TV review: ABC's 'Scandal' is fun but soap-opera silly


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ABC's "Scandal" is both ridiculous and somewhat entertaining.

It doesn't come off as a show that exists in reality -- it's a middle-of-the-road drama with a fakey-fake TV gloss on a real-world profession -- but it is fun in its energy. In its best moments, "Scandal" characters banter at warp speed. But talking quickly can only make up for pedestrian scripts/characters for so long.

Premiering tonight at 10, "Scandal" comes from "Grey's Anatomy" executive producer Shonda Rhimes, who wrote the "Scandal" pilot.

Kerry Washington stars as Olivia Pope, a crisis manager whose name inspires mouths to gape in awe, particularly the mouth of her newest employee, Quinn Perkins (Katie Lowes).

'Scandal'

When: 10 tonight, ABC.

Quinn serves as viewers' entree into Olivia's high-powered world, but Quinn is the least interesting person in Olivia's employ (she rightfully fades into the ensemble in subsequent episodes). Stephen (Henry Ian Cusick, "Lost") is a reformed carouser who makes a strong impression, and loud Abby (Darby Stanchfield) is kind of a hoot as she exclaims with dark humor, "Paige is a whore!"

Paige is the dead girlfriend of an American war hero-turned murder suspect. He's the primary client in the premiere who violates Olivia's first rule: "Do not lie!" That's just one of the many bits of dialogue Olivia barks out quickly. Here's another -- "My vote always comes down to my gut!"

Each week Olivia and her team take on a new case -- an aging Washington, D.C., madam; a wealthy playboy accused of rape -- while the show plays out an ongoing story involving the president of the United States, Fitzgerald Grant (Tony Goldwyn).

This is where "Scandal" is at its most silly. Ms. Rhimes writes "West Wing"-style walk-and-talks but, the situations that involve Olivia and the president come off as soap opera silliness -- "The West Wing" populated by characters out of "Gossip Girl."

Still, give "Scandal" credit for trying some new things -- an unusual profession, a different (if more absurd) depiction of the presidency, and a network drama with an African-American female lead. If only what's new about "Scandal" was supported by something better than blah writing, ludicrous situations and cardboard characters.

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A version of this review first appeared in Tuned In Journal blog at post-gazette.com/tv. TV writer Rob Owen: rowen@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2582. Follow RobOwenTV on Twitter or Facebook.


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