Premiered April 5 at 10pm
Spin shows are always a lot of fun, because it’s irresistibly exciting to see how the experts change the story to make even the wildest of situations seem forgettably tame. This show takes it up a notch by associating its star character, Olivia Pope, directly with the President of the United States, going so far as to assert an affair between the two of them! Now, that’s certainly scandalous, and this show doesn’t seem to be capable of going small-scale. An important Republican speaker accused of killing the woman he was with and then revealed to be gay was quite extreme and creative, and it’s all meant to be seen through the innocent eyes of newbie Quinn Perkins. The dialogue on this show seems to be imitating Aaron Sorkin, though it comes instead from Shonda Rhimes, best known for creating “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Private Practice.” The effect just isn’t the same, and it feels more rushed and unnecessarily frantic than anything else. Kerry Washington has the top role and seems capable of executing it, though the rest of the cast isn’t as impressive. Henry Ian Cusick has lost the Scottish charisma that made Desmond such a terrific character on “Lost,” and Guillermo Diaz has found another lackluster ensemble role after being on one-season wonders “No Ordinary Family” and “Mercy” in the past few years. I’m not familiar with either of the supporting ladies on the show, Darby Stanchfield, the inappropriately excitable Abby, and Katie Lowes, the annoyingly naïve Quinn, but neither inspires much confidence in me. I am pleased to see Joshua Malina back on television, but I do wish it was on a Sorkin production rather than this one. This show is fast-paced and energetic, but it’s going to need to prove itself capable of handling sensational material in a productive way in the coming episodes.
How will it work as a series? If the President is going to be a regular character, it’s going to influence things considerably since Olivia already has more than enough to deal with at her firm. Everyone does seem to have their strengths and their connections, so watching this well-oiled machine work will likely prove interesting to watch more often than not.
How long will it last? ABC could use a big new hit this year since most of its new shows didn’t pan out as expected. This may or may not be it, but giving it the plum Thursdays at 10pm slot helps, and its performance was decent in its first airing. It’s too soon to tell, but I think ABC may give this one a chance.
Pilot grade: C+