Sunday, March 08, 2015

TV: The only thing worse than bad TV is the Water Cooler Set that praises it

Not content with 'celebrating' Black History Month with a storyline about selling an African-American woman, Shonda Rhimes decided to insert said woman into a racial injustice story. It was bad TV piled on bad TV but The Water Cooler Set pretended otherwise.


Courtney B. Vance, whose been playing the husband of the President on State of the Union (Alfre Woodard plays the president), showed up slumming on Scandal as a father who really didn't know what to say or do when his son was killed by a police officer so he grabbed a shotgun and ran to the crime scene -- next to the White House.

He was fortunate enough to be saved by African-American angel Olivia Pope.

Are these portrayals of African-Americans supposed to be any less insulting if the 'savior' is also African-American?

Is that really the height of drama?  Stereotypes used as pawns for plot purposes?

And do we really applaud Shonda's growing stupidity?

Courtney B. Vance's character would have been arrested in real life by the end of the episode.

DC has an anti-gun law.

Iraq War veteran Adam Kokesh didn't even threaten anyone with a gun -- unlike Vance's character -- and yet he was sentenced for carrying a gun in DC.

How stupid is Shonda becoming?

Has her rush for 'feel good' battered away all her common sense?

Black Lives Matter -- that's what she was attempting to portray in last Thursday's episode.

This despite episode after episode of Olivia being kidnapped and then auctioned off -- slavery -- to the highest bidder.

Do Black Lives Matter?

We kind of think they do but wonder if Shonda Rhimes does?

Leave out Olivia's mother and father, both recurring characters and not members of the regular cast, and where are the African-Americans on Scandal other than Kerry Washington's Olivia Pope?

They're relegated to bit parts, Shonda leaves them begging for bit parts.

And badly written ones.  Sad sacks in need of Olivia's help or the racist character she wrote for Marla Gibbs ("Where's the Black  lady?" Gibbs was seen asking over and over earlier this year).

There's not one African-American working in the White House?

There was an African-American gladiator on Olivia's team, remember?


Harrison was played by Columbus Short.


Shonda has a history of firing popular African-American men from her shows.

Isaiah Washington was fired from Grey's Anatomy, for example.

There, it was said his behavior was causing problems on the set.

Columbus Short's problems were cocaine and caused no problems on the set.  TV and film have long been able to work around drug use.

He did have some legal issues but it's really not ethical to fire someone for non-convictions.

Short played a very popular character.

He was not presented with an ultimatum ("get treatment or you're fired"), he was just fired.

He was fired for having a disease.

He could sue Shonda Rhimes and ABC for that firing.

He could sue and he would stand a good chance of winning.

Shonda's gotten really stupid.

The only ones more stupid than Shonda?

The Water Cooler Set.

Todd VanDerWerff (Vox) gushed, "It's powerful because it places the current Scandal plots on hold to address issues of police brutality against young black men as forthrightly as any show on television has."


That's the hallmark of a good series?

Putting on hold plots to 'address' issues?


Laura Kadner (Hello Giggles) notes:

Sitcoms are supposed to be situational comedies. But sometimes they turn into situational dramas/this-episode-is-so-scary-that-I-can’t-watch-the-whole-thing/why-is-this-happening/this-is-supposed-to-be-serious-but-it’s-funny. I watch these episodes and sometimes wonder if I’m suddenly in some sort of waking nightmare. I can’t believe the things that are happening are actually happening. So I’ve gathered together the most memorable of these episodes, despite how much they may disturb me and others, simply to prove they exist.

Some may argue Scandal's not a sitcom.

They are right.

It's a soap opera.

An over-the-top soap opera.  Yes, a guilty pleasure.  (Shonda hates it when her shows are called guilty pleasures -- she likes to pretend she's doing an episode of Family or St. Elsewhere as opposed to the soap operas she makes.)

Sophie Gilbert (The Atlantic) at least gets that Scandal is a soap opera (though she's too scared to use the term) and notes, "Scandal is a melodrama, and its various storylines have ranged from sublimely absurd to profoundly ridiculous (season three’s visually gruesome torture scenes and insane conspiracies exemplifying the latter), but 'The Lawn Chair' was possibly its best episode to date, a tightly controlled and very deliberate exploration of race, identity, bigotry, and conscience."

Sophie's like so many idiots who came before her.

Today, we roll on the floor with laughter when the Saved By The Bell episode where Jessie's addicted to caffeine pills airs but when it was still brand new?

Idiots like Sophie were praising the heavy handed nonsense.

Here's a clue for Sophie, if you truly think a TV show had its best episode by ignoring all the plotlines viewers tune in for to deliver a message?

You're saying the show is utter crap.

You're saying that outside of this very-special-episode, the show is crap.

If that's your opinion, at least be honest about it.

Kirthana Ramisetti (New York Daily News) was impressed by the episode and offered, "Because it’s Scandal and Olivia Pope is a near-miracle worker, the officers involved in the coverup are arrested and Clarence receives an act of kindness: He gives into his grief in the arms of the President of the United States, a man who also knows what it’s like to lose a son."

That's something to be proud of?

Honestly, we don't think so.

Anybody remember Family Ties?

The sitcom did a number of very-special episodes.

But the one that stands to us is when Justine Bateman's 15-year-old Mallory is helping out at her father's public television station.  It's there she encountered "Uncle Arthur" who, over two days, comments on her body, gropes her, grabs her ass and forces a kiss on her.

And that episode was wrongly praised as well.

It was praised for highlighting the harassment young girls and women face.

But it shouldn't have been praised.

When Mallory's parents find out, the serious issue has a magical solution -- just like on Scandal -- the parents have a heart-to-hear with Uncle Art and it's all settled.

No one thinks to call the cops.

No one thinks this is an issue for human resources.

Too often The Water Cooler Set confuses good intentions with good entertainment.

They are not necessarily the same thing.

Two appeared to get that last week.

Katherine Brodsky (Mashable) pointed out,, "It could have been a complex exploration of the very real tensions we're facing, but instead it was emotionally manipulative and simplistic."  Aisha Harris (Slate) observed, "But enough praise -- Scandal still falls painfully short of making the Ferguson-inspired theme sufficiently complex. It reduces the shooting and the subsequent fallout to a problem that can still be easily 'handled,' in the words of Olivia Pope."

When the episode is the object of scorn, ridicule and mockery in the future (and it will be), remember that two critics did make a point to call out the simplistic episode (and message) in real time.

Enough about the two wise ones, let's return to the idiots.  Remember the idiot at The New York Daily News who was so blown away by the hug -- two fathers who knew loss?

Are these people idiots?

If Fitz had hugged the cop, they could have bonded two -- as two men who've committed murder.

Does no one remember that Fitz took a pillow to Supreme Court Judge Verna and smothered her to death?

And why?

Because she wanted to get honest about how Fitz did not win the presidential election, it was fixed.

And so Fitz killed her.

We're at a loss as to how Fitz is someone to embrace a murder victim's family member.

Rebecca covers Scandal at her site and she gets that the show is a soap opera.  Of last week's episode, she observed:

but those who will watch will do because of olivia and fitz.
that is the heart of the show.
which doesn't mean olivia can't end up with jake.
but it does mean such a choice has impact and viewers want to see that.
but she spent what, 4 episodes, keeping fitz and jake both from olivia.
and now what did we get?
olivia does ferguson.
no 1 watches for that.
she can do that storyline, shonda can, and maybe even pull it off.
but if she's not covering her bases, if the episode doesn't satisfy the core desire of viewers, she's failing at her job.

Rebecca's correct.

And here's a little hard truth for The Water Cooler Set: Thursday's bad episode?

It's because Shonda doesn't know what the hell she's doing.

She's painted herself into a corner and can't figure out if Oliva should end up with Fitz or with Jake.

It was yet another episode that allowed her to avoid dealing with what the viewers want to know: Who is Olivia going to end up with?

And maybe The Water Cooler Set could consider her men before rushing to praise the episode taking on the murder of a young man?

Because Olivia's sleeping with Fitz and more than okay with his murdering her friend Verna.

And Olivia's sleeping with Jake who murdered her friend Cyrus' husband James.

Olivia's sleeping with men who murder people.

So maybe she's not the right person to grandstand?

And maybe Scandal really has no higher ground to run to?

Olivia's spent season after season using Huck to torture people.

He was trained in torture by the government.  He was also tortured by the government.

And Olivia knows it screws with his sanity when he's involved with torture but she regularly deploys him to 'get answers' knowing that he will torture.  And the viewers know she knows because she'll promise to bring him back from "the dark side" if his actions leave him there.

Shonda's got serious problems.  Her latest show, How To Get Away With Murder, was a bigger hit until after the murder -- when your winter finale posts better numbers than your series finale, you're in trouble.

And while many pointed out that Scandal won the night in ratings -- few noted how low rated it was when compared to other episodes this season.

Shonda's run off a number of viewers.  And not really with the kidnapping, and the auction and now the Ferguson, but because she refuses to write the show she used to write.  Again, she painted herself into a corner and has no idea how to fix things.  So instead of exploring Olivia and Fitz or Olivia and Jake, she creates these non-stories, these distractions to mark time until the season finale when, suddenly, she'll want to make it (yet again) all about who Olivia should end up with.

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