MaHB Television: Scandal-ous viewing

Esquire Malaysia + Esquire Singapore, February 2014


Scandal-ous viewing
At last, a women’s show that men can get – and get into.

By Sophia Goh

A friend of mine got on the Scandal bandwagon recently, and even though he only watches it because his wife is hooked, he’s gallant enough to admit that he really enjoys the show too. That was surprising to me, because I’ve always thought of Scandal as a show for women, which it undeniably is*. After all, it was created by Shonda Rhimes, the genius behind the female-centric Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice, and boasts an unflappable (most of the time) heroine in Olivia Pope, portrayed brilliantly by Kerry Washington. Also, at the heart of all the politicking, drama and controversy, Scandal is really about an illicit love affair between Pope and the very-married U.S. President Fitzgerald Grant. Why would any man enjoy watching that?

So I turned to my ever-reliable helper, Google. A search for “Do men watch Scandal” returned a heap of results, ranging from the usual opinion pieces on why men love/hate the show to helpful little ditties such as “The Top 6 Ways Shonda Rhimes Can Make Scandal Enjoyable For Men”. In case you’re wondering, adding explosions was one of them; another was making President Grant an MMA fighter. I suppose it worked for Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr., not Benedict Cumberbatch or that other guy in Elementary).

Fan or foe, one thing is clear: men are talking about Scandal. Which means that instead of channel surfing right past it, like they would with Grey’s Anatomy, they actually pause to check it out. They know the show exists. They might have even watched an entire episode, and for good reason. Scandal is pretty damn entertaining with its mind-bending plotlines and cast of very complex characters. Revolving around Washington D.C. political fixers/damage control experts Olivia Pope and Associates, with a generous helping of White House intrigue thrown into the mix, each episode is a crazy ride of non-stop twists and turns that leaves viewers scrambling to catch up. It’s way more melodramatic than is absolutely necessary, but it’s also smart. And for those of you who like your women beautiful and in charge, Pope seriously kicks ass.

Plus, it doesn’t hurt that Scandal fans call themselves “gladiators”, a manly enough moniker for a fan collective if ever there were one. And think about how popular you’ll be with the women: it’s practically a ticket into their inner circle, and the other dudes will envy you for it. Just remember to play it cool and slightly aloof. Demonstrate a working knowledge of the show, but please, for the love of all that is scandalous, no gushing.

One last thing: Scandal is the first network television drama written and by an African-American woman to star an African-American female lead. Moreover, it is only the fourth hour-long show that stars an African-American woman to ever air on US primetime, and because it’s on ABC, Washington also became the first African-American woman to star in a network TV drama in 38 years. Memorise that. Now go forth and impress the ladies.

* According to Nielsen, just 26 percent of Scandal‘s season two viewers in the US aged 18 to 49 were men.

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