September 26, 2014

SHOWBUZZDAILY Season Premiere Review: “Scandal”


SCANDAL:  Thursday 9PM on ABC

Sheer addictiveness is SCANDAL’s stock in trade, and although the Season 4 premiere had an absence of the show’s jaw-dropping plot twists, it was already awash in adrenaline and its trademark high-voltage monologues.

The premiere, written by series creator Shonda Rhimes herself and directed by Tom Verica, mostly served as a transition hour between where the Season 3 finale had left its characters and what’s to come.  An unspecified of weeks had passed, and Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) and Jake (Scott Foley) had spent the time idyllically on an island described as 100 miles from Zanzibar.  But no one on Scandal ever disappears for long, and Quinn (Katie Lowes) tracked Olivia down by tracing the bottles of her favorite vintage wine.  The news that the body of Harrison (once played by the departed Columbus Short) had been found brought Olivia and a reluctant Jake back to Washington, where everyone but Olivia herself knew that she’d be staying long after the funeral was over.

During her absence, her “gladiators” had split apart, Abby (Darby Stanchfield) to serve as White House Press Secretary and Huck (Guillermo Diaz) hilariously as a Nerd Squad-ish tech repairman.  This being Scandal, everyone got to denounce everyone else at length, although Rhimes gave her A-level material to two of her favorite characters:  White House Chief of Staff Cyrus Beene (Jeff Perry), annihilating the head of the Republican National Committee (Portia Di Rossi, at the start of a story arc), and best of all, First Lady Mellie Grant (the peerless Bellamy Young) half-drunkenly assuring her husband the President (Tony Goldwyn) that she knew full well he wouldn’t be able to stay away from Olivia.

Much of the episode was taken up by a scandal-of-the-week, in which a female US Senator claimed to have put another Senator into the hospital when he tried to rape her; Olivia uncovered the fact that it was the first Senator’s assistant who had been attacked, but also that she’d been dangled as bait before the 2d Senator in order to get his vote on an Equal Pay bill.

Scandal is still in the calm before its inevitable storm of narrative craziness, and one hopes it won’t go any further over the line than it did last season, where the sick “romance” between Huck and Quinn felt like the show was trying too hard to be icky for the sake of drawing tweets.  The series has also gone back to the well of Olivia’s father Rowan (Joe Morton), whose endless duplicity was getting somewhat monotonous by the end of last season, and who’s already once again lying up a storm.

Scandal isn’t the polished work that The Good Wife manages to be on a weekly basis, and with its proclivity for burning through plot and characters, it may end up not having the longevity of Rhimes’s Grey’s Anatomy.  So far, though, it’s relentlessly watchable, and its cast, especially Washington, Perry, Young and Morton, dig into their thick puddings of dialogue with a delight that viewers can’t help but share.  Imperfect as it is, Scandal is the most thrilling hour on network TV.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."