Wednesday, April 25, 2018

TV: The self-destruction of Shonda

"This is the way the earth ends, not with a bang but with a whimper."  It's not often that TV reminds us of T.S. Eliot but there we were Thursday night, ABC's last hour of prime time, watching SCANDAL wrap up and the only comfort we could find was suddenly Peggy Lee's "Is That All There Is?" was drowning out T.S. Eliot in our brains.

But getting there took almost as long as season seven.

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Listening to Joe Morton mouth the lines for Eli Pope ("Rowan," Command) about how the country would be shocked to know an African-American male was running things, we were left wondering how much Shonda Rhimes pats herself on the back?  We think way too much.

Season seven and there were three African-American characters -- a lead (Kerry Washington's Olivia), a supporting character (Joe Morton's Eli) and a minor (Cornelius Smith Jr's trick dick Marcus).  For all the talk of Shonda's supposed trail blazing, she remains the creator of very White world.

For the final episode of SCANDAL, that included Fitz, Mellie, Cyrus, Quinn, Charlie, David, Abby, Jake, Hollis, Sally, Lonnie, Tom and White Latino Huck.  It's a White world and a largely straight one  -- so some might argue this demonstrates Shonda's creativity in fashioning worlds she's never been a part of.

Or you could just say that she's in the closet and will do anything for a buck -- we kind of suspect that's closer to the truth.  This is the woman who, for example, created the hideous GREY'S ANATOMY -- a story of whining White women and the men they hope to possess.

Shonda's problematic relationship with African-American men includes 'trick dick' Marcus who exists to stick it to Mellie on her command.  It also includes Isaiah Washington who was infamously fired by Shonda from GREY'S for homophobic statements.  Well, to separate Shonda from the homophobic statements at any rate.  Last March, the claim surfaced that Isaiah was, in fact, fired due to the network's racism.  Whatever the reason, he was the most famous African-American male in a lead role on a Shonda show.  Next in line would be Columbus Short who played Harrison on SCANDAL . . . for three season before Shonda fired him.  Then there's Alfred Enoch who played Wes on HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER before Shonda killed him off in the third season.

Shonda really doesn't have a strong affection for Black males (Enoch is British) -- thank goodness all three of her children -- none of whom have fathers -- are girls.

Shonda gets a lot of credit, doesn't she, for her women of color casting.  To be clear, Kerry Washington was not the first woman of color to carry an hour long drama.  That would be Maggie Q who was the start of NIKITA.  Kerry was the first African-American woman to do so.

Other than that, there's not a lot to praise about Olivia Pope and/or SCANDAL.  Maybe if it had ended earlier . . .

But it didn't and season seven was the all time worst.

We'd praised the show early on.  When it began its descent, we began calling it out.  We had thought that Shonda would rally for season seven knowing that it was the last.  (Reality: This was ABC's decision, not Shonda's.  Shonda lies a lot -- see her constantly changing story on Isaiah Washington, for example.  ABC made the decision early in the spring of 2017 due to the show's poor ratings.)  Either she couldn't rally or she just didn't care about her viewers.

In season seven, Olivia became colder and more self-righteous, this as she killed a world lover her boss (US President Mellie Grant) was in love with.  She then made the decision to stand up to her father even though it meant Quinn might be killed.  When she thought Quinn had been killed, her big concern was covering up her own tracks.

It was a disgusting Olivia.  And there was no coming back from it.

That's who Olivia is.  Someone who would let her own friend by shot to death.

The last six of so episodes of the show contained 10 or so minutes of entertainment and the rest was all padding.  Clearly, Shonda had no idea what she was doing.

Then came the finale.

She wrote it all by herself and has only herself to blame.

Attorney General David Rosen was murdered.  Why?  Shock value.  When Shonda's got nothing else she can think of, she just kills off a character.  David's death wasn't given time to register.  He was a major character, the love of Abby's life, and his death was played out as a non-moment.  It was rushed like everything else about the episode.  Worst of all, his killer, Vice President Cyrus, got away with it, walked.

She had no real ending -- big surprise, at this late date, right?

So she used a new Stevie Wonder to serve up a montage that was, in effect, meaningless.

Think it wrapped up the storyline?  Think again.  The portrait of Olivia that was built up to in the montage -- over and over -- Shonda explained to Jimmy Kimmel that it didn't mean Olivia had become president.  It didn't mean that she hadn't.  It was Shonda's own 'private' spoiler that she would keep to herself.

Did she end up with Fitz?  We don't know that either.  We know she didn't end up with Jake because he ended up in prison.

What did happen to her?

Shonda doesn't want to tell, it's her own 'private' spoiler.

But thing is, this wasn't a private matter, it was a public television show.

As she moves on over to NETFLIX, the world starts to grasp why ABC didn't fight for her and why they're already whispering that it's time to ease GREY'S off the schedule.

They'd be smart to do so because the viewers have been rejecting Shonda for some time.  In fact, the series finale saw the lowest turnout for any season finale.  Even season one, when the show was struggling to find an audience, found more viewers tuning in.

Shonda destroyed SCANDAL and, more and more, it appears it wasn't by accident.  The self-loathing that kept her in a closet has led her to loathe those who appear to accept her.  Lots of luck, NETFLIX, she's your problem now.

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