ConStar Clicks #2, a little later than usual, but full of Jane the Virgin, Annie and Shondaland goodness.
Shonda Rhimes has been winning awards left and right recently! There was the Director’s Guild Diversity Award last year (which got all sorts of controversial press because of Shonda’s statement that she was “pissed off” that they even needed an award for such a thing) and recently the which made headlines as Shonda broke the glass ceiling analogy by explaining that all the women who came before her cracked it first. Now she’s set to receive another award: The Paddy Chayesfsky Laurel Award for Television Writing Achievement (isn’t that a mouthful) from the Writer’s Guild of America.
Named after one of the most influential writers in entertainment history, the Paddy Chayefsky Laurel Award for Television Writing Achievement is the WGAW’s highest award for television writing, given to writers who have advanced the literature of television throughout the years and made outstanding contributions to the profession of the television writer. Past Television Laurel Award recipients include Steven Bochco, Susan Harris, Stephen J. Cannell, David Chase, Larry David, Diane English, Marshall Herskovitz & Ed Zwick, Joshua Brand & John Falsey, and, most recently, Garry Marshall.
See the names of those who have previously won this award? All white people. Only two women. Shonda will be the first black women, or woman of any color to receive this award — the guild’s “highest” award. That’s amazing. That’s inspiring. In a world where people of her gender and color are often marginalized, Shonda is not only making strides but giving opportunities to others who are pushed to the side. She’s showing us that you can have black leads and a diverse cast and dominate the ratings (competing even with football of all things). She’s providing complicated characters of varying colors who aren’t stereotypes but aren’t perfect either. And she’s writing (and/or producing) compelling television that has people tweeting and talking about episodes weeks after they air.
I love that she is getting all of this recognition and while Grey’s Anatomy is in its 11th season (!!), this should still be considered just the beginning of her career. I can see her name being attached to loads of TV shows, even if she’s not writing them, à la a lot of the other names on that list of Laurel Award recipients past.
Shonda’s not a perfect writer. There are think pieces all over the internet with regard to her characters and her writing style, but she hadn’t written TV before Grey’s Anatomy and all writing is a process. I think she is, more and more, realizing her brand and sees what’s working best for audiences and is adapting to it. Rhimes herself, in awards speeches she’s made, has mentioned how competitive she is, so receiving these awards means she’s only going to continue to grow and try to outdo herself. And I am excited to see what she’ll come up with next.
Check the press release here: Shonda Rhimes to Receive WGAW’s 2015 Paddy Chayefsky Laurel Award.
More Diversity in Prime Time: It’s Not Your Imagination – The Root
This article mostly talk about black-ish in the aftermath of it’s premiere yesterday, but it also spotlights Jane the Virgin, which I must say was probably my favorite pilot this fall. Check it out!
Also check out two more articles regarding blackish:
In ABC’s ‘Black-ish,’ everyone has racial issues [Washington Post]
Black-ish: “Pilot”: Don’t call it the black Modern Family [AV Club]
Check out the Post’s article on the PoC led dramas coming this fall. And a few are led by women! Numbers are getting better, but no where near where they need to be.
The link and a couple of quotes below.
With “Scandal” commanding $200,970 per 30-second advertising spot, it’s a cash cow.“The color Hollywood loves the most is green,” says Wilmore. “Shonda Rhimes really showed that you can have a black lead in your thriller and you can have a great show. She broke down that wall, and Hollywood follows success.”
Hollywood definitely follows the money. Hopefully these new shows prove to be great television as well. The problem we’ve faced in the past has not always been a lack of content (well, yes, this is the problem, but) sometimes the content put out there isn’t good. There are a lot of times people of color will watch a show featuring someone of their background and that will boost ratings, but ratings will drop off if they don’t consider the show good. It’s not just about representation in numbers, but representation in quality and content. Don’t just give us a show with a black person and say it’s diversity, the content has to be good as well.
Rina Mimoun, executive producer of “Red Band Society,” says that, because of the Rhimes effect, “people will open up their casting. There’s no reason not to.”
More and more producers are realizing this, but things still aren’t where they need to be. The Emmy’s certainly showed that with the small amount of PoC nominees and smaller winners (most weren’t even televised). Hopefully, with this new crop of PoC led shows, next year’s Emmy’s will feature more PoC nominees and winners (now that Breaking Bad is finally out of the race; and maybe Emmy voters will finally be over Modern Family).
(In addition to these current shows, let’s not forget Sleepy Hollow, also led by a black female–I don’t think the article mentioned it.)
via Minority actors land the lead roles in fall’s diverse TV lineup | New York Post.
“Let’s not pretend we’re there yet,” when it comes to the television industry accurately reflecting the demographics of America, ABC president Paul Lee said at the Television Critics Association press tour Tuesday. “I think we’re taking a very good step along that journey. But to be able to pull this off, you need not just stars on air […] [y]ou need the storytellers and you need the executives. I’m very proud of the fact that if you look at the executives who do development and do programming and marketing, across ABC, it’s a very diverse group of people.
via ABC Heralds Diverse Lineup Of Shows At TCA.
Seems like the president of ABC, Paul Lee isn’t trying to say they’ve reached Diversity (yes, capital D) on TV just yet, despite ABC’s wide selection of both supporting actors, leads, and full series that feature diverse families as the lead (though not sure how I feel about Asian “clan,” you already used family twice, either use three different words for family or all the same. Anyway–). It’s nice to see that ABC isn’t trying to say they’ve won anything or that there isn’t more work to be done. There definitely is.
Shonda Rhimes is ABC’s biggest money maker right now. She’s been re-upped through 2018 and nearly all her shows get greenlit without much effort or fuss. Scandal is one of television’s hottest shows right now and Grey’s Anatomy has been 10 years strong, so it makes sense to keep that legacy going. And of course, if Grey’s starts to falter and Scandal has a tentative “end date,” then ABC wants to get some Shonda shows in there that could overlap and continue the dynasty.
This fall, Thursdays become Shondalnd Thursdays. In addition to Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal, Shonda Rhimes’ new show, starring Viola Davis–How to Get Away with Murder–will premiere in the 10pm slot. Talk about a strong lead in. We know just from the Shonda brand that it will be highly watched, highly talked about, and will get ABC the Thursday ratings they want for the first few weeks at least.
But can she sustain it? Doing two shows at a time has got to be rough. The last time Shonda Rhimes had three shows on the air–no one remembers Off the Map, in conjunction with Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice? Exactly, that’s what happens when you have three shows on the air. Grey’s was in it’s seventh season and Private Practice in what became it’s second to last. Three shows is draining. Three shows is stretching yourself thin. Three shows is hoping you can trust the people in charge of your other shows with the characters, with the storylines. And while there are shows with big names attached spread across multiple shows (Dick Wolf (L&O), Jerry Bruckheimer), they don’t have the showrunner, creator, creative input that Shonda has. So we’ll see how well each show does with Shonda spreading herself across them like this.
My biggest example of a highly involved creator trying three shows at once is 2002 Joss Whedon.
As he was entering Buffy the Vampire Slayer‘s seventh season and Angel’s fourth season, Firefly came out. Cult hit that it (and the other two shows as well) was, that was a rough year for Whedonites. Yes, there were other factors to Firefly’s cancel (cough*FOX executive meddling*cough), but season 7 of Buffy and Angel’s 4th are some of the most contested seasons among fans. There’s a lot of dislike in the character development, storyline speed and progress, and just a general division among fans about whether or not they’re the weakest seasons in the bunch. Firefly was cancelled after 13 episodes (well, more like 10?), it became Buffy’s last season, and Angel’s second to last. In addition to all the other pressures that caused each show to go through it’s personal rough patch, it could not have helped that Joss had to concern himself with all three shows, in some way. Focusing on Firefly doesn’t mean that he could have completely ignored showrunner responsibilities for Angel and Buffy. That kind of stretching takes a toll on the showrunner and the shows.
I hope this doesn’t happen to Shonda. Both Grey’s (simply due to it’s length) and Scandal already have many fans once in love with the shows expressing apprehension about the coming seasons. Grey’s is losing a major, fan favorite character. Scandal’s struggled with White House saturation. With these cracks in the armor, can Shonda risk dividing her attention to another show? Only time, and ratings, will tell.
Tonight is the #Scandal season finale! I haven’t been recapping Scandal lately (busyness–I often don’t get home to watch it live, then had things to do Friday morning, no writing time–and my recap style fit more when the show was a tad bit more serial) but doesn’t mean I’m not still watching it. I’ll watch the finale as soon as I get home late tonight, but ahead of the episode, the internet is giving us loads of Scandal content to get us through the day.
These two links, both from Vulture, are different takes on Shonda Rhimes’ Scandal monologues. One is a monologue generator that I haven’t gotten to play with yet (but Shonda Rhimes has:
and the other is breakdowns of 4 monologues from this season, by Joe Morton, Bellamy Young, Kate Burton, and Jeff Perry. These are fun games but also very useful for me.
Earlier this year I was writing a Scandal spec script for a TV writing class I was taking. I got pretty far, but Scandal fatigue and adding other things to my writing interests put it on hold for a while. But something I was struggling with was figuring out how and where and who to give a brilliant Scandal monologue to. It’s hard work. The obvious choice would be Joe Morton’s character Eli, but he wasn’t quite giving me one. And I was so focused on trying to give him one (because he is my favorite character on the show) that I ruled out everyone else and I think I was suffering for that.
He could still get the monologue, but now I have a new idea! Use the Vulture Scandal Monologue generator! Obviously not to take whatever I get when I play, but I think the generator breaks down the monologues from the show in ways that would be beneficial to me looking at my spec and including one. It starts off with themes and goes from there. Once I break down the theme of my episode (another aspect I was struggling with–Shonda is very theme heavy in her episodes and it’s always good to know what yours is, but I haven’t broken down the theme to go with the plot of my episode), I can use this generator to get a monologue for it.
Sometimes you have to know how to use the fun of the internet to actually do work and understand things that were giving you trouble. I can’t wait to try it. If you use it, comment with your monologue!
I think another brilliant thing I just came up with could be to use all those Buzzfeed quizzes to learn more about your characters, just take them in their voice and use the end result as a way to understand your characters more. Or maybe your character wouldn’t take a Buzzfeed quiz. That’s telling too!
Last week, I was blessed to have been able to attend a NYWiFT Panel on the current state of black women on screen at Harlem venue My Image Studios (MiST). It was very inspiring and I got to watch Scandal afterwards with a room full of Gladiators. It was pretty amazing. Here are some of the questions and responses below (featuring general essence of their answers, with direct quotes from my notes).
The panelists for the evening were: Neema Barnette, Julie Dash, Sharon Hope, Chenoa Maxwell, and Rachel Watanabe-Batton with Ylana Kellar as the moderator. You can google them and check out their work like I have been. They’ve all been working in Hollywood trying to get the stories of black women told in the right ways and the things they had to say were very inspiring for all future black artists: whether actors, writers, directors, producers, any kind of black content creator.
The questions and answers are below as slides, click one and read through! These ladies were really inspirational and it was great to just be in a room with other like-minded people. Hopefully the roles portrayed by black actresses will continue to expand in number and in character dimension.
This week’s episode started off with a bang. Well, two bangs.
Olivia and Fitz meet up and “review the numbers” then have an all out RAGING fight. All with poor Jake awkwardly chatting with the Secret Service right outside the door. I loved the fight and it was about time Olivia stood up for herself. Fitz is getting more and more ridiculous with the things he says and the things he demands from the people around him, especially the women. He doesn’t appreciate Olivia for what she brings to the table, what she wants, what she needs and Liv finally let him know. He didn’t really do anything in the rest of the episode that told me he was adjusting or changing, so we’ll see if this is just his character and the way the writers are going to continue to write him or if this is leading to a character development arc. Because Fitz, of all the characters on the show, needs the most character development in order for fans to continue to like him or believe that Olivia loves this man. (You may say, but Quinn needs some character development too! No, Quinn needs to die.) I suppose, in lack of a Papa Pope Speech of the Week, we can give Kerry some serious award noms for her part in the fight. She really did tell him about himself and that not everything is about him. I almost forgot to look for Kerry’s baby bump!
Some of the episode flashes back to the California governor’s mansion 14 years ago. Andrew Nichols, in the present, owns to some prescription drug use that someone is planting to use against the Grant campaign. But back in 2000, it was Mellie who took the pills. She was feeling sick and tired of her life, unable to look at Fitz or even touch him, scared that her kid wasn’t his and really feeling overwhelmed. Nichols finds her and stays up all night to make sure she makes it through and boy does he fall hard. But Mellie has a backbone and resists his charms, despite everyone kind of understanding and knowing where Fitz is headed in terms of his own marital screw-ups. But two wrongs don’t make a right, until the present day, when Mellie couldn’t take it anymore. Nichols certainly gets to touch the First Lady (and with Mellie’s hair like it was, she looked so great!) and he did it once, so he decides to do it again–this time the painting of Jackie O he was admiring before he had another first lady to admire.
Fitz is already pissed about Jake being “a fox in his hen house” so it’ll be interesting to see what conniption he experiences when he finds out his other “loyal” “trusted” friend is a fox. Even with how he dismisses Mellie, he wants to have his cake and eat it too, he doesn’t want her to do anything he doesn’t want. Fitz’ control issues are spiraling out of control and I believe it’s all because he found out about Defiance. And he started drinking.
Speaking of spiraling (weak transition, I know), poor Jake. He’s been command for over a month now, but B6-13 let him get settled before delivering the whammy. He gets a suitcase of mysterious files, all of the nations secrets. With very daunting words like “protect the republic.” Jake doesn’t seem like he was ready for this; he’s seeing how lonely it is at the top. The suitcase clearly stated that he was to act with no interference from the executive branch and to stay a step ahead of the president, etc, etc. He thought he was going in with Fitz by his side, but between Olivia and the weight of his office, his buddy is getting farther and farther away and the weight is getting heavier. I know many of us certainly loved the scene where he uses his “boyfriend of Olivia Pope key” to demand some real food in the house and to go take a shower. But the seams are more visible and the pressure will get to him more and more, I am sure.
Well, I suppose at least Jake isn’t James. James is about to shake right out of his skin, he really wasn’t made for this covert ops, behind his husband’s back stuff. The littlest sound is setting him off and his meeting with David under the bridge (or wherever that seemed to be) made me laugh at how cliche it was for a secret meeting between “spies.” He’s not ready for B6-13.
And neither is Quinn (I’m really killing these transitions aren’t I ;-)). Quinn makes me more and more angry as the season progresses. She wants to find her own way? So go back to being the girl you were before you were Quinn. Olivia and Huck made you Quinn and if you want express your independence, why not go back to whatever your name was before (you make me so angry I’ve chosen to forget what your real name is)? Don’t pull a gun on the person who’s best suited to save your life when the time comes. She walked into Jake’s office cocky as I don’t know what, but you got caught on your first go round by Olivia. Not Rowan, not Charlie, but Olivia, who isn’t exactly covert ops material herself (she’d be in the command station doling out orders). You didn’t even try to hide when spying on Rowan and someone is going to get fed up with you and kill you. And the entire audience is going to cheer with glee (we’re all still kind of on Huck’s side about the torture thing–he just went a little too far with the licking).
Huck kinda made me nervous though, bringing Olivia coffee like he was. Who knew what could have been in that coffee, considering his background. But it was apology coffee. Not for hurting Quinn, but for Olivia’s anger about it. Huck doesn’t let his desire for an apology stop him from telling Olivia about himself and herself. “You should have never given me someone to love. Monsters eat people, Liv. It;s what we do.” Oh Huck. It’s so telling about how he sees himself and his relationship with Olivia. And he loved Quinn. He took her under his wing and loved her and she went betrayed the master (if we’re sticking with Huck’s puppy metaphor), so he had to take a couple bites out of her for that. I wish he’d gotten a couple of more bites in.
Finally, I sat on my last post for about a week, hoping to unleash my theory about Adnan Salif working with Mama Pope and they reveal it the very next episode! I still KNEW IT! I really wonder what they’re up to, though. Adnan has now gotten her way into the Grant campaign camp, despite Cyrus knowing how criminal she is, and it was Mama’s idea? What’s the plan? And how will it interact with Eli’s plan to destroy Fitz? No way Maya wants Fitz to continue being president (certainly not without some damage somewhere), he knows about her and was the man who pulled her trigger. But if she does something to destroy Fitz, how does that play with Eli’s plan? Will they end up working on the same team somehow? What dangerous red strings of fate are being intertwined as we hurtle toward the end of the season?
I’ve been slacking on bringing back my weekly Scandal posts. Partially because I am still busy and partially because I watched Scandal differently for the premiere than I usually do.
Last week, I went to a panel on Black Women in Hollywood (which I will write about soon) put together by New York Women in Film and Television (NYWiFT), at a venue in Harlem called My Image Studios (MiST). After the panel, as they do every week, MiST played Scandal in their theater space. That’s right, this place in Harlem plays Scandal on two large movie screens every week. Dozens of women (and some men!) were there–partly the panel crowd, partly the usual crowd that usually appears there–and wow is it different watching Scandal with other people. I mimic the experience when I live-tweet the show, retweeting funny comments, but it’s great watching and hearing people’s physical reactions to things. The moment when Mellie walks in on Fitz and Olivia making out in the Oval, every gasped so loud. It was fun! I would totally do it again, but with more people I knew. I got to hang out with some of the NYWiFT interns, but I’d love to go back with some friends of mine and get to react to the show live. So the busyness of that night combined with other life reasons made me put off this post for a whole week. But here it is. Hopefully the next one won’t take as long.
Like I said, the entire screening audience gasped when we and Mellie all caught Liv and Fitz making out in the Oval. They were “reviewing the numbers” all right. The two pull their lips off each other to deal with Sally’s big announcementt: She’s running for president as an independent, but she’s not stepping down from the vice presidency… She claims the devil came in and killed Daniel Douglas, but the devil must be giving her some intense balls to think she can both be the VP and run against her boss.
All of this pisses Fitz off so bad that even Liv can’t get through to him. He says he’s got a new pick for VP, Andrew Nichols, who worked with him in California. Liv thinks it’s a bad idea, he’s from the same state and brings absolutely NO diversity to the table. Fitz dismisses her. “I said that’s all.” Here’s where Fitz pisses me off the most, and it comes up in his scene with Liv later: he says all the time how he loves her and trusts her and can’t win without her, but he refuses to listen to her opinions. Eli was right, he’s a boy who’s trying to prove he’s a man.
Speaking of Eli, Liv finds out that Jake is in charge of B6-13 and goes off to find her father, now that she knows he was fired from Wonderland. They meet at an old hangout spot of theirs and discuss his uncommon valor. Liv apologizes for what happened to him and that. sets. him. OFF. I’ll post more of the speech in a section I’ll call “Joe Morton Speech of the Week,” but he really tells Olivia how it is.
“You’re skipping around in a field full of bombs and mistaking them for daisies. This, dear, sweet, child is what happened. The married man you can’t seem to stay away from had me abducted and locked me up in chains and spoke to me about the way you taste while he allowed the terrorist who snaked her way into my marriage bed to clear US airspace. What happened was, the man you screw, betrayed me by freeing the woman who gave birth to you as a bargaining chip. What happened was, the man that defiled you also defiled an organization that I gave my soul to build. That is what happened. What is currently happening is that Fitzgerald Thomas Grant III has made an enemy. The worst kind of enemy. because i know all his secrets. I know where every body is buried. And the greatest weapon I can use against him calls me Dad. […]
Everyone should be afraid. the president should be afraid. And if I were you, Olivia, I would be terrified. I would pick up whatever chips you have left and run as far away as possible from that burning building known as the White House. Run, Olivia, run. Because, mark my words, Fitzgerald Grant, is not going to make it to the end of his term.”
“You wouldn’t dare.”
“Watch me. Start grieving now, Olivia. Rend your garments. Curse the heavens. It will save you time down the road. But first, run.”
That’s it! I surrender! How Olivia manages to not cry from fear, I do not know. His speeches are always epic! And we all desperately want to know what he’s planning! Does he actually mean to murder Fitz? Or is it more of a political threat? Eli turning to Sally’s campaign manager Leo tells a more political destruction, but Eli told Olivia to grieve. Wow. I cannot wait to see what he has planned.
Leo puts thoughts of Olitz into the minds of the media and a circus ensues. In order for Mellie to come out on top, she urges Liv to pick a suitor, any suitor. When Olivia does, choosing Jake to be a “patriot” and date her to serve his country, Fitz is less than pleased. He’ll be even less pleased when he learns that his running mate pick, Nichols, shares a burning torch for Mellie. His decision to choose Jake and Andrew over loyalty is about to backfire largely in his face. Tonight, we’ll find out more about Andrew and Mellie’s secret fling 12 years ago.
Harrison is WIGGED OUT. Adnan Salif sends him veiled threats, causing us and Abby to wonder why Harrison knows how to use a gun. She shows up and all our thoughts about her being a large threatening man are thrown out the window and she and Harrison get busy in his office. What’s she up to? One theory below.
Charlie and Quinn take up kidnapping, but she misses being a gladiator
David Rosen and James are colluding against Cyrus. Secret recordings, double crossing, betrayal, backstabbing, all of it. James is tired of being married to a monster.
I have no idea what Eli and Leo are planning. Is it a trade of secrets for Sally to use in her campaign? Is there a more sinister nature to their meetings? Time will tell.
Here’s the biggest theory of all: I think Adnan Salif is working with Mama Pope. Perhaps all this time. Perhaps Harrison even knows something about it (maybe not consciously). She comes in and wonders, “How we can help each other.” If she was brought into the country by Cyrus to get him to play his game, what agenda would she already have? I think she’s working with Mama Pope and wants to get close to Harrison again (not killing him as he feared) so she can get information on Olivia and Eli and everyone out looking for her. And whatever other plans they have set into motion. We won’t see Mama for a while, I presume, but Adnan will be her eyes and ears in the meantime.
Another theory rolling around the internet is that Mellie’s kids aren’t Fitz’. We already think Big Jerry is the father of the oldest (about 16 years ago) and with this new reveal, it may turn out the child #2 is also the product of another man, this time Nichols. Could this mean what fans have guessed already? That Fitz is sterile and none of the kids, not even Teddy, is his? And we’ve tracked the other two father’s down, who is Teddy’s biological father?
I am so glad Scandal is back! Thanks for reading!
What was your favorite “cover the baby bump” moment from this episode? The man’s head conveniently covering her stomach in the oval? I think mine is her giant purse with the distracting White House badge dangling off it as she walked down the hallway.