Why It’s Worth a Watch Wednesday – Viewers’ Voice: Which TV Review Has Hooked You?

Now that Thanksgiving is behind us, it is officially the holiday season.  Before we know it, 2013 will be here and we’ll all be left wondering where December went.  With all of the madness expected to surround us these next few weeks, Amber West and I have decided to switch things up again with today’s Why It’s Worth a Watch Wednesday reviews.

Instead of reviewing the remaining 2012 fall television programs we’ve yet to cover, we’ve decided to ask our viewers to participate in our Viewers’ Voice Special over the next few weeks.

Playing is simple.  Answer the below question and tell us why in the comments.

“Thanks to Amber’s/Tiffany’s (choose one) Why It’s Worth a Watch Wednesday reviews, I am now hooked on this television series: ______.”

To show everyone how it works, Amber and I are each going to choose one of the others blog posts that applies to this week’s question.  So, here goes….

“Thanks to Amber’s Why It’s Worth a Watch Wednesday reviews, I am now hooked on the television series: Scandal.

ABC’s Scandal, now it its second season, takes the word “scandal” to an entirely different level.

The series stars Kerry Washington as Olivia Pope, a former White House communications director who is now operating her very own private crisis management firm.  The character of Olivia is not completely fictional… she is loosely based on Judy Smith, one of President George H. W. Bush’s former press aides.  In return, Ms. Smith serves the Shonda Rhimes’ production as a consultant and co-executive producer.

But, back to the show…

So, what makes Scandal so scandalous?

Well, first there’s Olivia…

Olivia Pope can “fix” any problem, except maybe for her ongoing love affair with the President of the United States (President Fitzgerald Grant, played by Tony Goldwyn).  Everyone inside the President’s circle, including his wife (First Lady Mellie Grant, played by Bellamy Young), his Chief of Staff (Cyrus, played by Jeff Perry), and his entire Secret Service staff, knows about Olivia and President Grant.

Looks scandalous to me!

The mere fact that Olivia and the President share a romantic link is scandalous, but it’s not the most shocking twist to the story.  So, what makes this love affair even more outrageous and fun?  That would be the relationship shared between the First Lady and the President’s mistress.

Olivia’s and Mellie’s ability to work together and manipulate the President into doing exactly what they want makes for some of the best chemistry on the show… despite the fact the two women really don’t like each other.  These two, especially when realizing one can benefit from the other, are very scandalous!

Oh, and I should mention that Ms. Washington has stated in television interviews that Judy Smith did NOT have an affair with President Bush.  The writers and creators use Ms. Smith’s professional expertise to tell their stories… not her personal life.  Scandal is fictional television.

So, what else makes Scandal so scandalous?

Not only is Olivia keeping secrets, so is her team.

To complete her firm, Olivia hires a very qualified staff; a staff that successfully fixes the firm’s client’s problems, but that also brings their very own issues to the table: Columbus Short plays Harrison, a lawyer who Olivia helped escape serious jail-time for insider trading while he worked for a very corrupt man; the fabulous Guillermo Diaz plays Huck, the group’s computer expert who is haunted by his past… a past where he worked as a contract killer for the C.I.A.; Darby Stanchfield plays Abby, the team’s investigator and a survivor from an abusive ex who also happens to be from a very well “connected” family; and Katie Lowes plays Quinn (formerly Lindsey), a lawyer who Olivia helped beat a bombing charge that labeled her a domestic terrorist in the eyes of many Americans.

Eavesdropping… Breaking and Entering… Never an issue for Olivia’s team. They do what it takes to “fix” the problem.

See?  Even Olivia’s team’s backgrounds are sordid…

So, what else makes Scandal so scandalous?

Characters can only interest viewers to a certain point; the rest is left up to the writers…

To be honest, I wasn’t familiar with the name Shonda Rhimes until Amber reviewed Scandal last year.  As much TV as I watch, my regular viewing schedule does not include Grey’s Anatomy or Private Practice, two of Ms. Rhimes’ most popular creations to date.  But, now, I know who Ms. Rhimes is and what she is capable of.

I don’t want to give too much away about Scandal’s scandalous plot, but I do want to say that each and every episode draws me in, holds me in tight so that I don’t miss a word, and leaves me with my mouth gaping open in awe at the end.  The series is classified as a procedural in that each week Olivia and her team take on a new client and help “make their problems go away.”  But, Scandal can also be classified as a serial drama, or a nighttime soap opera, with an ongoing story that keeps getting better and even more scandalous with each passing week.

Scandal has drama; it has politics; it has love; and it has A LOT of scandalous twists and turns….

Now, it’s your turn: “Thanks to Amber’s/Tiffany’s (choose one) Why It’s Worth a Watch Wednesday reviews, I am now hooked on this television series: ______.”  Be sure to include why you’re hooked!  We’d love to hear from you! 

Remember to click over to Amber’s new & improved blog and see how she filled in the blanks…

Come back next week when Amber and I continue our Viewers’ Voice WatchWed series….  Stay tuned!

Remember to stop by the #watchwed hashtag in Twitter to discuss any of today’s reviews, or to mention any television programs that you’d like to see on Why It’s Worth a Watch Wednesday in the future.

A Recap of The WatchWed Review System:

GTV (Gourmet TV): Everything we want and more
MacTV (MacNCheese TV): Guilty pleasure. Not perfect, but is satisfies
GMacTV (Gourmet MacNCheese TV): A combination of fine wine and comfort food
JFTV (Junk food TV):It’s not great for us, but we’ll go back for seconds
TBPTV (Twice Baked Potato TV): Part gourmet and delicious, while absolutely horrible for our cholesterol
SSTV (Still Simmering TV): It has potential, but the jury is still out
NIV (NyQuil Induced Viewing): Perfect for that late night television sleep timer
LOTV (Liver&Onions TV): Do we really have to explain? Blech

Tele-Tuesday: Scandal-ous Television

It’s been no secret that a few of last year’s freshman television series swept me off my feet… particularly, American Horror Story, Person of Interest, and Revenge.  Today, I’m adding a fourth program to this list—Scandal.

ABC’s Scandal, now it its second season, takes the word “scandal” to an entirely different level.

The series stars Kerry Washington as Olivia Pope, a former White House communications director who is now operating her very own private crisis management firm.  The character of Olivia is not completely fictional… she is loosely based on Judy Smith, one of President George H. W. Bush’s former press aides.  In return, Ms. Smith serves the Shonda Rhimes’ production as a consultant and co-executive producer.

But, back to the show…

So, what makes Scandal so scandalous?

Well, first there’s Olivia…

Olivia Pope can “fix” any problem, except maybe for her ongoing love affair with the President of the United States (President Fitzgerald Grant, played by Tony Goldwyn).  Everyone inside the President’s circle, including his wife (First Lady Mellie Grant, played by Bellamy Young), his Chief of Staff (Cyrus, played by Jeff Perry), and his entire Secret Service staff, knows about Olivia and President Grant.

Looks scandalous to me…

The mere fact that Olivia and the President share a romantic link is scandalous, but it’s not the most shocking twist to the story.  So, what makes this love affair even more outrageous and fun?  That would be the relationship shared between the First Lady and the President’s mistress.

Olivia’s and Mellie’s ability to work together and manipulate the President into doing exactly what they want makes for some of the best chemistry on the show… despite the fact the two women really don’t like each other.  These two, especially when realizing one can benefit from the other, are very scandalous!

Do NOT stand in this First Lady’s way…

Oh, and I should mention that Ms. Washington has stated in television interviews that Judy Smith did NOT have an affair with President Bush.  The writers and creators use Ms. Smith’s professional expertise to tell their stories… not her personal life.  Scandal is fictional television.

So, what else makes Scandal so scandalous?

Not only is Olivia keeping secrets, so is her team.

To complete her firm, Olivia hires a very qualified staff; a staff that successfully fixes the firm’s client’s problems, but that also brings their very own issues to the table: Columbus Short plays Harrison, a lawyer who Olivia helped escape serious jail-time for insider trading while he worked for a very corrupt man; the fabulous Guillermo Diaz plays Huck, the group’s computer expert who is haunted by his past… a past where he worked as a contract killer for the C.I.A.; Darby Stanchfield plays Abby, the team’s investigator and a survivor from an abusive ex who also happens to be from a very well “connected” family; and Katie Lowes plays Quinn (formerly Lindsey), a lawyer who Olivia helped beat a bombing charge that labeled her a domestic terrorist in the eyes of many Americans.

Breaking and Entering is never a concern of Olivia and her team…

See?  Even Olivia’s team’s backgrounds are sordid…

So, what else makes Scandal so scandalous?

Characters can only interest viewers to a certain point; the rest is left up to the writers…

To be honest, I wasn’t familiar with the name Shonda Rhimes until my Wednesday blogging partner, Amber West, reviewed Scandal last year.  As much TV as I watch, my regular viewing schedule does not include Grey’s Anatomy or Private Practice, two of Ms. Rhimes’ most popular creations to date.  But, now, I know who Ms. Rhimes is and what she is capable of.

I don’t want to give too much away about Scandal’s scandalous plot, but I do want to say that each and every episode draws me in, holds me in tight so that I don’t miss a word, and leaves me with my mouth gaping open in awe at the end.  The series is classified as a procedural in that each week Olivia and her team take on a new client and help “make their problems go away.”  But, Scandal can also be classified as a serial drama, or a nighttime soap opera, with an ongoing story that keeps getting better and even more scandalous with each passing week.

Scandal has drama; it has politics; it has love; and it has A LOT of scandalous twists and turns….

Oh, and before I go, I have to mention Josh Malina and his portrayal of Assistant U.S. Attorney David Rosen.  Rosen and Olivia have a love/hate relationship… they respect each other’s brilliance, but disagree with each other’s antics.  Before Scandal, I didn’t even know Mr. Malina’s name (although I do remember him from his guest appearance on Psych a few years ago).  However, today, I know him (his name, we’ve never met beyond sharing words on Twitter).  I applaud the writers for giving Rosen what appears to be a larger part in season two AND I can’t wait to see what they have in store for us as it pertains to his investigation into Olivia and his recent romance with Abby!

There it is again… more scandal for Scandal!

Will Rosen get what he needs to expose Olivia?

In case anyone is having difficulty understanding the underlying message I am trying to portray in this blog post, it is that Scandal is very scandalous AND definitely worthy of a watch!

What do you think?  Do you watch Scandal?  Who’s your favorite character (mine is Huck!)?   I’d love to hear from you!       

Tele-Tuesday: Politics – Drama and Comedy

This weekend, I watched the pilot episode of USA’s new miniseries, Political Animals.  The word “politics” is a double-edged sword for me; I know that as an adult, understanding the politics of our respective countries is important, but mostly it does nothing more than frustrate me.  Maybe the networks recognize that politics upsets many viewers, thus the insane amount of police procedurals and medical dramas and lack of political series on the boob tube currently.  When I think TV and politics today, only one show comes to mind—Scandal—and its more drama than politics.

Until now.

If not evident from my earlier summer posts, I love the USA Network.  And when I saw the previews for the new miniseries, Political Animals, and saw the star-studded cast, I knew that I’d have to give it a try.  Now, I didn’t watch it live; I don’t really watch any TV live, unless it’s a sporting event.  But I did add the new drama to my DVR queue and watched it seven days after its original air date.

So what is Political Animals?  Let’s start with this question: who does everyone think of when we say former First Lady and current Secretary of State?  Did everyone answer Sigourney Weaver?

Secretary of State Elaine Barrish (with son Douglas in the background)

In the new six-part miniseries, Sigourney Weaver plays Elaine Barrish, a recently divorced former First Lady and current Secretary of State fighting to keep her family and her insane position in the U.S. government intact.  I think we all know who this sounds like, but let me add that Ms. Weaver herself has stated on talk shows that she is not playing Secretary Clinton.  Plus, the Barrish family is not the Clinton family, nor is it any one particular former President’s family.  Instead, the creators took bits and pieces from many different White House families, as well as created a fictional component, and the Barrish clan was born.

The USA network is known for its characters and Political Animals is no different.  Elaine Barrish is a strong, female lead.  She graduated first at her law school and received a ten-minute standing ovation after her commencement speech.  Despite her husband’s adulterous ways, she stood by her man throughout his political career (including his path from Governor to President of the United States).  And, most importantly, she more than challenged the Democratic male candidate throughout the presidential primary race before graciously stepping down.

Following her concession, Elaine asked her husband for a divorce.  It wasn’t until her separation from the former President that her popularity really soared with the American public, and the President-elect recognized this.  Secretary Barrish stated in the pilot episode that she did not want to be the country’s senior-most official dealing in foreign policies, but when the President of the United States calls for you, you answer.

Strengths aside, Elaine Barrish also has her flaws and weaknesses.  When in a stressful situation, the Secretary lights up a cigarette.  I can’t remember the last time I saw a character light up on screen.  In the “olden” days, characters smoked on television all of the time—but not today.  Additionally, despite her divorcing the former President, Elaine still has the rare tendency to run back to him when the going gets tough.  Sometimes a person needs the familiar warmth of a loved one, former or current—it’s a human response.

Secretary Barrish with Susan Berg (Reporter) – Will these rivals become the closest of friends?

In addition to Ms. Weaver, Political Animals also stars: Carla Gugino, a reporter who hasn’t been kind to the Secretary over the years; Ciaran Hinds, the former President and the Secretary’s ex-husband; Adrian Pasdar, the current President; Dylan Baker, the current Vice President; James Wolk, the Secretary’s son and Chief of Staff; Sebastian Stan, the Secretary’s other son and first openly homosexual child in the White House; and Ellen Burstyn, the Secretary’s mother.  Now that’s a cast!

Besides the cast and characters, the series also has drama.

From a political standpoint, the Secretary works feverishly to save three American journalists falsely imprisoned and convicted in Iran as spies.  As if the scandal wasn’t enough, she learns that the President and his sleazy Chief of Staff have known about the Iranian government’s requests and tried to handle it on their own, without giving into the demands of the Iranian President.  Keep in mind, I have only watched the first episode…

From a personal standpoint, the Secretary’s family is not-so-perfect either.  We all know her husband has flaws—her main reason for divorcing him was his many years of infidelity and his ego.  The Secretary’s one son, played by James Wolk, seems perfect—he’s clean cut, extremely intelligent, and engaged to a beautiful woman.  His fiancé also seems perfect, but she is secretly battling her own demons with bulimia and her infuriation with her future husband’s loyalty to his mother.  And the Secretary’s other son, played by the adorable Sebastian Stan, attempted suicide a year earlier and the family covered it up—or so they thought.  Anyone in politics should know nothing is sacred, not even the near death of a child—not to the media anyway.  Additionally, he is addicted to drugs.  He’s been to AA and has a sponsor, but the recent refusal of his parents to fork over the cash for him to open a restaurant/bar, and the national coverage of his suicide attempt, has pushed him over the edge.

Along with the drama, Political Animals also has moments of pure comedic genius.  Bud Hammond (Ciaran Hinds) and Margaret Barrish (Ellen Burstyn) have some of the funniest lines on TV.  I watched this episode with my parents, and even my father asked which network we were watching—not because we’re prudes, we’re Texans and language does not offend us—but because the dialogue was definitely unusual considering television sensors today.

And speaking of dialogue, here is my favorite line from the pilot:

“Bitches don’t like to be called bitches. Us bitches don’t like that.”
~Elaine Barrish to Susan Berg (Carla Gugino) AND Susan Berg to her boyfriend’s mistress/blogger at The Globe.

I also really enjoyed it when the Secretary told her husband’s Secret Service Agents that if she was going to kill Bud (her ex-husband), she would have done it years ago.  I don’t remember the exact quote, so I’m paraphrasing, but I think everyone will understand and appreciate it just the same.  This line was quite funny when used in the context of the scene.

Secretary Barrish – will she be the next President of the United States?

Lastly, I want to mention one final aspect of the story that I truly appreciate—the attempt at bi-partisanship.  Despite the Secretary’s obvious affiliation to the Democratic Party (her husband was a Democratic President; she ran for President in the Democratic primary; and her dogs are named Teddy, Bobby, and Jack), she and her sons constantly reference Elaine Barrish’s love of elephants.  C’mon, we all know what the Republican Party’s symbol is… the elephant.

So considering the network, the casting, the characters, the drama, the comedy, the dialogue, and the attempt at bi-partisanship, I can’t wait to check back in for the remaining five episodes.  I’m kind of sad this is only a miniseries…

What do you think?  Have you watched Political Animals?  Do you want to?  I’d love to hear from you! 

Remember to check out my YA Mystery novel, Football Sweetheart… now available on Kindle!

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