Jason C. Stanley

ponderings of a dad walking humbly & seeking justice

Tag: abc (page 1 of 2)

The Muppets: It’s Not Easy Being ‘Human’

muppets-tv-show-abc-2015-trailerI wrote the following for Screenfish.net.

ABC’s new comedy, The Muppets, premiered this week. The show is a mix of nostalgia, bringing to mind The Muppet Show (1976-1981), and a modern day drama. Using a page out of the writer’s room of Modern Family or Parks and RecreationThe Muppets follows the crew of a late night television show, Up Late with Miss Piggy, in a mockumentary.

Just as in all the other Muppet related television shows and films, the Muppet characters are treated just as human as the humans. In the first episode, Fozzie goes to dinner to meet his human girlfriend’s human family. The Muppets come complete with their own set of human emotions and human drama.

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Scandal 3.1: It’s Handled

season-3-scandal-iamsupergorge-oliviaSeason three gets started right where season two ended. As we plunge back into the world of Olivia Pope and the scandal that is arising around her, we hope to uncover answers to questions from last season. Like, who leaked Olivia’s name to the press? Mostly, what is going to happen to Olivia now that she’s been outed as the President’s mistress? And, whose going to fix this?

Rowan, who is Olivia’s father, plans to handle the situation by sending Olivia on a private plan to a secure island. Rowan fires off about as much power with his words as Olivia does. Enough to make Olivia stand down and even cry a little. But, after Olivia makes a phone call to Cyrus to tell him that she is leaving town, she gets her Pope mojo back.

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Scandal 2.5: All Roads Lead to Fitz

Ponderings - Scandal Season 2 recapsThe Justice League (or Injustice League) has convened around the shadowy round table to discuss David Rosen. He is becoming the thorn in their side. Everyone is getting frustrated with Hollis Doyle. Finally, Olivia steps up to the plate and says that she will take care of the David Rosen problem.

A few days later, David is called in by his boss. Fully expecting to be told he is fired, he is shocked that he is being offered his job back. But only if he drops the whole conspiracy theory, which he is not so sure about, but will finally take the job.

The Governor of Maryland, who lost to Fitz in the presidential election, has called Olivia to fix a problem. A man is dead in the Governor’s kitchen. And he happens to have his pants around his ankles. The story is that the Governor walked in, saw the man on top of his wife, his wife cried “rape,” and the Governor shot the man.

The man is the contractor that has been building the Governor’s private residence. But it is not as simple as we are made to believe. As Harrison says, “There are many ways to tell a story.” The real story is that the Governor’s wife and the contractor had been having an affair. She didn’t know what to do when her husband came into the house, so she cried, “rape.” She is arrested. Olivia coaches the Governor on how to respond to the media. As he makes his statement, she discovers, on the Governor’s desk, photos of his wife and the contractor.

He knew the whole time. He tells Olivia that his whole life changed after the election. His original plan was to kill the contractor, kill his wife, and then kill himself. But when his wife reacted the way she did, he decided to go with it, because he would give a second chance.

A lot of what happens in this episode is a result of election night. A better title the episode would have been 4,359. That number is repeated often. The wife says it at least half a dozen times as she explains to Olivia that after the election their lives changed. The Governor was short 4,359 votes.

“One county in Ohio changed our lives,” the Governor’s wife says.


Source: ABC

That could be true for all the characters gathered around the shadowy round table. As Verna points out to Olivia, Cyrus gets to run the country, Mellie gets to be Mellie, and Verna got a seat on the Supreme Court. The question is, what did Olivia get?

We are led to believe that Olivia was supposed to get Fitz. Olivia continues to turn down invitations by Addison to go on a date. Cryus inquires about it, and before Olivia can answer, he says, “All roads lead to Fitz.” It is clear that Olivia still has feelings for Fitz. But there is nothing she can do about that. She tells Addison not to stop calling, but right now she is not ready.

Randomly, a girl who Huck meets at an AA meeting, gives him her phone number (classic write it on the hand stuff). The two go out on a date. I hate to do this, but what?!? Anybody else think there’s something fishy about this girl?

The cliffhanger, as always, comes at the end of the episode. As Huck is preparing for his date, Abby gets on his computer to type in the girl’s phone number. She notices a sticky note that has the name of the grill and time that David was supposed to meet a guy connected to Cytron. She follows a few leads, and finds out that the guy was a plant.

She hurries to David’s apartment to tell him and everything else she learned. Cytron developed software that was used on the surface for slot machines, but under the table for voting machines. Like maybe voting machines in one county in Ohio, where 4,359 votes changed an election?

The camera zooms on David’s bobble heads, which double up as speakers. On the other end? Who else, but Olivia Pope. “This one I handle on my own.”

Watch out, Abby, Olivia is on the move.

One of the main points of this episode, is to reveal to us the audience (and possibly to Olivia) the interconnectedness of humanity. The decisions, choices, and actions we make can indirectly affect someone else. Olivia, being a part of the shadowy round table indirectly was involved in killing the contractor. The 4,359 votes that the Governor lost by were the votes that Olivia and the shadowy round table crew made sure Fitz got.

Fitz, who is not in this episode at all, seems to be innocent in all of this. Most likely Fitz is not in this episode because Tony Goldwyn had another obligation to fulfill. But, Fitz’ absence plays into this idea of his being innocent. He knows nothing, which is symbolized by his lack of presence in the episode.

All roads may lead to Fitz, but Fitz is in the dark.

Scandal 1.4: “Enemy of the State”

Season 1It is difficult to discern who or what is considered an enemy. Often we think that it is those people or forces who oppress us or others. At times it is those people or forces who stand in the way of what we consider is good and right.  But who decides who is an enemy and who is not?

“Enemy of the State” explores this tension. The client-of-the-episode is General Benicio Flores (Jose Zuniga) who is a South American dictator. Not all of the gladiators are on board with Olivia’s decision to take the General as a client. The story is told that his wife and two, young children were kidnapped from a resturant. He does not trust the American government to find them, so he has come to Olivia. And Olivia accepts the General as a client.

Though at first it is not completely clear to the gladiators what has got Olivia so distracted that she does not appear to be thinking this one all the way through. The truth is, she is distracted, as she starts this episode off chugging a glass of wine. Remember the last episode?

Amanda Tanner is pregnant with the President’s baby.

And Olivia is secretly (?) in love with the President.

Distraction. Major distraction. Got it.

Stephen (Henry Ian Cusick) and Abby (Darby Stanchfield), thanks to the Huck (Guillermo Diaz) being interested in a game boy that one of the kids was playing with, track the General’s wife and children to a woman’s shelter. She was not kidnapped, she ran away. She pleads her case to Abby and Stephen. Abby was one of the gladiators from the beginning who did not think Olivia should take a dictator as a client. Abby gets it why the wife wants to leave the General. And thanks to Cyrus, we know why.

We learn more about the gladiators as Cyrus investigates Olivia and her employees. It is an interesting and creative way for us to learn details about the gladiators that will only support the larger story as it goes forward. We learn that Abby was in an abusive relationship and that Olivia helped her to get out of it. This is why Abby has empathy for the General’s wife. The abuse is not physical, but she is marked with emotional scares.

196x150xfinch-and-olivia-work-with-a-dictator.png.pagespeed.ic.pjNfRl-Y0GAbby puts the General’s wife and children in a hotel room for the night. The next morning she goes to get them and they are gone. Stephen had disagreed with her discussion. His loyalty is with Olivia and he tells Olivia where the mother and children are.  When Abby goes to the hotel the next morning to get the dictator’s wife, she and the children are gone. Abby goes to the office, unsure what she will say to Olivia, and finds that the wife and the children are already there.

Afterwards, Abby and Olivia get into a heated discussion:

Olivia: I did what I had to for my client. I made a tough call. You don’t like it, Abby, too bad. It’s my name on that door, not yours.
Abby: Don’t talk to me about tough calls or names on the door…When Charles fractured three of my ribs and broke my jaw and threw me out into the snow in my nightgown, Olivia Pope took a tire iron and broke his knee cap and got me the best divorce attorney in the state and got me out of that marriage. It’s what Olivia does. It’s who you are. You are the gladiator. I would gladly follow you over a cliff, but you’ve gotta show up. You gotta be a warrior. You don’t get to pick and choose when the real Olivia Pope walks through that door. You made the wrong call.

The enemy theme continues as the Amanda Tanner storyline continues to develop. Cyrus is still convinced at Olivia has something to do with it, which is why he has her team investigated. Olivia comes clean with the gladiators that she has made a some mistakes. Olivia lays out what the case is concerning Amanda Tanner, and gives the group a chance to vote on whether or not they will take her on as a client.

As the group votes, we get glimpses of Amanda in her apartment. As the last vote is cast – Abby says, “Over a cliff,” affirming to Olivia that taking Amanda as a client is the right thing to do – we witness an unknown figure murdering Amanda. Making it clear that Amanda is seen as the number one enemy of the State. It also shows how unpredictable the show and how many twists and turns it can have.

John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement, encouraged those who joined in the movement to follow three simple rules: do no harm, do good, and stay in love with God. The human journey is finding the balance between doing no harm and doing good. The journey is not always so black-and-white. Not nearly as clear cut as we would want it to be. Doing good and doing no harm is cloudy at best. This is where we find Olivia and her associates in this episode.

We want nothing more than to be able to wake up each day and know – without a doubt – who or what is or is not, our enemy. What Scandal shows is that life is not predictable. Olivia and Cyrus both act like they know who the enemy is, when in reality they do not. We don’t either. We have guesses, but as the audience our guess is as good as knowing the brand of pen’s the writers use. The best we can do is sit back and wait to see what happens next.

But I have a feeling, the enemy lines will just get blurrier and blurrier.

Scandal 1.3: “Hell Hath No Fury”

Season 1“In a case like this, perception is more important than evidence.”

Olivia is in go-mode in this third episode, one filled a number of “wow”s. A wealthy CEO of a company that contracts with Olivia’s office, has a son accused of rape. Olivia tells the CEO and mother that her contract is with the company, not the family. “All day people tell me what they think I want to hear,” she tells Olivia, “But, you . . . you will tell me the truth.” Travis, the 27-year-old son, is a no-show to court. Olivia and Harrison find him in a hotel room with a blond.

In the meantime, Amanda Tanner, the season one main storyline, demands a sit-down with the President. The President, the meantime we learn, has not been sleeping. He awakes one morning, not realizing he has slept in, only to find that the First Lady has canceled all of his morning appointments.

Cyrus receives a CD with an audio recording of what he determines to be the President and Amanda Tanner having sex. Cyrus jumps to the conclusion that Olivia is behind it. This is why they wanted the sit-down. In the meantime, unbeknownst to Cyrus and the President, the First Lady invites Olivia to the State Dinner. And we collectively say, “Wow,” because we think we know what the First Lady does not know.

Olivia follows her gut and believes that Travis did not rape his accuser, Helen. They make an offer to settle with Helen, whose bank accounts are running on the low side. However, Helen does not want the money. While getting ready for court, Travis makes an interesting statement to Harrison about how money can make things go away. The gladiators investigate a little deeper and discover that Travis had raped another girl named Rachel. Travis paid her off to keep her quiet, and the charges were dropped. And it turns out, Rachel was a friend of Helen’s. Helen’s accusation against Travis was to receive justice for Rachel’s rape.

And there’s another “wow.” Travis acts like he did nothing wrong. He acts like because he has enough money, he can make it all go away. He is not quick on the responsibility uptake.

JEFF PERRY, TONY GOLDWYNOlivia tells Travis’ mother that it’s not her fault; that who and what Travis is, is not his fault. After she goes to the State Dinner, and Cyrus corners her while she is on her way to meet the President and tells her to leave. Cyrus tells Olivia that the meeting is off. He then goes to the President, who is waiting for Olivia, and tells him that Olivia has called the meeting off and that the whole thing was a set-up.

And another “wow.” Cyrus did what?!? For the first time we see a darker side to Cyrus. A side that says to us that he will do anything to protect his interest. But, how far will he go?

That evening the President asks the First Lady why she invited Olivia. “Because you needed to see her,” Mellie says, “I trust tonight you will sleep like a baby.”

Yep, there it is. Another “wow.” Mellie knows what we thought she didn’t know!?!

Olivia leaves the White House and stops at Travis’ mother’s home.

I was wrong before about it not being your fault. It IS your fault… You love him, you do. But you can’t fix everything for him. You can’t. He’s playing you, because you let him. You give him everything he asks for, and you clean up his messes, and you believe him even when he lies to you and that is NOT LOVE. Love is making him face who he is. The best thing you can do for him is to do the best thing FOR him. It’s not your fault what he did, but letting him get away with it, THAT IS your fault.

And there is. This is hands-down one of the reasons this show is so good. The writing is incredible. These little Olivia monologues are the stars in the crown of this show. And without Kerry Washington, I’m not convinced that it could be done.

Olivia had an ah-ha moment in this episode. Because you love someone does not mean that you let them do whatever they want to do. This mother never made a little league game in ten years. To make up for her absence in her son’s life, she gave and gave and gave to the point that she was blinded to who Travis is.

Back to Amanda Tanner. Quinn goes out with the reporter who is trying to get the scoop on Amanda. Olivia has told him that she will give him information at the right time. Quinn asks him why he has been calling Amanda. The reporter says that he has not. Quinn believes him and tells Olivia. “Amanda is not telling you the whole truth,” Quinn says. Olivia goes to Amanda, tells her that the only way she can help her is if she is completely honest with her.

And this is when the final, and perhaps greatest wow-factor happens. Amanda says two words that change the scope of the show. “I’m pregnant.”

Oh snap!

The theme of the episode could easily be summed up as perception. Olivia places value on perception. As long as someone has a perception – an appearance – that makes it seem that everything is okay, than everything is okay.  Yet, the “wow” moments of the episode are connected in some way or another to a change in the perception we had of that character. It’s as if everything we thought we knew about these characters all changes. Mellie and Cyrus especially. What are they capable of that in the last two episodes we may have never thought?

Travis and Amanda, on the other hand, seem to live and function within a truth that is not truth. Travis thinks that he can do whatever he wants, as long as he keeps up the perception of the rich CEO’s son. Amanda is living in the perception of being loved by the President, which is not a reality or a truth. Yet, she believes it to be truth.

And these characters believe – really believe – that these self-perceptions are real. Philosophers like William James and John Dewey hold that a belief is true when it proves to have some value of success connected with it. For Travis, he believes his perception of life because it has been successful for him. His mother, a bit of a co-dependant, enables this truth to continue to exist. This is why Olivia goes back to his mother to say that who he has become is indeed it her fault.

Yet, the perception that seems to matter, does not compare to the deep truth that resides within.

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