Scandal saved by family dysfunction

scandalYep, I’ll be watching.

When Season 5 of Scandal kicks in tonight, I will have my DVR set, because I don’t watch anything live except (sometimes) football games. Can’t deal with commercials.

So I’ll tune in Friday morning as I’m eating my cereal.

To be honest, the initial interest I had in Scandal  has waned over the years, mostly because it too often seems like the show is in competition with itself to see how many buttons it can push. This is definitely not Father Knows Best,  because dear father would be choking on his tongue trying to keep up with all the taboo-breaking in this show. It was eye-popping the first few episodes, but how long am I supposed to remain alarmed that the President of the United States is cheating on his wife with a black woman who has yet to find a black man up to her standards, while Cyrus Beene (Jeff Perry) the openly gay and murderous White House Chief of Staff, stumbles through the wreckage of his tortured love life? While…


Pretty much everybody in Scandal  is involved either with someone of the same sex or of another race – or both. It’s like Shonda Rhimes made it her mission  to singlehandedly make up for all those years of lying family dramas that purposefully erased and/or whitewashed much of the population they were supposed to so fondly reflect. For Sanford and Son to make it in a post-Shonda TV landscape, Sanford would have to be gay married to his lover, while Son would definitely have to be hooked up with a white woman.

But obviously enough folks love the new landscape, and Shonda Rhymes has tapped into something lucrative. Still, Scandal didn’t really come close to approaching anything other than fake dramatic intensity until Daddy Pope (Joe Morton) stepped in. And then came the episodes with Mommy Pope (Khandi Alexander). Two of the most dangerous, psychopathic parents a child could ever hope to have. So much so that it’s a wonder Olivia didn’t turn out to be more the female version of Dexter (one of my favorite shows) than  a lovelorn Mrs. Fix It. But truth be told, if it weren’t for Mommy and Daddy Pope, I would have clicked off Scandal some time ago. Shock only works as a value so many times. But watching these two work a screen is truly worth the price of admission – and enduring the show’s other tiresome flaws.

The truly electric performances routinely delivered by the likes Morton and Alexander have double-handedly saved the show for viewers who require some real acting with their over-the-top melodramas (which is why I can’t take Empire, a show with two great actors capable of leaps and bounds above the cartoonish roles that have been sketched out for them). Because when the true actors show up the show really does catch fire. And when they’re not there, you can feel the vacuum. It’s almost not fair to the others for their fair-to-middling skills to be featured next to the real thing.

Because face it; nobody else in that entire cast is better than moderately mediocre (except maybe Jeff Perry) when it comes to acting. Kerry Washington (Olivia Pope), whose character the whole series is built around, has a range of about two, maybe three emotions at best. That’s as good as it gets, and the rest are scattered on the road behind her.

Trying to keep it exciting.

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