Scandal’s long-awaited return to TV will be met with great fan-fare and even greater expectations. After a disappointing Season 3, constructive criticism is what the show needs to ensure that the derailment of last season isn’t repeated. Being a social media juggernaut doesn’t make one immune to criticism. Just as social media was embraced by the series, so should the criticism.
This is probably my own fault for immersing myself in the social media chatter of the show, but in my defense this show was literally built off the backs of twitter followers. When Scandal was only picked up for the first 7 episodes, the cast initiated the social media conversation with fans to garner word-of-mouth buzz and generate a grassroots movement earn the show a second season. It wasn’t just cool to discuss at the water cooler, it was cool to be actively engaged during the show. Scandal embraced live tweeting like its very survival depended on it.
Not only was it a successful endeavor, it essentially created the social media template that most shows now emulate to encourage viewer engagement. It spawned a movement. Hell, even the Nielsen ratings decided to adapt to modern times and created Twitter ratings, measuring the trending topics and tweets of the most buzzed about shows of the night. It’s a win-win for shows and fans alike. Shows entice the social media savvy, highly desirable key age demographic and fans get to interact with the actual people creating “their” show. The problem with creating a new model for TV viewing is the growing pains it undergoes as the relationship between the show and the fans matures.
Scandal’s inaugural season was the shiny, new plaything. For the mainstream, nothing like it existed for viewers. Anything the series or its cast did was going to be great because there’s nothing with which to compare it. Never before were actors reaching out to fans in such a deliberate manner, pulling back the curtain and opening the door to the behind-the-scenes happenings with pictures and videos, or even answering real-time questions about wardrobe. Scandal and Kerry Washington changed this, for better or worse. Problems arise, however, when the expectations set by the fans of how they get to interact with the cast; the expectations of the cast to see the fans show up and the expectation of viewership to increase meet head on. It’s like your first major relationship – everyone loves falling in love, but it’s work to create a lasting relationship on a good day.
It’s the same with fan bases and TV shows – eventually the honeymoon period wears off, the fog of perfection has lifted and people realize not everything is as great as it appears. And guess what? That’s ok. Constructive criticism is what should keep the show, its cast and crew their toes. Constructive criticism is what keeps me in check when I start to color outside the lines in profession. It’s literally what every person in the world has to answer to in their daily work lives to be successful in their careers. Television shows should be no different.
I am forever grateful that I have Scandal to critique every week because I know one day I won’t, but that doesn’t mean that this show will get a free pass for merely existing. No one is above being called to the mat when issues need to be addressed. In season three, Scandal became less about the life and trials of a political fixer and more about topping the last shocking moment of the previous episode. The problem rests in when you run out of storyline to burn, then what? Apparently B613, never-ending quadrangles and Alias-inspired plotlines is what happens. With less than two hours to go until the Season 4 premiere, here’s a few things I would give up my firstborn for to get this series back on track after a rocky Season 3.
Bring Back Olivia Pope
I don’t just mean back from the plane with Jake (Scott Foley). I need to see the Olivia Pope who took on Russian mobsters, slayed Amanda Tanner with a speech, and ran Olivia Pope & Associates with the swagger of the BOSS. I need Olivia to clap back when Mellie (Bellamy Young) calls her a whore for the 1837472nd time. I need Olivia to stop acting like a passenger in her life and regain some control. It’s time for the show to remember that Olivia is the fixer. In fairness, showrunner Shonda Rhimes has said season 4 will get back to cases-of-the-week, so that’s a step in the right direction.
B613 Drinking Game (You Cannot Sit With Us)
If I hear “B613,” “The Republic,” or “The Hole,” at any point during season 4, I’m switching from wine to vodka and downing it until I can’t hear anything anymore. Ok, maybe that was a little overdramatic but it’s not wrong. This plotline snuck in last season and ended up devouring the Scandal with whom I fell in love. As much as I wish, I realize we’ll actually never be completely free from B613 and the circle of hell that embodies it, but it can be threaded through the show to add drama to the background versus taking over. Remember, Maya (Khandi Alexander) is still in the hole and Fitz (Tony Goldwyn) doesn’t (yet) know that Eli (Joe Morton) had Jerry killed, that has the potential for some seriously good drama.
Break the Triangle
I hated geometry in high school, I hate it as an adult. The merry-go-round that is Fitz/Olivia/Jake evolved the vortex of suck, and by the end of season 3 I didn’t like any of them. If the show is going to stick with this
soap opera formula, something has got to give. I’m an Olitz girl to the death, but please make me remember why I love these two, even if it means they have to be outside each other’s orbits to remind them what they’re missing. Also, just give Jake something to do besides asking Olivia to rescue him. It’s not cute. Any good triangle is rooted in reasons why the characters should be together. Why should viewers want Olivia with Jake? Why should they want Olivia with Fitz?
Huckleberry Quinn Sex
No. I survived it twice in season 3, let’s not push my gag reflex a third time. In all seriousness, I miss Huck (Guillermo Díaz) and Quinn (Katie Lowes) working together, but after the teeth pulling and sex around Eli’s pool of blood, I’m basically ready for a reset here. Was it shocking? Yes, But it was also nauseating. The same question I asked above applies here, why should fans want Huck and Quinn together?
Make Me Hold My Breath Again
I’m ready to go back to thinking “Why is this hour going by so fast?!” instead of, “Did she just chew her OWN WRIST?!” This show has always been fast paced. Fast dialogue, fast walking, and definitely fast storylines, but last season it blew through so much that we missed the emotional fallout. I still need to see Olivia’s reaction to Fitz leaking her name, or maybe that was their plan all along. I don’t know, because it was dropped like a hot potato after the season three premiere. Basically, let’s get back to what made this show stand out, instead of what made this show go off the rails last season. Scandal can’t lose what made it so special in order to shock and awe people. Sometimes less is more.
I’ll be watching and live tweeting tonight @angelamromack, and of course you’ll have my thoughts in my review tomorrow. Now excuse me, I have to wash my wine glasses and make sure the wine is chilled.