Unless you find alleged mediocrity shocking, there's nothing scandalous about ABC's new drama, Scandal, a series from Grey's Anatomy and Private Practice creator Shonda Rhimes. Premiering April 5, Scandal follows a tough-talking D.C. damage control specialist played by Kerry Washington (Ray, Mr. and Mrs. Smith) who steps in when high-profile Beltway players are embroiled in — you guessed it — scandals. Critics gripe that, while the series is stuffed with Rhimes' signature over-sexed, over-talkative characters, it fails to achieve the balance of soap opera, thrilling drama, and wit that made Rhimes' previous efforts appealing. Is Scandal a dud?
It's outlandish in the worst way: Scandal embodies the most frustrating aspects of both Rhimes' other TV dramas and soap operas in general, says Brian Tallerico at Hollywood Chicago. The writing is "so rapid fire that it completely punctures any sense of realism" and each frenzied episode packs in four times the amount of dialogue you find in a typical series. It's as if Rhimes purposefully wants to overwhelm the viewer. "Everyone's over-caffeinated, hyper, and, too often, kind of annoying." Scandal needs to be "a little less National Enquirer" and a little more "New York Times."
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But at least it's not boring: Yes, this is television drama at its soapiest, says Verne Gay at Newsday. Scandal presents Washington, D.C., as a cliched "city of dirty, little secrets," complete with a president who sleeps with interns, and war heroes who murder girlfriends, but that doesn't mean it's a bad show. Sure, it's riddled with implausible soap-opera tropes — "whiplash character reveals" and "hairpin plot twists" — but the dialogue is zippy, and the story lines appealingly salacious. "Clear away the soap bubbles, and you'll find... more soap bubbles. But you won't be bored."
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And at least it's not about doctors: The world of crisis management provides a refreshingly doctor-less venue for what Shonda Rhimes has always done best, says Rebecca Martin at Wetpaint: Fuse "drama, fast-paced dialogue, a diverse cast, and all the romantic entanglements you could ever want into one shiny package." Led by the stellar Kerry Washington, and boasting fascinating, morally-ambiguous story arcs, Scandal is not bad at all and could even "become another Shondaland classic for the ages."
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