ABC's latest soap just isn't crazy enough
With Scandal on hiatus until midseason, ABC needed another addicting soap to fill its Thursday at 9 p.m. slot. So, they went with the undercooked Notorious, a non-Shondaland show that desparetly wants people to think it’s one. To be fair, it does have all of the features of a Shondaland original: zippy pacing, aesthetically pleasing characters who talk fast and do morally questionable things, and of course, a chic wardrobe. But, it comes up very short of being an adequate replacement for the Kerry Washington-led D.C. drama; the premise is weak and the first two episodes play it way too safe.
Created by Josh Berman and Allie Hagan, Notorious stars Piper Perabo (Covert Affairs) as Julia George, the no-nonsense producer of Louise Herrick Live, a Larry King Live-esque news program. When she’s not tending to the show’s indulgent diva host, Louise (Katie Jennings Grant), or uncovering dark secrets about her fiancé, she’s busy colluding with smarmy criminal defense attorney Jake Gregorian (Graceland‘s Daniel Sunjata) to craft the perfect story for her viewers, while also helping Jake make his clients look good in the court of public opinion. Perabo and Sunjata have some sizzling chemistry, but the same can’t be said of the supporting cast, who somehow go from bland in the pilot, to even blander in the second episode.
Based on the first two episodes, it’s not entirely clear why Julia and Jake’s arrangement to control the media — inspired by a Larry King producer’s real-life relationship with criminal defense attorney Mark Garagos — is supposed to be compelling and how it could possibly be sustainable for an entire series. (We’ll ignore the fact that America really doesn’t need something else to lower the public’s faith in the media for now). Already in the second episode, the show seems to be straining for satisfying cases of the week; there’s an entire kidnapping plot that literally goes nowhere. The show could work if it took advantage of Perabo and Sunjata’s great dynamic, but right now there aren’t nearly enough lighthearted, banter-filled moments, and the actors appear to be trapped by a script that takes itself way too seriously.
Actually, it seems like the show overall feels trapped. The pilot introduces a serialized storyline involving internet mogul-of-the-moment Oscar Keaton (Kevin Zegers, who will always be Gossip Girl’s Damien Dalagard in my eyes), a client of Jake’s who gets arrested for allegedly fleeing the scene of a hit-and-run. Obviously, the case has its fair share of twists, but they’re predictable, uninspired, and appear too dour, too early on. Part of Scandal‘s appeal in its early days was its devil-may-care approach to plotting, and whiplash-inducing twists that kept you coming back for more. Notorious needs to down some of Olivia Pope’s red wine, because it’s just not crazy enough to make it fun to watch. C-