olivia. Washington, with her deliberate enunciation, gives the character appealing swagger and in an interesting set-up, the first three episodes develop a storyline that threatens to crack Olivia's seemingly indestructible armor.
    With “Scandal,” Rhimes also treads familiar territory with her characters. If you've watched “Grey's Anatomy,” you'll recognize her stock character of the “rookie” who is high strung, tries really hard to make a good impression and somehow stumbles into a life changing moment. But what Rhimes does well here is leave doctors behind for lawyers and politicians without the lengthy courtroom scenes, police investigations or policy discussions typical of other dramas that deal in these subjects. Instead, she gives us a strong woman who is political but not a politician. She cleans up messy situations for members of Washington's powerful elite without getting dirty. It's idealistic and perhaps unrealistic but who wouldn't want a gladiator fighting for them? Particularly when they wear a white suit as well as Pope.
    Page 2 of 2 - “Scandal” premieres on Thursday, April 5, at 10 p.m. EDT.
    Melissa Crawley credits her love of all things small screen to her parents, who never used the line, "Or no TV!" as a punishment. Her book, “Mr. Sorkin Goes to Washington: Shaping the President on Television's 'The West Wing,’” was published in 2006. She has a PhD in media studies and is a member of the Television Critics Association. To comment on Stay Tuned, email her at staytuned2011@hotmail.com or follow her on Twitter at @MelissaCrawley.
     

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