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Worst of the Week

Scandal on ABC

Release Date: 11/6/2014

On October 30th, ABC aired the timeless Halloween classic, It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown at 8:00 p.m. ET. Less than a minute after the holiday special, ABC’s Scandal opened with a scene depicting Olivia Pope having a sexual fantasy with two of her former lovers. This scene is not uncommon for the sexually driven, political drama, and this is not the first time the series has been on the Parents Television Council’s radar. In season 3, a sex scene depicted two of the show’s main characters, Huck and Quinn, having violent sex on top of a car in a parking lot. The show’s creator, Shonda Rhimes, seems unapologetic for how her television series is interpreted. Shonda is also the creator of Grey’s Anatomy and How to Get Away with Murder, both are show’s that use sexuality and violence as main components in their story lines. In response to the network’s scheduling snafu, Shonda retweeted a Twitter post that read: “@ShondaRhimes The leap from Charlie Brown to the first scene of #Scandal #CloseYourEyesKiddies”. This tweet was in no way an apology and it is barely an acknowledgment of any wrong doing. "I have no intention of changing what's happening on Scandal at 9," said Shonda in July, referring to ABC’s decision to move Scandal from 10 p.m. to 9 p.m. in fall 2014. ABC Thursday’s primetime programming consists entirely of shows created by Shonda Rhimes, including the new legal drama, How to Get Away With Murder, which has continually pushed the limits each week during ABC’s 10 p.m. time slot. (see video clip below)

The ABC network is really at fault in this situation because they are ultimately responsible for the content that actually makes it to broadcast. But it doesn’t seem like anyone at ABC cares whether or not a beloved family-friendly Peanuts cartoon should be shown immediately before an adult themed drama rated TV-14 for suggestive dialogue, offensive language, with depictions of sex and violence. So, for including a graphic sexual fantasy scene immediately after airing a treasured Halloween special, ABC’s Scandal has been elected the Worst TV Show of the Week.

In the opening scene, Olivia Pope is shown swimming laps in a long Olympic sized pool. While she swims Olivia begins to imagine herself being thrown on a bed and being kissed and fondled by her former lover Jake Ballard. When Jake grabs her and turns her over she looks back to see that the man she is with is no longer Jake, but it is now President Grant, another former lover. Amidst the kissing and the groping, the man continually changes back and forth between the men as if they are both the same person or as if she is having sex with both of them. A montage of short quick scenes showing toes being curled, headboards being grabbed, and hair being pulled, flash across the screen until Olivia wakes suddenly from her vivid dream.

Later, in a flashback to 1986, President Cooper is shown being shot in an attempted assassination by an unknown gunman. In a subsequent flashback, President Grant is also shown being shot in a similar assassination attempt.

At the same time, Cyrus Beene, a White House chief of staff, is shown getting dressed in a hotel room while a male prostitute walks out of the bathroom wearing nothing but a towel. The two kiss each other and it is implied that the two of them had sex the night before. Cyrus offers to pay the prostitute with the added incentive of opening a bank account filled with money from Cyrus.

At the White House, Abby, the White House press secretary, confronts President Grant about the whereabouts of Jake Ballard.

Abby: “I’m not asking the Commander in Chief. I'm asking the married man who used to sleep with my friend what he is doing with the man she is currently sleeping with.”

In another wing of the White House, Mellie Grant, the current First Lady, prepares to meet the former First Lady, Bitsy Cooper. Upon her arrival, Bitsy seems like the quintessential matriarch without a bad bone in her body and she even compliments the tapestry hanging on the wall that she recognizes from her late husband’s years spent as President. But as soon as the press reporters exit the room, leaving only Mellie and Bitsy, her tune suddenly changes.

Bitsy: “Oh, please. My husband's only religion was believing he had to screw anything with a pulse. But since us bitches have got to get through this dog and pony show, I’m gonna need you to sit down, shut up, and follow my lead. Now, I’m gonna take the office. I’ll do the planning, and you go crochet or vaccinate fat kids or whatever silly hobby makes you feel like you’re making a difference. Show up for the photo ops, and I’ll have someone call you if I need you for anything else. Oh, um I’d get that filthy piece of crap out of here, pronto. Probably give you crabs.”

Later that day, President Grant organizes a secret meeting with Olivia Pope, to find out if she is still in love with him or if she is still in love with Jake. When the two of them are finally in the same room, President Grant begins the conversation.

President Grant: “So, Abby's kind of a bitch.”

Olivia: “Don’t say that. The words used to describe women. If she was a man, you’d say she was formidable or bold . . . or right.”

Olivia demands to see Jake Ballard despite the President’s warning against the idea.

President Grant: “Why are you being such a . . .”

Olivia: “A bitch?”

The next day, the President brings Olivia to an undisclosed location to see Jake Ballard. When she enters the prison cell, Jake is shown sitting on the floor, with his face is beaten and bloody. Jake has lost all hope and admits to Olivia that he is convinced he is going to be found guilty despite whether or not he is actually guilty.

Back at the White House, the current First Lady and the former First Lady share their stories of infidelity committed by their husbands, while drinking martinis. The two women bond over their similar situations.

Mellie: “I tried. I tried so hard. But now I think I’m just gonna get through it, play my part. ‘Cause no matter what I do, there’s only one person my husband listens to, and she’s . . .”

Bitsy [laughing]: “I’m sorry. Only one? Lucky you. When we got to the White House, I made sure his secretary was the homeliest woman I could find. And he still managed to bang her twice a day, every day, for eight years. Oh, my, that poor woman. But after a while, I mean, I was grateful. Gave me time to actually run the country.”

After former President Cooper’s funeral, Bitsy takes Mellie aside and offers her some marijuana.

Bitsy: “I have a joint in my handbag, and it’s not gonna smoke itself. Would you join me on the Truman Balcony?”

Finally, Abby lets Cyrus know that she is aware of him and his exploits with his favorite prostitute.

Abby: “Well, for starters, Cyrus, you bought a new cellphone a couple of days ago, not on your plan, though, a totally new account. Must have been on the first of the month because it was the same time you rented that one-bedroom in Georgetown. I’m guessing so you could stop paying for a hotel room every time you see your friend. So, before you head out on a witch-hunt, you might want to take a closer look at your own . . . back door. See you at work tomorrow, Cyrus.”

The ABC network appeals to different audiences on different days of the week. No one is questioning whether Scandal and the other Shonda Rhimes’ dramas, are meant for adults. The creator herself admits that she does not “self-censor” based on principle. The fact remains that ABC advertised and aired a program meant for young children and families to view and they intentionally aired an episode of a series that is clearly meant for adults. On any other day of the week, ABC’s programming is significantly less violent and sexually explicit than on Thursdays. Which begs the question, what is the system the networks use to determine which shows are to air at what times? Until a more consistent representation of a family oriented primetime block is established, ABC’s Scandal will remain the Worst TV Show of the Week.


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