Welcome to the Weekly Binge, where we take a closer look at the shows that are worth your time. This week, we indulge in Scandal for all of you who enjoy a high quality guilty pleasure at the expense of politicians and high profile personalities. Here’s what you’ll need to know to before you spend some time with Olivia Pope & Associates.
What’s the premise? Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) is the head of a Washington, DC public relations firm specializing in crisis management, but she has a scandal of her own that needs fixing.
What’s it like? Since it was created by Shonda Rhimes, one might assume the series would be similar to her previous hit, Grey’s Anatomy, but Scandal aims for a broader fan base. Though it does turn a little soapy from time to time, Scandal takes viewers on a far twistier roller-coaster ride of intrigue, thanks to its diverse characters, intense storylines, and juicy subplots. The romance and gooey stuff is still there, but it’s pretty rare, and when it happens, chances are something nasty is soon to follow. In other words, this ain’t no rom-com.
How long will it take? Season one is basically a seven-episode introduction. Season two includes 22 episodes, and we are now about to see episode nine of season three. If you’re watching at a brisk clip, it would probably take you about a week and a half to catch up.
What do the critics think? The show started off with a bang, earning a Certified Fresh 89 percent Tomatometer for its first season, but its second season notched a 90 percent Tomatometer, and the third is currently at 100 percent. Lucy Mangan of the Guardian says, “It has that elusive, alchemical magic that those in the industry spend their lives chasing and the more it supplies, the greater the craving for it becomes,” while Matt Roush of TV Guide instructs us to “keep with it, and it soon becomes a preposterously propulsive exercise in popcorn TV. With crazy-sauce butter on top.” According to David Hiltbrand of the Philadelphia Inquirer, “It’s built around one of the strongest (in every sense) female characters to hit prime time in recent memory.” So, yeah, the critics dig it.
Why should I watch this? In just under three seasons, this show has already built up a frenzied fanbase. Granted, some of those fans only want to see what Olivia Pope is wearing, but most of us are along for the crazy ride. Aside from Kerry Washington’s outstanding work, Bellamy Young’s portrayal of a first-lady-done-wrong is worth watching in itself, as is the precarious marriage between the President’s Chief of Staff, Cyrus Beene (Jeff Perry), and reporter James Novak (Dan Bucatinsky), which is doubly notable for depicting a committed gay relationship in the White House. Guillermo Diaz also delivers a sensitive performance as someone who knows all too well the specifics of torture. You might have to check your brain at the door every once in a while, but hey, that’s television. And besides, it’s another reminder that we honestly know very little of what goes on in the Oval Office.
What’s my next step? If you like Scandal, you might also enjoy Damages, a twisted legal drama starring Glenn Close and Rose Byrne. Of course, for more Shonda Rhimes, you can check out Grey’s Anatomy or its now defunct spinoff Private Practice. If you like the concept of political fixers, check out films like Wag the Dog, Primary Colors, or Michael Clayton. And don’t forget classics like All the President’s Men, The Man Who Knew Too Much, and The Manchurian Candidate.