Scandal Pilot: The shock of watching a Network Pilot
I have been hearing nothing but good things about the ABC series Scandal. Last night, I decided to start the series on Netflix. Lately, I have been watching mostly cable series: Game of Thrones, Mad Men, and Breaking Bad. I have also been rewatching the great Chris Carter series Millennium. Watching a network pilot, written by a successful network writer Shonda Rhimes, was a heck of a culture shock. Before you get mad at me, Scandal was a very nice pilot. I will continue on with the show. My wife especially enjoyed it. Kerry Washington was really good and developed a possible interesting character. I understand exactly what this show is trying to accomplish and it accomplished it, swimmingly. I just couldn't help but see the finger prints of network television all over it. I remember there was this kid back in grade school who always wanted to be friends with me. He liked Star Wars. I liked Star Wars. He liked Three's Company. I liked Three's Company. But he was so in my face about being friends that I never wanted to sit with him at lunch. Yes, I thought Jack Tripper was hilarious but I didn't want to talk about it everyday. That is what the pilot of Scandal brought to mind. They moved so quickly, every character was witty and the fast paced perfect dialogue made Aaron Sorkin look slow. They never had a quiet moment where they SHOWED me something. They had to TELL me something every second. It's OK to let me figure something out. The worst offense was a side story where Desmond from Lost was going to ask his girl friend to marry him. The red head in the office cringed and looked at the floor every time he mentioned it. (Hey, the fact that I don't know any of their names means you spent so much time with plot that I invested in no one). I get it, I get it, she is the Ross, he is the Rachel. This is the other plot point that needs to be removed from every pilot. In many ways, I want to go back the writers of Cheers and punch them in the face for the Sam and Diane pilot. Not every show needs a will he or won't he. You can't make me that invested in 45 minutes. It only happened once in the history of television and now everyone thinks they can do it.
So, as Networks gear up for Pilot season, I fear that just like last year, I will not start watching any new show because I will feel the hands of the writers instead of feeling for characters. The only reason I am going to stick with Scandal is because the word of mouth has been so strong. In reality, Scandal did not pass the Scott Pilot test which is having a moment that surprised me. They pushed me so hard I was not even given the opportunity to be surprised. The networks are slowly becoming that kid in the lunch room that has no one to sit with. I will be at the cool table, watching Netflix, British Dramas and cable television. I will wait like I did with Scandal and Hannibal. I will just wait till the new kids pass the gossip test and catch up with them on Netflix.