The latest season of Shonda Rhimes’ hit show ‘Scandal’ has recently been pushed back, no longer debuting alongside its TGIT sisters, rather waiting a few months for a mid-season opening.
Some reasons have been suggested for this delay, including lead actress’ Kerry Washington’s pregnancy, though I have a strong feeling the truth may be it’s actually another Washington’s potential imminent arrival that has the show holding back.
Last season Scandal introduced a character, Hollis Doyle, who was unashamedly modelled on then-unlikely presidential candidate Donald Trump. The show then trod a fine line between taking its own path or following in the footsteps of the news as Trump progressed in the race, eventually beating all others to get the nomination. As the real-life race progressed, the show felt like it was constantly switching between the gas and the brakes, switching lanes to get as much mileage out of their ‘satirical’ character mirroring his inspiration. Now, they are clearly faced with a dilemma.
Simply put, I think the latest season of Scandal has been held back so it can be tailored to handle the interim events and most especially the outcome of the November election. Last season cannot have been an ideal situation for the writers and producers, so to avoid a similar position now they are holding back as things unfold in the real election, before getting into the final stages of the on-screen presidential race.
Is this a bad move? No. It makes sense, the hindsight afforded by a buffer from November will make it far easier to write the show. However, while wise, this approach is equally gutless.
I wrote last year about how I thought ‘Scandal’ had lost its way, recreating the news and even historical events rather than forging an original path and showing clear decisive direction for the fictional characters and political administration it had built up over the years on air. This new situation is clearly more of the same. They flew a little too close to reality, introducing a character at first seen as a critique on a sure-fire loser, now with egg on their face as they nearly ended up running a season potentially mocking a president-elect.
Regardless of the election results, the producers of ‘Scandal’ need to decide what they want to do with their show. As the ratings showed last year, they still have plenty of fans who are invested in the lives of these characters, even if they have been overwhelmingly aimless for the best part of a season or more.
Shonda, forget what’s going on in the news, there are plenty of satirical and factual shows covering that in ever way imaginable. You write fiction, sometimes compelling fiction, so decide what you want to happen and just make it so, otherwise you risk losing many viewers, myself included, who tune into TGIT for a bit of quality entertainment, not more news coverage.