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"There’s always an inherent danger when comparing two television shows."
March 30, 2014 1:49 PM   Subscribe

Why Scandal beats House Of Cards at its own game
Why ‘Scandal’ can’t hold a candle to ‘House of Cards’
Barack Obama Says Life in D.C. is “More Boring” Than Scandal and House of Cards Depict

‘Scandal’ Is Crazier Than ‘House Of Cards’—And Has Much More To Say About Washington
How House of Cards and Scandal Solve D.C.'s Bad-Fashion Problem
Shark Week: “House of Cards,” “Scandal,” and the political game.
The show may be made of elegant material, but it’s not built to last—it’s a meditation on amorality that tells us mostly what we already know.

And, honestly, the more I watched, the more my mind kept wandering to Shonda Rhimes’s “Scandal”—an ABC series that’s soapy rather than noirish but much more fun, and that, in its lunatic way, may have more to say about Washington ambition. “Scandal,” which is inspired by a real-life political “fixer,” started slowly, as a legal procedural blended with a Rielle Hunter-flavored Presidential affair. It took a season to shed its early conception of Kerry Washington’s P.R. bigwig Olivia Pope as a “white hat.” But, once it did—whoa, Nelly.
11 Reasons Why Scandal Is Better Than House of Cards - "1. Scandal has vastly hotter sex scenes."
From House of Cards to Scandal, TV is in a new age of powerful women
‘House of Cards’ vs. ‘Veep’: Only one truly draws Beltway blood

America's Least-Favorite City Has Become Television's Favorite Subject
Scandal, House of Cards, Homeland, and More! Comparing Washington’s Most Wrenching Dramas
Which Washington-set drama is for you?
posted by the man of twists and turns (60 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
Those same 11 reasons are why House of Cards is better than Scandal.
posted by Obscure Reference at 2:02 PM on March 30 [2 favorites]


(1) Can we stop arguing about the "objective quality" of shows ?

(2) Can we stop acting like dramatic films and TV series can be imbued with pseudo-journalistic authority that better informs us than actually reading some real news?
posted by belarius at 2:03 PM on March 30 [12 favorites]


I'm tired of these Anglocentric political dramas. Someone please make a show about what goes on in the Kremlin, or in the Zhongnanhai.
posted by Apocryphon at 2:07 PM on March 30 [11 favorites]


The first season of House of Cards is better than the first season of Scandal.

Every subsequent season of Scandal is better than season 2 of House of Cards.

Olivia Pope is now more interesting than Frank Underhill because, apparently, Frank is completely unstoppable, infallible.

imho.
posted by MoxieProxy at 2:11 PM on March 30 [2 favorites]


House Of Cards is Just Okay and That's Fine. - Anne Helen Peterson of Scandals Of Classic Hollywood fame.

tl;dr: House OF Cards and Scandal are both over the top, pulpy melodramas but HoC gets more clout and respect possibly cause Scandal is more overtly soap and woman-run.
posted by The Whelk at 2:14 PM on March 30 [9 favorites]


These Five Odors Prove Why The Color Yellow Is Better Than The Sound Of Rain
posted by Sticherbeast at 2:15 PM on March 30 [71 favorites]


I like both shows. They're both works of fiction set in DC and I don't overthink just how silly they are. Both do what I'm asking of them: provide me with about an hour of entertainment.

My two secret guilty pleasures right now are Scandal and Revenge.
posted by birdherder at 2:18 PM on March 30


The Whelk, I was looking for that link! Thanks!
posted by the man of twists and turns at 2:19 PM on March 30 [1 favorite]


Someone please make a show about what goes on in the Kremlin, or in the Zhongnanhai.

In the Zhongnanhai, apparently what goes on is they sit around watching House of Cards.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 2:29 PM on March 30 [5 favorites]


Barack Obama Says Life in D.C. is “More Boring” Than Scandal and House of Cards Depict

Everything is more boring than a TV depiction of itself. Which means something or other.
posted by jonmc at 2:37 PM on March 30 [5 favorites]


‘House of Cards’ vs. ‘Veep’: Only one truly draws Beltway blood

The one that wasn't adapted from a British series about British politics, right?

Oh, wait.
posted by Sys Rq at 2:37 PM on March 30 [5 favorites]


I loved the first season of House of Cards but have only watched the first three episodes of the second season because it just seems like more of the same. I mean, is there any question about whether or not Frank will come out on top? There's a certain thrill to watching a gifted sociopath at work, but that only goes so far.

House of Cards has a narrow emotional palette: ambition, pride, fear. That's pretty much it.

Scandal, on the other hand, keeps me on the edge of my seat because it is driven by real, messy human emotion. Love, lust, anger, insecurity, rage, and yes, ambition, pride, and fear.

Scandal is one of the few shows that consistently makes me yell "what the fuuuuuuuck?!" at my TV screen. And that's not just because the writers throw in a lot of crazy plot twists (though they do). It's because the characters are all so driven by complicated human emotions that they often do things both seem completely illogical but also make so much sense within the context of the show and their characters.

Also, whereas House of Cards is basically the Frank (and sometimes Claire) Underwood show, Scandal is populated by a wide variety of smart, surprising, crafty characters. It's not at all a foregone conclusion that, say, Olivia or Cyrus will come out on top in any given scenario.

So I won't say that Scandal is objectively better (I think the dialogue on HoC is often more interesting, for instance), but I find Scandal much more entertaining.
posted by lunasol at 2:45 PM on March 30 [2 favorites]


Also, I don't love all of Shonda Rhimes' shows, but I do love her for featuring women, people of color, and GLBT folks in her shows in such a straightforward and matter-of-fact way.
posted by lunasol at 2:46 PM on March 30 [4 favorites]


I have the same relationship to HoC's that I have to Frozen Ellios' Cheese Pizza, when I'm actually consuming it it's comforting and familiar and hits the spot but this feeling vanishes the instant I'm done and I wonder why the hell am I putting that into my body.
posted by The Whelk at 2:47 PM on March 30 [1 favorite]


Further: I have a bit of a hard time watching House of Cards because Claire Underwood reminds me so damn much of a really horrible boss I once had working for a nonprofit in DC. It's really uncanny. So hats off for that particular bit of realism.
posted by lunasol at 2:48 PM on March 30 [1 favorite]


That speech by Olivia's dad saying--though not really saying--that black people have to work twice as hard for half as much...hearing that usually unsaid but very familiar sentiment on a major network primetime show sent a shiver down my spine, and I'm glad that the writers/Rimes put it in there. Scandal is so over-the-top that I'm sometimes surprised at how real it is about race.
posted by girlmightlive at 2:55 PM on March 30 [4 favorites]


Now HoC was teevee binge crack (crap that's sunrise) for me and Scandal is just great over the top fun but I have slight disappointments that are almost exactly inverse. Senator Underwood seems to be a master manipulator but really does not seem to have all that many threads, I was expecting much more complex deals under fake deals under hooks and surprise plot points. But Scandal just goes the other direction gratuitously, I'm expecting direct ties to the JFK assassination and a grandfather that pulled the strings to cause Pearl Harbor (to get us into the war so that...) if the show goes another season.
posted by sammyo at 3:00 PM on March 30


But... what about an HoC/Scandal crossover? Whee, rabbit hole!
posted by sammyo at 3:00 PM on March 30 [1 favorite]


The Whelk: "I have the same relationship to HoC's that I have to Frozen Ellios' Cheese Pizza, when I'm actually consuming it it's comforting and familiar and hits the spot but this feeling vanishes the instant I'm done and I wonder why the hell am I putting that into my body."

And every so often the craving strikes you anyway, and forcefully enough that you pretty much just have to indulge it before moving on with your life.

Anyway I think House of Cards suffers from having to wear the prestige drama cloak when it's really not that type of show underneath, and I think that tension between what it is and what it wants to be is part of why it leaves me feeling weird about it afterwards, especially since it seems like the creators chose to make it fit that mold by rigorously excising any trace of idiosyncrasy in its execution. It's always off-putting too how many totally perfunctory bits of plot movement it has, as if they blew their budget on the casting and the Escalades and had to skimp when it came to staffing the writer's room.
posted by invitapriore at 3:05 PM on March 30 [1 favorite]


That speech by Olivia's dad saying

Joe Morton needs more speeches.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 3:11 PM on March 30 [2 favorites]


I gave up on House of Cards a few hours into the second season. They just seemed to be dragging the plot development out to tedious lengths to fill another 13 episodes. It's so damned sloooowwww with no concurrent payoff in tension. (The anthrax scare....snooze.) And the gratuitousness of the side plots—Frank's back story from the Citadel, his wife's victimhood—just made me eventually throw up my hands.

The British version got the whole thing done in four hour-long episodes. And it was a hell of a lot more fun.
posted by stargell at 3:11 PM on March 30


the actor who plays Cyrus looks like he's about to have a heart attack every scene
posted by angrycat at 3:16 PM on March 30 [2 favorites]


Life in DC is more boring than HoC or Scandal depict, because neither of them give adequate screen time to sitting in traffic or waiting for Metro trains that never appear.
posted by Kadin2048 at 3:21 PM on March 30 [8 favorites]


I got, I think, five episodes into Scandal before I threw my remote away in disgust because I cannot believe, for a single solitary blink of a moment, that Olivia Pope was ever attracted to a lame, boring, fawning mass of blandness like Walker. House of Cards has any number of massive flaws but at least it sells me on all its main characters' motivations.
posted by Tomorrowful at 3:27 PM on March 30 [2 favorites]


I haven't watched House of Cards yet but I watch Scandal chiefly in the hopes that Olivia will dump that poor-little-rich-boy twerp Fitz and either curl or straighten both sides of her hair. With those two changes, she will reach peak awesomeness and DC will collapse around her, elevating her to Benevolent Dictator Fixress Extraordinaire, and we'll all live happily ever after.
posted by gingerest at 3:36 PM on March 30 [1 favorite]


Sorry, none of these shows are as good as The Thick Of It.
posted by turbid dahlia at 3:36 PM on March 30 [10 favorites]


The AV Club got the president's name wrong. He's Fitzgerald Grant, not Grant Fitzgerald. Because Fitzgerald Grant follows the show's pattern of people with first names that are more commonly seen as last names. Fitzgerald. Harrison. Edison.

Scandal is so dumb and I can't stop watching it.
posted by emelenjr at 3:36 PM on March 30 [1 favorite]


I tried to watch HoC but Spacey's role seemed too unironic for him.
posted by telstar at 3:39 PM on March 30 [1 favorite]


Joe Morton needs more speeches.

Not on Scandal he doesn't. It's gotten to the point where he does little more than show up every episode to make a speech (or two). And it's always in those tortured cadences that Shonda Rhimes apparently has instructed all of her actors to use, where they Emphasize. Every. Single. Word. to the point where the conceit loses most of its awe-inspiring effect. The speed talking thing? Stolen from Aaron Sorkin and I don't why he doesn't call SR out on it but I guess it would look like sour grapes or something. I still watch Scandal every week but now it's gotten to be like rubbernecking a highway pileup. Meanwhile, as far as I'm concerned Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright can just sit on their thrones and laugh at the silly Gladiators.

lame, boring, fawning mass of blandness like Walker

Who's Walker?
posted by fuse theorem at 3:42 PM on March 30 [2 favorites]


I love hate watching Scandal because unlike House of Cards, it basically flips the bird to believability and sells us a cartoon Washington universe with a wink and a nudge that is delicious and savory and I like looking at Prada coats.
But given a choice between the two, I'd take House of Cards in a heartbeat, because it's realistic enough to appeal to those of us who can appreciate the skill of crafting a satisflying plot around freaking congressional rules, and unlike Scandal, it's an infinitely more frightening universe. Scandal doesn't have a single character in it who is more absolutely terrifying than Claire Underwood. She's more frightening than Hannibal Lecter because she doesn't have to wear a people suit to seduce people.
posted by Dr. Zira at 3:47 PM on March 30 [2 favorites]


turbid dahlia: "Sorry, none of these shows are as good as The Thick Of It."

This. If any of you have not yet seen In the Loop fire up your Netflix streaming account immediately.
posted by Dr. Zira at 3:49 PM on March 30 [6 favorites]


Someone please make a show about what goes on in the Kremlin, or in the Zhongnanhai.

You might like Borgen [Denmark] orSamvidhaan [India].
posted by the man of twists and turns at 3:49 PM on March 30


Life in DC is more boring than HoC or Scandal depict, because neither of them give adequate screen time to sitting in traffic or waiting for Metro trains that never appear.

Also--I've only watched one episode of each of these shows and decided they're Not For Me, so correct me if this ever happens--there would need to be a scene where literally everyone with a stake in Something happening is waiting expectantly for Something to happen and some mid-level executive comes along and announces colorlessly that "OMB says no" and the characters all roll their eyes and slink off to other projects for the next six months.

The reason DC is more boring than shows-about-DC is that TV shows require things to happen for identifiable reasons.
posted by psoas at 3:53 PM on March 30 [9 favorites]


jonmc: "Everything is more boring than a TV depiction of itself. Which means something or other."

Drama is life with the dull bits cut out. - Alfred Hitchcock.
posted by octothorpe at 4:09 PM on March 30 [2 favorites]


lame, boring, fawning mass of blandness like Walker

Gah. Sorry. I mixed up my Presidents - Garrett Walker is the House of Cards President. I meant Fitz. Fitz is the boring lame bland guy that I can't for the life of me see Olivia Pope ever wanting to touch.
posted by Tomorrowful at 4:13 PM on March 30 [2 favorites]


Olivia Pope is now more interesting than Frank Underhill because, apparently, Frank is completely unstoppable, infallible.

Yup, it's moronic.
posted by shivohum at 4:26 PM on March 30


But... what about an HoC/Scandal crossover?

With Frank Underwood having Game of Thrones flashbacks from a prior reincarnation?
posted by inflatablekiwi at 4:46 PM on March 30


I'm tired of these Anglocentric political dramas. Someone please make a show about what goes on in the Kremlin, or in the Zhongnanhai.

I'd agree too. And then about 2 billion people would remind us that a realistic Russian or Chinese political drama would never be aired in their own country.
posted by hal_c_on at 5:13 PM on March 30 [3 favorites]


"There’s always an inherent danger when comparing two television shows."

I've never seen House of Cards or Scandal, but I do know that amongst genre shows that depict political intrigue and shady dealings within the halls of power on a space station, Babylon 5 is far superior to Star Trek: Deep Space Nine in almost every respect.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 6:23 PM on March 30


What stargell said, sort of. Personally I was able to watch the whole thing, but it became an effort after a while. Apart from being too long and a more than a little too sure of its own greatness, the US House of Cards lacked the credible and terrifying charisma of Francis Urquhart. Also the US political system is crucially different in a way that forced the plot to go in very improbable, Rube Goldbergesque machinations to achieve the same result.
posted by George_Spiggott at 6:30 PM on March 30


I was about to give up on Scandal because the whole cast was so safe. At the beginning of the show it seemed like anyone who was in danger could really be gotten rid of, but for so long now they've been pretending to put everyone in danger and always pulling back. The stakes felt really low. Then they finally killed off somebody, so yay for that.

But everyone on the show is an obnoxious asshole. I only watch it for Mellie, who's great and from my town.
posted by rikschell at 6:30 PM on March 30


Watched 4 more episdoes of scandal today. My wife started out hating it but actually said OH


mmmm
mmmmmm
mmmmmmmmYGOD
unironically at something that went down at the end of s.1. The fever is spreading.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:18 PM on March 30


Oh and neither of these silly shows is anything like DC. Those I've never worked on the hill so IDK. But from what I hear Cap South is the only fictional depiction of life as a public servant that rings any bells.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:21 PM on March 30


And Veep is excellent.
posted by gaspode at 7:40 PM on March 30


We interrupt this thread for an ad for Grey Poupon featuring two of Britain's greatest prime ministers.
posted by bicyclefish at 9:48 PM on March 30 [1 favorite]




Or we don't even have to leave the Anglosphere. A parliamentary thriller set in Canberra, Cape Town, or hell, even Ottawa, would be interesting.
posted by Apocryphon at 11:08 PM on March 30


As someone with intimate brushes with global, US federal, and state and local government workings... I'm kinda astounded that Scandal is more "relevant" than House of Cards - either US or British versions.

SPOILERS!

The US House of Cards is kinda amazing in that it takes many of the same themes as the British version and expounds on them in extraordinary ways to get a more complete result.

OTOH, the British HoC's is INCREDIBLE if you take into account that it predicted a lot of stuff concerning Sarah Ferguson and Diana Spencer. It is super clever, because even though the last season was not directly written by Michael Dobbs, an ongoing and unexplained thread of the series is wrapped up completely in the final minutes - that overall the entire happenings are theater for the public to consume and apply meaning to - meanwhile everything that does or does not happen in government and public policy is directed by the secret services/ intelligence arm of the government. These are the ultimate power players on the chess board. Frankly (yeah. i did that) I'm keen to see how the US HoC's deals with this!!

The British version is bold and bald in depicting how little regard the government types consider or care about their constituents. Michael Dobbs served in the Thatcher administration, and it is hard not to internalize his fictionalizations of his experiences in government over 25 years later when we read about, for example, the leaked Victoria Nuland US Dept of State phone call concerning how to rig unfolding situations in the Ukraine. They (upper echelon politicos) know they have (almost) absolute power over most others, and conduct themselves as such and without conscience.

I can't speak to Scandal other than to say Kerry Washington is amazing, and Shonda Rhimes shows are much less so. I could not invest in Scandal after sticking around long enough to experience Grey's Anatomy and Private Practice jump the shark. Who has time?

In closing...

I could watch Kevin Spacey's character from Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil recite the effing PHONE BOOK forever, with smartly written sprinkles of POLITICAL TRUTH throughout, and that is what US House of Cards affords me.

Robin Wright's Claire Underwood is complex and untouchable (when she broke down on the stairs OF COURSE she knows the secret service is taping her because that's where the goddamn surveillance cameras in their house are!!) and she is a Goddess of Deceit.

I am no longer watching ANY show that glorifies anti-heroes except the US House of Cards, because of the writing+Spacey+Wright.

Holy shit.
posted by jbenben at 11:28 PM on March 30 [2 favorites]


I wanted to check out and comment on Cap South, and Veep, but I'm not sure I'm OK with comedy about serious topics like how my tax dollars are used to oppress, incarcerate, and murder people unlucky enough to reside in other geographical locales than I do.

If I am wrong on this, please let me know.
posted by jbenben at 11:40 PM on March 30


My theory on House of Cards: it is a kind of mystery show. In each episode there will be a crime, and the viewer is drawn in trying to figure out who will carry it out and how. Yet it's told from the perspective of the mastermind so you don't immediately recognize the form.
posted by breath at 12:59 AM on March 31


ive enjoyed scandal so much because of how utterly fallible all the characters are. it starts out with an implied premise of good and bad, a "fixer" in a "white hat" solving all the problems, and then immediately sets on systematically tearing the entire concept of that down, showing the messy, human context that all these actions take place in.

on one of those D&D alignment charts pretty much every character in scandal would be "chaotic neutral", and they are so engaging that you root for all of them. i especially like how it slowly dawns on you that the only actual "good guy" with morals in possibly the entire series is a side character that the "heroic" protagonists outright abuse and misuse and manipulate to further their own ends, until... epic comeuppance.

also, i didnt think id ever see a show this densely plotted. there are perpetually at least 5 or 6 plot arcs being juggled, and 3 seconds of rapid-fire conversation from an episode in season 1 will wind up being crucial to an episode midway through season 2, with no call-backs or flashbacks or anything. this happens over and over. you are just expected to remember every single detail of everything. pretty impressive stuff. i dont know if ive seen anything quite like it.
posted by young_son at 2:52 AM on March 31 [4 favorites]


that said, i dont think of it as remotely related to actual washington politics. its more like an intelligent, well-written '24' where every character is jack bauer
posted by young_son at 2:58 AM on March 31 [2 favorites]


Babylon 5 is far superior to Star Trek: Deep Space Nine in almost every respect.

Average B5 fan: "Have I told you how much better B5 is than DS9? Well, have I told you today?"
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:10 AM on March 31 [8 favorites]


And it's always in those tortured cadences that Shonda Rhimes apparently has instructed all of her actors to use, where they Emphasize. Every. Single. Word. to the point where the conceit loses most of its awe-inspiring effect.

Once Jake Ballard became Command Scott Foley began talking EXACTLY like Eli/Rowan and that rocked my world.

From one of TFAs: “You know, I watch House of Cards. I haven’t seen Scandal yet, but Michelle has watched Scandal. I have to tell ya, life in Washington is a little more boring than displayed on the screen,” Obama said.."

Two words: THANK GOD.

I started watching on a whim during lunches at work. Once the "Gideon" incident happened and I cursed aloud, I realized I could no longer watch at work. I emailed my husband and asked him to watch two episodes. He's a history teacher and a slight TV snob. The next night, he told me to hold up watching my episodes so he could catch up. Now we analyze the significance of whatever color Olivia's wearing and blurt out our own crazy made-up twists. (We really want Adnan to be Olivia's half-sister.)

I'd watch a show of nothing but Olivia, Mellie and crazy Sally Langston. (running a hotel! In Miami!) I also have a tiny, selfish hope that B613 gets a spinoff so that Jake and Eli/Rowan can eat up more scenery.
posted by kimberussell at 5:17 AM on March 31 [1 favorite]


But given a choice between the two, I'd take House of Cards in a heartbeat, because it's realistic enough to appeal to those of us who can appreciate the skill of crafting a satisflying plot around freaking congressional rules

So on the one hand, I could watch a show like that, assuming that it didn't piss me off with too many "What the fuck do you mean? This would be considered under suspension of the rules, and they just said it was Thursday!" things.

But in real life, I made it through about 30 seconds of Kevin Spacey's accent and had to turn it off.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:36 AM on March 31 [3 favorites]


What Xenophobe said re: Spacey's awful fake southern drawl. Unbearable. And Scandal, while somewhat compelling in a pulpy way, was full of people too full of themselves to be sympathetic.
posted by grumpybear69 at 6:50 AM on March 31


Having just finished HoC season 2, this thread motivated me to watch the first episode of Scandal. Or at least ten minutes of it, which I will never get back. For those in danger of making the same mistake, beware that in reality the two shows do not merit any sort of comparison whatsoever.
posted by moorooka at 2:34 PM on April 1


If you only watched ten minutes of the first episode of a television show and then feel entitled to not only cast judgment upon it in its entirety, but to do so publicly, others can and should make of your judgment or lack thereof what they will.
posted by stenseng at 4:07 PM on April 1


Unless that was the most embarrassingly unrepresentative first ten minutes of a show in television history, I feel ample entitlement to (publically) describe the two shows as categorically different in quality. They're both set in Washington but that's where the similarities end, alas. (My partner was watching too and had the same opinion, so it was really twenty wasted human-minutes to be bitter about.)
posted by moorooka at 9:37 PM on April 1


Or at least ten minutes of it, which I will never get back.

More for me! I watched the pilot yesterday, and we're binge-watching it this whole weekend. So good, so fun!
posted by rtha at 6:04 PM on April 19 [1 favorite]


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