Olivia Pope, Daddy Pope, Momma Pope; Scandal’s gleefully dysfunctional First Black Family of Primetime


For now I’m gonna call my appreciation of “Scandal” a guilty pleasure because I’m writing this post in a bit of a hurry, but I’m also gonna say this doesn’t quite capture all the reasons why I’ve given myself  permission to tune in each week to TV land’s current primetime addiction. Because folks who tune in to Scandal aren’t just casual viewers, they are full blown junkies. They got a habit, and they start to itch and scratch in all the wrong places if that itch isn’t scratched on time.

So I guess one question to answer would be why I feel like I have to justify watching this show, right? Because if you’re grown, and you like something, then you oughta just like it and the hell with it. Make  your choices and live (or die) with them. Which is what I usually try and do, except that as a writer there are just so many things about Scandal that make me froth at the mouth. Not that I’m expecting every show I watch to be as well-written as “The Sopranos”, or “Breaking Bad,” two of my all-time favorites. And I certainly don’t expect that kind of quality from primetime, where I suspect quality programming is contrary to some vaguely worded network mission statement stipulating that corny, absurd and braindead are prerequisites for scheduling approval.

But then there are truly riveting characters like Mommy and Daddy Pope, lead character Olivia Pope’s parents, who I would argue are more compelling than Olivia herself. The three of them together make for perhaps the most electrifying, dysfunctional black family to ever grace primetime. Mommy is a frighteningly accomplished murderer and international threat, Daddy is (was) the cold-blooded leader of one of the most lethal shadow government organizations ever imagined (and also a murderer), and baby girl is a highly skilled Washington D.C. ‘fixer’  who is maintaining an on-again/off- again affair with the President of the United States in-between bouts of rescuing/destroying the careers of the rest of the most powerful people in the nation’s capital.

OK, so they’re not the Cosbys. But other than that, what’s not to love?

Without a doubt there is way too much overblown, overacted melodrama and soap opera drivel. Everybody in this show has their emotions set somewhere between boil and boiling over. Nobody ever calms down on Scandal, and cool heads never prevail. Teeth get yanked out with pliers, faces get licked from top to bottom, and tongues are rolled down throats approximately every three to five minutes. Olivia’s primary love interests are two powerful white males, while the black man on her staff has/had a thing going for a woman that appears to be of Arab descent. The show’s hot and heavy gay couple has adopted a black baby girl. And the show’s one Hispanic character is the one who yanked the teeth out of his white female co-worker’s mouth before licking her face like a St. Bernard, only to realize later that he really did love her and wanted to try and rescue her from herself while convincing her he was the man for her. In the meantime, Mommy Pope was rolling around in the sheets overseas with some other powerful white guy, although not as powerful (and probably not as deadly) as her. All this stuffed  into one hourlong show? It’s a bit much, to tell you the truth.

But then, just when I start to overdose on it all, I get a balancing dose of one of Daddy Pope’s flamethrower monologues (I’ve always loved Joe Morton) and I just can’t turn away. And once the truth of who Mommy Pope really was (as opposed to the victim of a crazed husband we originally thought she was) came out?

Oh yeah. Where’s my remote?


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