• On a Very Special Episode of The Cosby Show…: Why Scandal’s “The LawnChair” Fell Short (PHOTOS)

    Let’s say it’s Thursday, April 30, 1992 and the Rodney King trials are nearing an end in Los Angeles. Discussions of police brutality and the questionable safety of young black men fuel countless debates and political banter. Now...imagine, if you will, it’s 8pm, Thursday night, April 30, 1992, and it’s an episode of The Cosby Show...you know the one where a young Theo Huxtable is hanging out with his good friend Walter, more commonly known as “Cockroach”. 

     The two young men are rollin’ through the city the night before Theo was to graduate from NYU in Dr. Huxtable’s fancy car when suddenly the flashing red and blue lights of the NYPD pull up behind the guys and insist they pull over. When the guys pull over, the police proceed to interrogate the black men as if they were criminals on a joy ride. Things escalate, words shouted...Cockroach is shot dead in the street and Theo and the rest of the Huxtables follow by leading a protest ala today’s “Black Lives Matter” demonstrations. Doesn’t sound like ANY episode of The Cosby Show you ever recall or could ever imagine seeing, does it? 

    THIS is how the Scandal episode “The Lawn Chair” struck me: timely, yet contrived. In my head, all I heard was, “This week...on a very special Scandal…”

    Let me start by saying, I’m not hating on Shonda Rhimes. I think SHE is amazing and still isn't recognized for her work enough. However, at it's core, this was an ill-place, ill-conceived episode of “pretty” TELEVISION and feels like a publicity grab, at best. And here are a few reasons why:

    1.) Lack of Continuity in the Story and Character Background
    From the show's beginning, Olivia Pope has not cared a single bit about black people while solving the problems of the privileged and deciding whether it was going to be Fitz or Jake...and we accepted that. We accepted that Olivia Pope is an exceptional black woman who has access to this exceptional world. NOW, after the writers tossed aside a black senator love interest, vilified her father so he's a modern "Mister", and killed off the only "gladiator" who looked like her (granted, in huge part to Columbus Short’s own doing)...and when there has been ample time to address black men being killed in America well before now, they want us to SUDDENLY accept this particular story line? It won't EVER come back up again.  With the exception of a few one-line references here and there, this episode is disconnected to ALL the other events of the show.  Next week, we'll be back to the same old story and NONE of it will resemble this episode. 

    2.) Creating A Hero/Savior Where There Is None...And Short Changing the REAL Hero
    The writers missed one huge opportunity that COULD have changed this entire episode and been a great commentary on what needs to happen in the REAL world: The President could have unified the nation with one statement about understanding a father's loss. It came up one time with the "unelectable" VP lady. However, in the true form of this show, President Jesus, 

    I mean Fitz, 

    is made heroic and presidential by doing nothing. For the first two seasons, I kept waiting for the POTUS on this show to have a single scene where he actually did something presidential. This episode was no different...and to make this the most offensive of all President Jesus occasions, Fitz stands with his open arms for the black father to finally lay down his burdens and cry. Why did Olivia take the man to the president in the first place? He clearly had no "power" in this matter...his character even said so. Basically, she took the father to the magical white man and he will take away your pain. Just lay your burden on him. No ma'am! 

    3.) Rhimes used her most POPULAR show for Social Change
    Scandal is not ShondaLand’s most popular show. 

    Scandal is her most popular show among black viewers between the ages of 25-45, predominantly women. Grey's Anatomy is still her most popular show across ALL viewership demographics including the demographic that most need to "receive" whatever the intended message. If running this story for an audience that is essentially “the choir” regarding race in America as Rhimes’ way of showing how "connected she is to the issues is also problematic. This episode would have played wonderfully in seasons 1 & 2 but we have long left the land of Olivia Pope, the Fixer.

    I LOVE ShondaLand! Gawd knows I do!!  And this episode wasn't a total loss, in my opinion. It was simply, wildly inconsistent and that tested my credibility gauge. I LOVED Courtney B Vance. I LOVED the symbol of the chair and the father and the act of protecting his son...even in death. And I loved the cop rant. I loved the actor damn near popping a vein in his forehead just to get it out. I loved the shocking look on Olivia's face because she heard what a real deal Holyfield racist thought of "you people". She probably don't hear THAT laying up in Vermont. I even loved the actor playing the killer cop and the writing of that truth because it's absolutely what NEEDS to be said...but Scandal wasn't the best fit for this and didn't handle the overall storytelling well at all. 


    1. You hit the nail on the head with this!! I haven't been keeping up with Scandal but I saw this episode and thought the same thing. I have nothing to add, because you took the words out of my mouth, lol. Great post!

      1. Thank you SO much cocowednesdays! And thank you for reading it! Honey, yes, that episode put me through changes! LOL!


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