OK, so we all watched “Scandal” tonight, right? ABC has promoted this nonstop in the last few weeks — endless commercials and paid Twitter ads abound.
I watched because I’m a fan of Kerry Washington. I loved her in “Ray.” But the elephant in the room is the blind support us black TV watchers have to show to shows with black lead characters. Lately there’s been a backlash against this — not everybody watches Tyler Perry’s sitcoms and we’ve given critical reviews of BET’s attempts at bringing back black sitcoms. Still, this was a pop culture moment: Black woman leading a hourlong series on one of the major networks.
I wasn’t so much the black viewer supporting a black show, per se. I was curious about how a series scripted by a black woman (Shonda Rhimes) starring a black woman would fare when the topic itself isn’t rooted in black culture. Unlike, say, “Soul Food” the series or “City of Angels,” there wasn’t an all-black cast and the issues aren’t necessarily reflective of black America.
That all said, I can see where the complaints are going to start rolling in. I can hear it now — “she’s not black enough.” “Where are the other black characters?” “Why does she have to be involved with [white character who I won’t name to avoid spoilers]?” (I actually thought the relationship between those two reminded me of John and Mamie on “The Young and the Restless” in the early ’90s. #thingsonlyAaronwouldknow)
On the other side of the coin will be those die-hard, support-everything black TV viewers will be on guard for any sort of criticism lobbied at the show. “Why can’t you support a positive black show?” “Why do you have to hate?” “Why can’t we have good things without someone ruining it?” Nowadays, you can’t criticize anything black without being called a hater, and that’s sad because people with valid opinions will be stifled because they want to keep up appearances.
I do have some criticisms after one episode. Actingwise, Kerry was on her A-game; the other actors weren’t. That’ll sink the ship immediately if that isn’t fixed. I see some MAJOR character flaws in Kerry’s character that will eventually become annoying, kind of how Meredith Grey on Rhimes’ “Grey’s Anatomy” gets really annoying. The blueprint is there, and yes I will throw shade at it when I see it. That said, I won’t be criticizing her because she’s a black woman. I’ll be criticizing her because she’s a fictional character who just happens to be black.
But this is what we face as characters who happen to be black lead television shows: The arguments that will crop up that are directly related to race. Just for once, I’d like to leave race out of the discussion. Is that possible? We’ll see.