Shonda Rhimes Doesn't Care Why You Watch 'Scandal' But Just Don't Call It A 'Guilty Pleasure'

Television
by Tambay A. Obenson
January 14, 2013 11:28 AM
21 Comments
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Asked to speculate on the show’s breakout success, Rhimes said: “I don’t dare or bother to speculate. I’m just supposed to make the shows.” She added, however, that the success of Grey’s Anatomy gave producers “the capital” to take some risks with Scandal. Rhimes said she doesn’t spend any time thinking about the fact that the show features a strong female lead of color. She added that she doesn’t think about it when writing any more than she thinks about being a strong female of color herself as she goes about her daily life. Asked whether she has broken any barriers in creating the series or the Olivia Pope character, Rhimes offered: “I have no idea. It would be nice to say no, but since you are asking the question, probably yes.” Rhimes says she doesn’t care why people watch the show as long as they don’t describe it as a “guilty pleasure.” She said that phrase means “It’s crap but I can’t stop watching it.”

Interesting revelatins there from Shonda Rhimes, in talking about Scandal at Television Critics Association (TCA) event, during ABC’s portion of the press tour, when, as Deadline notes, Rhimes, along with co-executive producers Betsy Beers and Judy Smith (the real-life "Olivia Pope"), fielded questions.

I guess I'm just surprised at how seemingly disconnected and apathetic she is from/to the "outside" universe that consumes the stuff she creates - how it's consumed, why it's consumed, what its consumption might mean, where it stands on the grander stage, etc.

Maybe, as a writer, there are pros to that approach. You're able to create without any influence or interference.

Thoughts?

Although I am curious to know how many of you who watch the show religiously, do so because you think it's a great show, or because it's a guilty pleasure, as she describes... if the latter, just don't tell her that.

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21 Comments

  • audiodramatist | January 17, 2013 5:40 PMReply

    We have a situation here in South Africa where we don't get tv programs for a couple of seasons after they start. (Actually i don't watch tv...but) We get series from "street vendors." Meaning i got to see an entire two seasons of this very good series.
    And though i don't wear a suit; and just can't work for anyone with her questionably ethics... I am a Scandal Gladiator.
    Plus, not to put too fine a point on a soap opera but i'd love to "guilty pleasure" any woman on the show...i'm just sayin'...the obvious.

  • Gwhiz4 | January 14, 2013 10:39 PMReply

    I applaud her for her stance and suspect it comes from years of being a woman of color within the studio system and probably because she wants to be known for her work and not the color of her skin. I'm sure folks in LA love to remind her that she's black. As if she'd ever forget.

  • LillieCastro | January 18, 2013 6:22 PM

    Exactly---can you imagine how much she's had to discuss colorblind casting in her shows since Grey's debuted? I'd be over it as a topic, too.

  • Mark | January 14, 2013 8:20 PMReply

    I watch because I LOVE the show. The writing, acting and the execution is flawless. I wish I had a Golden Globe to give her!

  • ALM | January 14, 2013 5:51 PMReply

    Shonda is extremely smart. With the exception of the "guilty pleasure" comment, which I believe is reflective of her true feelings, I believe that she is making these comments in public, but her private opinions may differ.

  • Really? | January 14, 2013 3:47 PMReply

    " all these angles put it in the category of guilty pleasure. Sorry, Shonda. I respect her anyway." HELLO... tell it right. It's certainly a guilty pleasure showunless one believes "way too melodramatic" prime time soap operas are what the black film community has been fighting for. Many have fought for a "better" representation of our image. This does not fit the bill. So you better believe it's a guilty pleasure to champion a series in which the lead black actress is sleeping with a married man (The president of the freakin' USA). The show is built on lies, sexual misconduct and deceit, so if that's a behavior one would champion or harbor, then I can understand someone saying it's not a guilty pleasure. Please Shonda, save the game for those who don't see your agenda. "I don't think Shonda Rhimes is as unaware of the impact of Kerry Washington being the lead in a prime time show as those quotes make her sound" HELLO! say it loud. All silent voices are not asleep. Bottom line, the show is "QUILTY" of major infractions, however, some love it (and possibly, on a personal level, they can relate to the drama) and thus rationalize it's deficiencies.

  • Really | January 17, 2013 7:11 AM

    @ Kara,even if all you say is true, you've nevertheless missed the central point... that is... the show is guilty of projecting negative images and serious negative behavior. Granted, it's a tv show, but in your opinion should we not object to the black images/messages/characters in The Help, Django, The Butler, Precious, Lincoln, etc? Surely you understand that 2 wrongs do not make it right? In other words, your analogy "better to have a nice "guilty pleasure" drama on like that than all that reality tv crap" is akin to saying "a little bit of shit still smells shitty" but it's ok b/c it's better than a truck load of shit.

  • kara | January 16, 2013 3:07 PM

    get a grip... its just a tv show... better to have a nice drama on like that than all that reality tv crap... which you probably watch on a 24/7 basis..

  • saadiyah | January 14, 2013 2:51 PMReply

    I just became a fan of Scandal LAST THURSDAY. Since then I have Netflixed and Hulu'd the past episodes staying up until the wee hours of the morning to watch and re-watch. I love the show and characters! The Olivia/Fitz relationship is HOT AS HELL. They've got me hooked! I've never watched an episode of "Grey's" or "Private Practice", but I can't imagine my life without Scandal. It's excellent.

  • Carl | January 14, 2013 1:48 PMReply

    The show is not a guilty pleasure show but it is definitely a "You-must-watch-because-a-black-woman-is-finally-in-a-lead-role-for-a-network-television" show. This is more about obligation than anything else. If Kerry wasn't in it as the lead, 90% of these folks wouldn't give a damn.

  • BeautyIAM | January 14, 2013 1:42 PMReply

    Definitely not a guilty pleasure for me. But if it is for other people, thank you anyway. They are helping the show get to a third season :)

  • Akimbo | January 14, 2013 1:36 PMReply

    I wouldn't call the show a guilty pleasure, although I do think it tends to be overly dramatic, sometimes maudlin. At the end of the day, it's a dynamic show. I've always said that Grey's Anatomy may get completely stupid or annoying, but it always manages to tug at my heart strings; the same goes for Scandal, but instead it makes my heart race. I'm still not into the Olivia/Fitz thing, though; way too melodramatic.

  • Bohemian princess | January 14, 2013 1:33 PMReply

    Guilty pleasure? No. Engaging and compelling with off the charts electric chemistry? Yes. I know it has it's soapy elements and because it isn't as hard hitting as shows like Breaking Bad or Homeland or The Wire we aren't supposed to acknowledge the writing but I really believe the writing on this show is quite good. Much of it (particularly the Olivia/Fitz scenes) are at times poetic. It's that damn beautiful. Proud Gladiator here.

  • Tina | January 14, 2013 1:31 PMReply

    Honestly? I don't think Shonda Rhimes is as unaware of the impact of Kerry Washington being the lead in a prime time show as those quotes make her sound. I think she has to be incredibly politic about what she says. She was smart to build a lot of professional currency in creating Grey's & PP and m aking them hugely successful before creating a show like Scandal where she does have the leeway to cast the way she wants to. She's is definitely not immune to outside influence. After spending the entire first season NOT addressing race, she throws in the Sally Hemmings reference in the most awkward way possible and what felt like a very transparent attempt to address the comparison that some viewers and critics seemed intent on making. The play-out of that scene felt like she was saying "See, I addressed it, it is not the same now let's move on..."



    In the meantime, I think Scandal is rollicking fun to watch. i don't call it a guilty pleasure at all because I don't feel bad about watching it.

  • Dana | January 14, 2013 12:40 PMReply

    Guilty pleasure?! Not at all. The writers are geniuses. Every single thing means something. The story lines are so complex and unpredictable, it's hard to think of any aspect of the show on a simple way. Whether it were a white female lead or not, this show is very well executed.

  • Amira Smith | January 14, 2013 12:13 PMReply

    I find Scandal to sincerely be a great show. I don't watch reality tv except occassionally so I'm not prone to watching something just because it's a train wreck or sensational. Scandal is neither those things. Juicy yes, and suspenseful, but I wouldn't say sensational. I think Ms. Rhimes has a good approach by blocking out the raves and criticism. She's a good storyteller. I judge this by her track record of success, the fact that I thoroughly enjoy her work (especially the always changing narrative style of Private Practice- it's like her and the other writers are flexing their muscles and working out) and her Screenwriting degree from USC. By blocking out a lot of the feedback, she keeps ownership of the story and doesn't succumb to the wants of the fans and critcs only as some shows do. Then they become has been shows. Her disconnect to the audience's whim of opinions keeps the show's integrity. In my humble opinion.

  • Amira Smith | January 14, 2013 12:13 PMReply

    I find Scandal to sincerely be a great show. I don't watch reality tv except occassionally so I'm not prone to watching something just because it's a train wreck or sensational. Scandal is neither those things. Juicy yes, and suspenseful, but I wouldn't say sensational. I think Ms. Rhimes has a good approach by blocking out the raves and criticism. She's a good storyteller. I judge this by her track record of success, the fact that I thoroughly enjoy her work (especially the always changing narrative style of Private Practice- it's like her and the other writers are flexing their muscles and working out) and her Screenwriting degree from USC. By blocking out a lot of the feedback, she keeps ownership of the story and doesn't succumb to the wants of the fans and critcs only as some shows do. Then they become has been shows. Her disconnect to the audience's whim of opinions keeps the show's integrity. In my humble opinion.

  • Brooklyn70 | January 14, 2013 12:09 PMReply

    Love the show! Not a guilty pleasure!

  • kara | January 16, 2013 3:10 PM

    I'll only call it a guilty pleasure because I never miss an ep... love love love it.....

  • Jackie King | January 14, 2013 12:03 PMReply

    I'm a writer. While I love the show, I mostly watch to study the writing [I study GA as well]. The writing is genius.

  • Dria | January 14, 2013 12:00 PMReply

    Honestly, it's not that great a show. Kerry Washington's acting is so-so and the entire first season was bogged down by long monologues, confusing plotlines and dialogue too fast to hear. If the lead were a white female, I would not have made it to episode 2. BUT the second season has gotten better. I watch for solidarity, I watch for Kerry's amazing wardrobe, I watch because I like the steamy interracial love affair ... all these angles put it in the category of guilty pleasure. Sorry, Shonda. I respect her anyway.

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