Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Reflection On Premise...

On the subject of premise and trying to identify the morale premise of Scandal and whether it applies equally to all characters: clearly it has to do with secrets and the consequences of their revelation. Could it be, “Secrets (vice) revealed lead to scandal (defeat), while secrets kept lead to no harm done (success]?”

It could well be that the premise I’m trying to prove (that a successful show is based on establishing and maintaining a morale premise) does not hold true for Scandal and the show is merely based on a theme or set of themes.  I have at least identified that the structure matches the Oh!, Little Uh Oh!, Ouch! et al formula set forth by Ellen Sandler.  So, in episode three, Hell Hath No Fury, I will look at where these beat points hit in the story -- I’m guessing they will be at the commercial breaks -- and also to which story thread they apply, knowing that, in order to be successful, a TV show has to have 13 storylines.

Thirteen storylines is dramatically different from a feature film script, which only has the A, B, and C plots, hence the need for this writer to understand the structure of a TV show, in this instance, over one season.  Scandal is complicated, but the show breaks the audience in slowly, that much I have learned. 

Currently, we have three main characters:

Olivia Pope is a “gladiator in a suit;” she goes to battle for her clients.  It is said repeatedly that Olivia wears the “white hat” and, indeed, she is typically dressed in white.  In scenes in which the morality of her character is in question, her wardrobe tends toward grey.  Olivia is the boss; she literally wears the pants.  The only time you see her in anything other than pants is at a state dinner in which she will be the head turner in a fabulous gown.  Olivia has several phrases that are repeated – those that she gives to clients, e.g. “it all comes down to perception;” those she says to Cyrus and the President, “I don’t work for him/you any more;” and, to her team, “I trust my gut,” and “It’s my name on the door.” Olivia owes her allegiance to her clients, for whom she will never, every give up.  She has a team of loyal employees who will die for her.  We don’t, as yet, know why she has won their loyalty, but these stories will unfold over coming episodes.  What we know is that she is of high moral character, other than the teeny, tiny fact that she’s an adulteress, whose lover just happens to be “the leader of the free world.”  As an audience we like Olivia because she is a nice person, thoughtful and considerate, who does not judge others.  She is the kind of classy, smart, workaholic, caring woman who secretly we all want to be.

Fitzgerald Grant is your typical tall, handsome, Caucasian American president.  After only two shows, we don’t know much about him other than secretly he’s a bit of a revolutionary (which came out in subtext in episode two) and, though a Republican, his character might be loosely modeled on Bill Clinton; certainly there are enough references to the Clinton era to think so.  His marriage is strained and he is madly in love with one of his former campaign workers, who just so happens to be African American, but that point is never mentioned.  Supposedly, in this age in which we have a real African American as a president, we are now all color blind, which would be nice if only it were true.  As the “leader of the free world,” “the most powerful man on earth,” Fitz owes his allegiance to the American people and there is only one other thing that would make him happy and that is to have Olivia Pope as his first lady.  We like Fitz because, other than being an adulterer, he’s a stand-up guy with high morals.

Cyrus Beene, on the other hand, is the scrappy, presidential wannabe, who could never be president because, although we may have our blinders on when it comes to skin color, we could never have a homosexual as president of the United States of America. So, instead, Cyrus puts his considerable brain and politically savvy into pulling the strings behind the scenes.  Cyrus likes his position of power and wants it to continue so his goal in life is to make sure Fitzgerald Grant runs and wins a second term.  He will do anything and everything to make that happen, as we will see, even murder.

If it weren’t for Cyrus, Olivia and the President would never have met and would, presumably both go on blithely about their own business, their love affair a thing of the past.  Cyrus is the glue that both holds them together and pulls them apart, as we shall see.

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