Can you even remember what you used to do on Thursday nights before you got hooked on ABC’s hit TV show “Scandal?” I know, right.
Every few years a series comes along that just clicks with Black America. Just off the top of my head, and in no particular order, there was “The Game,” “Soul Food,” “Living Single,” “Def Comedy Jam,” “The Arsenio Hall Show”, the “Dave Chappelle Show”, “The Cosby Show”, “In Living Color,” “Soul Train,” and now “Scandal.”
What distinguishes that list of shows from many of the shows popular among blacks is the emotional ties that came with them. If you didn’t watch “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” your peers might assume it just wasn’t your kind of show … if you didn’t watch “The Cosby Show,” “Def Comedy Jam,” and now “Scandal,” black folks look at you funny.
I’ve seen it with my own eyes. I’ve heard comedians, actresses and others literally have to defend themselves and their blackness because they aren’t regular viewers of “Scandal.”
It’s a good, well-written show, but how did it get to be an obsession?
Hollywood veteran actress and “Scandal” fan Holly Robinson-Peete thinks she knows why.
“We are starved for people who look like us doing the things we do or fantasize about doing and we don’t get a chance to see enough of that,” she says.
But Christopher J. Respass, a pastor in a Dallas suburb, thinks it goes a little deeper. He says “Scandal” appeals to a lustful part of us that longs to be satisfied. He says what we don’t see in the hour-drama is that its allure results in “real destruction.”
In case you’re not familiar with “Scandal,” and God bless you if you aren’t, in a nutshell, the show is about Olivia Pope, a fixer who is having a torrid affair with a very white president. Ironically, Pope seems to be able to fix the world while her personal life crumbles before our eyes. Played by Kerry Washington, she became the first African American actress to have the lead in a network drama in almost 40 years when she landed this role.
Pope is based on former George Bush (the daddy) administration press aide Judy Smith who is also a co-executive producer. There’s lots of sex, mystery, intrigue and the show created and written by the incomparable Shonda Rhimes is fast-paced, unpredictable, and an across-the-board hit.
But even with a black creator and writer, a black co-executive producer and a black star, ABC and Shonda Rhimes are quick to stress that “Scandal,” is not a “black” show.
It may not be in their heads, but for whatever reason it speaks to Black America in traditional and not-so-traditional ways. There are the formal live social media parties like the one Tom Joyner frequently holds on Facebook, and a variety of Twitter parties, some that include Kerry Washington and Shonda Rhimes. Add to that the home and cell phone parties and one thing is clear: “Scandal,” is one of the most social shows on the air.
People feel the need to talk about it when it’s on and to complain when it isn’t.
So much so that when the networks put it on a three-week hiatus, a petition was started on “Change.org.” The leader of the “movement”, T.R. Mason writes:
“Putting a show like Scandal on repeated hiatus is a surefire way to lose fans and viewers. Gladiators/Scandalistas/Scandalists everywhere have not gotten over our initial shock that there will be no Scandal AGAIN for 3 more weeks. Instead of whining and complaining, we are doing something about it! Shonda Rhimes is NOT the reason there’s another hiatus. It’s the TV execs at Disney/ABC Television Group. Let your voices and displeasure be heard by contacting Anne Sweeney, the President of ABC Entertainment [...] Or send her a nice little profanity free email at firstname.lastname@example.org.”
So far, nearly 2,000 have signed the online petition.
I wonder if the signers find it a little strange when they noticed that some the other issues being protested are child sex trafficking, the exploitation of child labor and lack of insurance coverage for life saving medical procedures.
Even though Mason’s letter was somewhat tongue in cheek, we know some people who sincerely seem to need their “Scandal” fix.
I’m a “Scandal” fan, but I wonder if some of us have crossed the line and become fanatics—obsessed and overly enthused about it. I know one mom who won’t allow her children to interrupt her during the show no matter what, and another woman who won’t work the night shift on Thursdays even though she could use the overtime. That’s gangster.
I could understand this zeal, maybe, back before DVR, On Demand, HULU and Netflix. But “Gladiators” want it live or nothing…no matter what the cost.
Oh, by the way, here’s a tweet that might make their day from Rhimes:
Watch your back this summer, Shonda!