Saturday, 21 April 2018

Thank You, Olivia Pope

How Scandal redefined television roles for Black Women

When Scandal debuted in April 2012, Kerry Washington became the first African American actress to headline an American primetime drama in almost 40 years. Since then, Scandal became one of the biggest pop culture phenomenons as well as winning dozens of awards. The show paved the way for another signature ABC soap opera How To Get Away With Murder, starring Viola Davis and Fox's hit musical drama Empire, headlined by Taraji P. Henson. Scandal also lead the way for diversity casting. 

Not only did Scandal have an African American woman in a lead role, Olivia Pope was one of the most complicated and multifaceted female characters on television. Shonda Rhimes, the show's creator, portrayed Olivia and the other female characters on Scandal, including Quinn Perkins (Katie Lowes), Mellie Grant (Bellamy Young), Abby Whelan (Darby Stanchfield) as three-dimensional, strong, powerful, complex, "grey" women who were neither good or bad but operated in a male dominated, political field mostly on their own terms. Olivia Pope was not a typically "good" character but she certainly was inspiration. Who else has created two presidents, led a top-secret government agency, bludgeoned  a misogynist with a metal chair, eaten as much popcorn or drank as much red wine,  survived a kidnapping, fixed countless scandals all whilst wearing the most gorgeous coats on television before? 

In an interview with, Shonda Rhimes discussed Olivia Pope's impact on television. 'She's been a very three-dimensional independent woman who was, at a time when female characters really weren't antiheroes, an antihero. And now it feels very normal and obvious that female characters can be anti-heroes. It feels normal and obvious that women of colour can lead the shows.' It is crazy to think that only six years ago, television executives questioned whether a black actress could lead a show. Well, Scandal, How To Get Away With Murder and Empire happen to be three of the biggest shows this decade so clearly they can! 

Having been a #Gladiator since the show began I am sad to see it go. We were blessed with 124 episodes filled with twists-and-turns, mysteries, murder, affairs and politics which will be hard to top. Oliver Pope & co.'s impact on the television landscape will last for many years to come!

Image result for olivia pope dancing gif

Monday, 2 April 2018

Roseanne Comes Back with a Vengeance

Roseanne, the beloved 90s ABC sitcom returned to schedules this week and made a huge ratings splash. The first two episodes attracted a colossal audience of 18 million live viewers and a 5.2 rating which made the show the highest rated Tuesday entertainment telecast in 6 years among the coveted 18-49 demographic and was television's highest rated comedy telecast on any night in 3.5 years, since the The Big Bang Theory in September 2014. Despite live ratings falling over the years, Roseanne's return attracted 10% more viewers than its series finale in 1997. Furthermore, the debut dwarfed the ratings of Will & Grace's return in September 2017 which scored a still big 3.0 rating for NBC.

The huge ratings should not come as a surprise to anyone. Despite Roseanne Barr being one of the most outspoken Donald Trump supporters, her political views paired with 90s nostalgia made her return to television one of the biggest and the most memorable. Hollywood generally lives in a bubble, and their continual quips towards President Trump may be fun for certain audiences, but surely alienate others. Particularly those in white, blue-collar families much like Roseanne's. Roseanne managed to tap into a forgotten segment of America's TV viewers who were probably tired with the incessant critique of their President on television programmes including regular sitcoms and Award shows. Interestingly, Roseanne, a sitcom which stars a Trump supporter delivered ratings above expectations whilst award shows like The Oscars and The Grammys continue to experience declining ratings despite their anti-Trump humour and rhetoric. The 2018 Oscars drew 26.5 million views whereas Roseanne's ratings (including delayed DVR viewing) reached 23 million viewers. The difference between the biggest night in cinema and a sitcom about a working class, 60+ Trump supporter is not as big as we would expect it to be in today's television landscape. 

According to, "the top TV markets where Roseanne delivered its highest ratings were in states handily carried by Trump in the election. No. 1 was Tulsa in Oklahoma, which Trump won with 65.3% of the vote. It was followed by Cincinnati, Ohio and Kansas City, Missouri. The only marquee city from a blue state in the Top 10 was Chicago at No. 5 — the area where the series is set." This research suggests the political humour and satire present in most Award shows does not appeal to as wide of an audience as Hollywood likely thinks it does. It alienates viewers in various states, and as a result, many shows lose out on key demographics by not having a more nuanced or balanced approach to political satire. Prior to Roseanne's return, I believed that America was tired of political humour based on the ratings of this year's award shows however, this data suggests, Hollywood's political humour simply is not connected with millions of Americans. 

Perhaps the success of Roseanne will change the way broadcasters manage the 18-49 demographic. A 5.2 live rating is astounding in today's climate and shows that millions of younger viewers, who were likely not born, or aware of Roseanne during its peak in the 90s tuned in for the premiere. Furthermore, the two series stars; Roseanne Barr and John Goodman are both 65 and are well outside the key ratings demographic. Most of Roseanne's original viewers and fans from the 90s are also outside the 18-49 ratings demographic. By tapping into interests of the forgotten viewers of Middle America, Roseanne managed to attract younger viewers, new viewers in addition to the viewers who were around during its initial run. Hopefully, the ratings success and the apparent willingness for younger viewers to watch older lead actors as well as the power of nostalgia will persuade networks to develop more shows featuring older actors and to yield the interests of older viewers outside of the ad-friendly 18-49 demographic. 

If you thought there were too many old school sitcom and drama reboots and revivals on television right now, brace yourself for the flood that is about to come. Hollywood is a very reactionary business, and following the success of Roseanne and the initial success of Will & Grace, network's will greenlight more revivals. ABC and NBC currently have classic sitcom revivals, Roseanne and Will & Grace, on the air with their original casts whilst CBS currently has a Murphy Brown revival on deck for next season. The networks may also try and target blue-collar audiences by reviving their classic sitcoms featuring working class families. Fox will likely attempt to revive their first ever show Married... With Children at some point in the near future. Modern Family, which co-stars Ed O'Neil will be coming to an end soon whilst Katey Segal currently stars on the CBS sitcom Superior Donuts which is on the bubble for a renewal. With Bryan Cranston's growing success it may be hard to pull off a Malcolm in the Middle revival. 

It will be interesting to see ABC's reaction to Roseanne's success. They have just renewed the revival for a second season (the show's 11th overall) however, the network cancelled Tim Allen, another Trump supporter's, show Last Man Standing last May. The reason behind the surprise cancellation was never made clear by Channing Dungey however, insiders suggested the network may have cancelled the  Friday night sitcom despite its strong ratings in part due to Allen's political views. When the Roseanne revival was first announced, I initially predicted that ABC would pair the show with Last Man Standing. Perhaps the success of Roseanne will make ABC reconsider their decision, either by attempting to bring the cancelled sitcom back to life or by reviving Allen's classic ABC sitcom Home Improvement.

Thursday, 29 March 2018

Splitting Up Together & Alex, Inc. Have What it Takes to Be So Much Better...

Over the last two days, ABC debuted two new family sitcoms; Splitting Up Together and Alex, Inc. Family orientated sitcoms have become a major element of ABC’s brand, which includes the critically acclaimed and highly viewed Modern Family, The Middle, Fresh Off The Boat and The Goldbergs. The two new shows fit right into ABC’s deck of shows which should not come as a surprise since both shows are produced by ABC alumni. Splitting Up Together is based on a Danish format and was developed for American television by Suburgatory and Selfie creator Emily Kapnek. Alex, Inc. stars Zach Braff, who also serves as the show’s director for the first two episodes.

Splitting Up Together is a fairly typical sitcom about a couple who decide to live under one roof whilst they go through a divorce. The characters are all stereotypes we have seen before; the uptight mother, the man-child father, and their three, eccentric children. There are some truly funny moments in the pilot however, the first episode spends most of its run time setting up the premise of the show (as expected in a sitcom pilot) and flashing back to the happier times in Lena (Jenna Fischer) and Martin's (Oliver Hudson) relationship. Splitting Up Together is an easy, and despite its somewhat gloomy premise, pleasant. The series developer, Emily Kapnek is the main reason why I am so interested in Splitting Up Together and its future. Kapnek created two of the most underrated sitcoms this decade, Suburgatory (2011-2014) and Selfie (2014), both of which had fairly regular premises but managed to separate themselves from other sitcoms by becoming less dependent on their plots and more focused on character driven humour. Suburgatory became one of the most unique and zany critiques on American suburbia, introduced us to a wide array of fantastically flawed characters, which were all presented through the narration of a Tessa, a sarcastic teenage girl who lived with her single parent father. Hopefully Splitting Up Together manages to find more unique characters and episode plots to support it's interesting but bland premise. In Kapnek we trust. 

Alex, Inc. starts off stronger than Splitting Up Together in almost every way. The concept is unique and topical, the children are expertly cast and the pilot has a refreshing uplifting feeling. It stars Zach Braff as Alex Schuman, a father who decides to start a podcast company with the help of his family. The children are funnier and more tolerable than the kid characters in Splitting Up Together. Plus, Elisha Henig who plays Ben Schuman, Alex's son is the pilot episode's main highlight and a complete scene-stealer. However, similarly to my feelings towards Splitting Up Together, I have my concerns with Alex, Inc. The pilot is very much focused on Alex as a father who, quite immaturely, decides to put his own career before his families needs. I'm sure this will become a plotline for a future episode however, it is impossible not to watch the show and think that Alex is just another American sitcom man child archetype but this time, he is pursuing the American dream in the form of a podcast company. Hopefully Alex, Inc. makes time for the rest of the Schuman clan, played by Tiya Sircar and Audyssie James because the show, like Splitting Up Together, appears to already have the foundations for what could be a great sitcom.

Sunday, 18 March 2018

Life Sentence | Review (The CW)

Life Sentence is a melodramatic comedy/drama starring Lucy Hale as Stella Abbott, a former teenage cancer patient who recently discovers, to her surprise, that she is "no longer dying" and can now carry on living her life with her family and husband.

Thursday, 15 March 2018

Rise | Review (NBC)

I really wanted to like NBC's new musical drama. 

For The People | Review (ABC)

The Shona Rhimes formula is harder to capture than originally thought, isn't it? 

Friday, 2 March 2018

Good Girls Review | NBC

Did you catch the premiere of NBC's newest crime comedy drama Good Girls? Well, if you didn't you should certainly catch up before the second episode because it was a wild ride...