Scandal Pilot: Sweet Baby

"I'm not a baby lawyer. I'm a gladiator in a suit."

I'd been waiting for Scandal since the moment production was launched over a year ago. The premise of a crisis manager coupled with Shonda's involvement as well as the talented Kerry Washington immediately intrigued me and so I watched this pilot with quite a bit of anticipation.

Now that I've seen it, I don't think I've ever been this torn over a pilot. On one hand, I undeniably enjoyed the hour and feel like I will stick with the show for a few episodes. On the other hand, I seriously hated how forced and gimmicky everything was. It just felt too much like Shonda took her Grey's Anatomy template and applied it on to a different workplace setting. I know the quippy banter and the dramatic monologues are inherent to Shonda's signature style but it was just so distracting and exposition-y. Did we really need so many people build up Olivia as some sort of God every time her name was uttered? We get it, she's good. A well-made teaser could have easily conveyed that (instead of the horribly heavy-handed one we got with the new girl and her interviewer).

Kerry Washington is an interesting little thing. She's talented and extremely charismatic, but she also straddles a very delicate line that can come across as quite pompous in some cases. I know that's part of the character, but I fear she might not remain very likeable in the long run (much like other Shonda heroines). As for her lackeys, I enjoyed Abby the most, especially with her being visibly in love with the now-engaged Stephen. I actually felt like I've known those two for a while, which is an impressive accomplishment.

However, I absolutely hated the new girl who feels like she was forced onto the show by the network in a bid for a character the audience could relate to. She was nothing more than an exposition device and the actress has the charisma of a mop. I shudder at the thought of her having a pivotal role this season.

I think the pilot's highlight for me was Olivia's relationship with the President. It's a gutsy choice by Shonda to be sure, and since I'm a sucker for long term story arcs, I have a feeling I will love this one. Olivia's scene with the President in the Oval Office was particularly compelling (and slightly creepy).

Ultimately, while I found Scandal's pilot to be quite flawed, there were enough enjoyable bits to ensure I'll be sticking around for a few episodes before really passing judgment. Let's see where they take us.

Bits:

• I wish the title card was cooler.

• I really hated Olivia explaining how they tackle clients. It felt like the most obvious exposition dump of all time.

• How convenient that every member of Olivia's gang has connections that suit the plot when needed.

• Brutal dressing down there that Olivia gave Amanda. And is it just me or are there a lot of shots in this pilot of Olivia strutting with some badass musical score playing in the background?

• The gay reveal was quite unexpected. Well done.

• The "sweet baby" touch was also very cool.

• Did anyone get any rape-y vibes in the Oval Office encounter?

• Really enjoyed Stephen's proposal subplot. His friendship with Olivia is bound to be a highlight.

• Nice cliffhanger with Olivia taking on Amanda as a client. It's the reason I'll stick with the show.

Quotes:

Huck: "Everybody in this office needs fixing. You're a stray dog and Olivia took you in. Don't question it."

Olivia: "You love her. She loves you. Normal people get married."
Stephen: "You won't even date."
Olivia: "I'm not normal."

Olivia: "He's not wooing me. We're friends."
Stephen: "You and I are friends. He's the leader of the free world. Your life makes me feel unsuccessful."

2 out of 4 gladiators in suits.

Previously posted at Nad's Reviews.

18 comments:

Billie Doux said...

The charisma of a mop. :) Thanks for posting this, Nadim. It sure sounds like a mixed bag of a show.

KaZ said...

Hi Nadim

I was hooked by this pilot. I watch Grey's Anatomy on and off (usually for the big episodes like the shooter episodes). I know it gained criticism for the fast paced talking but I actually didn't mind that.

I did agree with you however with the "new girl" Quinn Perkins but wanted to see if you stuck with this show? Without spoiling anything I feel like Shonda Rhimes turned this negative aspect on it's head by the end of the season and I must say I was impressed and look forward to see where it takes us.

I thought the whole season got better as it went along. As first seasons go I think this was impressived. I was really impressed with Revenge last year and it became my guilty pleasure but when I look at these two shows I think Scandal had the advantage in that department (guilty pleasure wise). Out of the two shows I am most looking forward to watching the Scandal season premiere.

Heres hoping it doesn't fall into a sophomore slump.

KaZ

KaZ said...

Sorry please ignore my typos from the last post. The 3rd paragraph is supposed to say:

I thought the whole season got better as it went along. As first seasons go I think this was impressive. I was really impressed with Revenge last year and it became my guilty pleasure but when I look at these two shows I think Scandal had the advantage in that department (guilty pleasure wise). Out of the two shows, I am most watching the Scandal season 2 premiere.

Phew! I feel much better now. Is it bad that I had to go back and correct this?!

KaZ

Nadim said...

Hahah not at all Kaz I understand.
And yes the show improved SO much. By the end the first season's 7 episodes I was in love with the show. I've gotten so many people converted to the show and Revenge (the strongest new show last year) and I can't wait for both of their sophomore years! Here's hoping they're both fantastic!

KaZ said...

:-S What's worse is I've just seen another typo in my last comment as the last sentence doesn't make sense. Doh!

Anyway I am so happy you watched the 1st season. Can't wait to read your reviews on them. Can't believe I have only just discovered your website. Good job I clicked on your profile. Definitely will be favouriting your site too.

Also surprised that your from Lebanon. It's funny because your name is Nadim and my cousin's is the same.

Anyway back to the topic: Scandal - Billie have you watched this show? Wonder what your thoughts are on it? Anybody else seen it?

I think it's because I watched it recently (and in the space of 2 days) but I am really hooked.

Billie Doux said...

Hi,KaZ, and welcome to the site! I'm glad you're enjoying it.

I haven't seen Scandal yet. I tend to stick to the fantasy and sci-fi shows, although there are a few exceptions.

KaZ said...

Hi Billie,

I love, love, love this site. I check it out at least once daily. I have been following your reviews from (I think)season 6 of Buffy.

Since then you have got me into numerous shows and I have wanted to become a reviewer myself for this site at some point. Just to put it into perspective - I watch a diverse range of shows. I am a geek at heart and prefer sci-fi shows but I do like my comedies and dramas.

From the shows that you all review I would say I either watch/have watched 80% of them. My problem is that I read your site daily but never leave a comment. I need to get into the habit of doing this more.

Anyway Billie I just wanted to say that even though I have not or will never meet you, you are without a doubt a friend I never had. I have read your reviews straight after watching an episode and it has made me see parts of the episodes from different perspectives or agree with you on bits that i liked. The only exception to this was Buffy's Season 3 episode Bad Girls. I can't believe that episode got one star (?!).

Anyway long story short: You have welcomed me to the site but I have been here a while. :-) Thank you all for all your hard work.

Onto Scandal: Check it out sometime it may surprise you as I thought it wouldn't be my type of show (thought it looked too West Wing-y) but checked it out because of Shonda Rhimes.

Billie Doux said...

I'm glad you've started to comment, KaZ. I hope it's the first (and second) of many. Good to hear from you.

Billie Doux said...

Finally saw this. Took me way longer than I'd planned. And I was enthralled.

Nadim said...

Wow Billie if you loved the premiere you're going to ADORE episode 6! It's my favorite of the year and it's magnificent!

sunbunny said...

Episode 6 is totally the best one. No question. :) Glad you're liking it Billie!

ChrisB said...

A friend calls this her won't miss show, so I decided to give the pilot a shot. Like you, Nadim, I was torn. I didn't know that Shonda Rhimes was the creator until I saw her credit; which, unfortunately, is not a good thing. I was, at one time, a big Grey's fan, but I found over time that the characters became cliched and thoroughly unlikable. I gave up on it a couple of years ago. Like you, I saw a lot of the same things here with the characters. And, a lot of the big plot points were obviously flagged.

I saw the relationship with the President coming right from the start. For someone whose gut is never wrong, it was clear that Amanda was telling the truth that something had to be coming between the truth and Olivia. There is only one reason a woman is willfully that blind.

On the plus side, I liked the idea of the gay war hero, but again the best friend thing was flagged a little too obviously.

I must admit that the cliffhanger worked. I am intrigued to see where this story will go, plus I want to see when the tape of Olivia and the President kissing in the Oval Office becomes public.

sunbunny said...

ChrisB, I totally agree on Grey's. It's always been pretty soapy, but a few years ago they just lost it. I stopped watching around the ferry crash episode, whenever that was. Meredith drove me insane. She was so angsty without reason.

I totally didn't see Fitz coming. When I first saw this I gasped loudly enough to freak my dog out.

ChrisB said...

sunbunny -- I made it all the way to George's funeral, but that scene just so pissed me off that I was done.

Did you ever give Private Practice a shot? I made it though about six of the first season and then gave up which was about the beginning of the end of all of Shonda's shows.

This one has proved me wrong! Yes, it is soap, but it is damn good soap.

Billie Doux said...

Okay, ChrisB, I made it to George's funeral and stopped, too. :O That's hilarious.

sunbunny said...

ChrisB, I did watch like half of the first season of Private Practice. It had such a FANTASTIC cast I thought it merited a chance. It was even soapier than Grey's! Scandal doesn't really feel like a Shondra Rhimes show at all, which I like. :)

ChrisB said...

Billie -- great minds, my friend, great minds. :-)

sunbunny -- you're right about the cast, but it never took off. And, I am really liking this show which is much, much better than either of the two earlier ones.

Nadim said...

So glad you've watching Chris. Episode 6 in particular is MINDBLOWING! It really made me adore the show. And season two is on fire! So catch up quickly :)