My latest NPR adventure: How ABC's Scandal highlights new visibility for black women on TV
This latest commentary for NPR is an extension of a piece I did for the Tampa Bay Times last week, noting that new showcase roles are opening up for black woman all across television -- in some cases, as TV programmers finally figure out they are group worth targeting on television.
But my NPR story starts with Scandal, where I begin with an interesting question:
What happens when one of the most powerful black women in the TV business creates a show about one of the most powerful black women behind-the-scenes in politics?
You get Scandal, the new series from Grey's Anatomy creator Shonda Rhimes based on the life of Judy Smith, a renowned African-American crisis manager who has handled cases ranging from the BP Oil spill to Michael Vick.
ABC makes it plain the series is "inspired" by Smith, casting knockout Kerry Washington as Olivia Pope, the kinetic leader of a crisis management firm who kicks off Thursday's debut paying Russian mobsters $3 million in a darkened basement room.
Because this is Rhimes' gig, the characters are fast-talking, witty and impetuously competent, charming police and forensic technicians into giving them the kind of information that keeps them one step ahead of everyone. Still, at times it can feel like yet another reinvention of the same cops 'n' murder mysteries found elsewhere.
The situations themselves feel a little soapy — as is Rhimes' trademark, too — from helping a president accused of an affair with a younger woman to aiding a young hero soldier accused of killing a woman close to him. Later, we learn Pope has a complicated connection to the president and a workaholic style that feels as much inspired by Rhimes' legendary pace as Smith's reputation.
Even though Scandal isn't quite the home run fans may hope for, it is the most-visible example of a tiny burst in shows featuring African American women.
Check out the NPR piece below -- which even has a shout out to Get Christie Love! -- for more details: