Sunday, February 22, 2015

TV: Off the rails

TV audiences are punished more and more these days as crazy becomes the factory setting for various programs.


Take the soap opera about the fixer who has, in the last episodes come undone.  Scandal rose to fame by presenting a strong Olivia Pope.  Now all the taunts that she was just a pretty face appear to come true, her homicidal father's prediction that when she turned her back on him she would be nothing without his protection appears true.

If there's anything worse than being so inept that even a third-string criminal can see her 'tell' and figure out what she's up to, maybe it's having the first African-American character to be the focus of an hour long show also become the first one to be sold into modern day slavery?

Or maybe it's having her spin from whiny to ungrateful bitch in 5 . . 4 . . . 3 . . . 2 . . .

To keep her from being killed, President Fitzpatrick starts a war with Angola, as the ones who planned the kidnapping originally wanted (then Olivia got farmed out two a second team and then a third team).  And Olivia's response to that when she is free and face-to-face with Fitz?

To scream and yell at him.

To say he has betrayed all the work she did to get him into the White House.

Oh how she howled.

Oh how stupid she looked.

Does Kerry Washington read these (bad) scripts?

Here's reality, when she was first kidnapped and the vice president of the US was using her to start the war, she confessed to her cell mate (who turned out to be in on the kidnapping) that she was going to be fine and he would too because the president of the United States loved her and would not let any harm come to her.

Later, when she had to tape a video proving she was alive, she begged Fitz, on the video, not to start the war.

But she already knew he would and, again, had boasted -- prior to knowing what the terms would be -- that the president would meet the terms.

Which he did.

(And even his wife, Mellie, told him he had to do that.)

So for Oliva to throw her little tantrum was further disgrace in a plot line that has been the worst thing Shonda Rhimes has ever oversaw.

And the ratings reflect that.

They really, really reflect that.

Scandal is dangerously close to falling back to its first season ratings.

It wasn't a hit then.

ABC stayed with the show and, in season two, it became a hit.

Despite claims that Shonda Rhimes knows drama, the proof she clearly does not as she runs off the audience.

And not just with one show.

The hit of the fall season was How To Get Away With Murder.

The show's no longer a hit, it's a bit of an embarrassment and some of the praise its earned is equally embarrassing.

Cicely Tyson showed up last Thursday to play a role that appeared, as Betty noted, based on Mother Jefferson (Zara Cully) on the sitcom The Jeffersons.  It was so far beneath Tyson that Shonda and company owed acting an apology.

But some people praised the scene of Cicely combing out Viola Davis' hair.

It's never been on network TV before.

It's break through!

Earlier, Viola had removed her makeup.

It's break through!

We've long mocked the Rolling Stone magazine music 'critic' who saw, in the eighties, all this break through when Madonna, after singing "Live To Tell' in a concert, stood up.  It was break through, he insisted, it told the story of AIDS, it . . .

It was Madonna moving from a ballad to a fast song.

That's all it was.

Viola getting her hair combed out or taking off her make up?

No, it's not break through, it's not legendary, it's not earth shattering.

But that's what low expectations -- and whores who traffic in them -- seize upon.

There's nothing break through about How To Get Away With Murder.

It had a chance to be but it ended it with the winter finale when instead of allowing Annalise (Viola's alleged lead character) to kill her cheating and abusive husband who had killed the young college student he got pregnant, it farmed out the task of that to her students.

It was as though Ryan O'Neal showed up at the start of the classic TV movie The Burning Bed and killed the abusive husband freeing Farrah Fawcett's Francine Hughes (the film is based on a true story) to do needle point for the rest of the film.

Or as though, at the end of Thelma & Louise, Geena Davis had told Susan Sarandon, "Hey, girl, we had our fun, let's turn ourselves in."  And Susan had nodded and the two women had stepped out of the convertible and walked towards the police with their hands in the air.

Annalise is a successful defense attorney known for her ability to allow her clients to get away with murder.  She teaches a college class on the topic and isn't concerned with guilt or innocence, only with how to destroy people on the witness stand and make them look liars even if they aren't.

It's really amazing that the families of various murder victims haven't demanded the university refuse to allow this unscrupulous and predatory person to teach.

But having created this character, the show refused to follow through on the natural storyline -- which was Annalise killing her husband.

As bad as that was, what followed has been even more pathetic.

As the ratings demonstrate, by the way.

Before the winter break, over ten million and over nine million viewers an episode was the norm.

The return of a new episode at the end of January saw a normal viewership.

But what the viewers saw in that episode ensured that every one that followed hasn't been able to crack nine million.

'Strong' Annalise is currently a victim of the Victorian era's "rest cure" as she remains confined to her bed, so distraught over the murder of her awful husband and all that followed.

Yes, the "rest cure."

In 1892, Charlotte Perkins Gilman's classic The Yellow Wallpaper was first published -- a novel that decries the rest cure.

Yet two centuries later, you've got a Shonda Rhimes show promoting it.

Shonda might claim, "This is good drama."

The audience is running, Shonda, they don't think it's good drama.

More importantly, Shonda's rightfully been praised for putting strong African-American women on TV.  And yet for two hours Thursday nights in 2014, all she's done is weaken them, turn them into victims and, yes, turn on the very reasons American viewers embraced Olivia Pope and Annalise Keating.

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