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It'd be a Scandal not to check out these new shows

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Bacon and eggs. Peanut butter and jelly. Canada and hockey. Politicians and scandal.

Some things just go together, don't you think?

Perhaps that's why Grey's Anatomy creator Shonda Rhimes has found such fertile ground for TV drama in the setting of her new series, which is fittingly and rather obviously titled Scandal.

It's about politics, or, at least, the down-and-dirty, deep-background, behind-the-scenes bits that happen on the darker side of the posturing and spin-doctoring that gets served up for public consumption.

Scandal, which premieres tonight at 9 on ABC and Citytv, takes place in the shadowy world of political fixers, where problems get solved by any means necessary and the folks in need of solutions will pay any price that's asked.

Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) is the fixer, a former White House communications director who now operates her own crisis-management firm in Washington, D.C. In a world where power means everything, she is both respected and feared, because she's well connected, discreet, ruthless and very, very good at what she does.

Our introduction to Olivia's deeply private world comes in a very public place, where a wide-eyed young lawyer named Quinn Perkins (Katie Lowes) thinks she has been set up on a blind date. But the guy she meets isn't interested in a romantic connection; instead, Harrison Wright (Columbus Short) informs her that it's a job interview and that Pope wants to hire her.

Of course, she says yes, and before she or we have a chance to absorb what has happened, Perkins and Wright are in the war room at Pope's office, where a decorated war hero has just walked in, covered in blood, insisting that he's not responsible for the death of his girlfriend.

Olivia looks him in the eye, asks the obvious question, and then follows the gut instinct that tells her to take the case because he's innocent.

What follows is a rather stylish whodunit in which the investigators are not bound by the messy legal intricacies that so often hamstring TV cops and lawyers. Washington, as Pope, is a powerful force who's clearly up to the challenge of carrying the bulk of the narrative weight, and she's aided by a very appealing supporting cast, led by Short and Lost alumnus Henry Ian Cusick.

Of course, since this is a Rhimes creation, there are also plenty of romantic messes and off-the-job entanglements to be considered, including one that could lead all the way to the Oval Office.

It's smart, though not overly complex, and the pacing and performances suggest that this could easily become the same kind of addictive fun for political-drama fans that Grey's has been for the doctor-devoted set.

-- -- --

Super Channel shoots for the Starz: Premium TV's Super Channel continues to add to its roster of high-quality series titles, this week introducing a pair of intriguing new titles from U.S. cable's Starz network (the Stateside specialty net whose recent push into original drama includes the CGI-driven Spartacus bloodbaths).

One is a first-rate political potboiler that shows a very different side of one of TV's most enduring sitcom stars, and the other is a retro-themed drama that showcases the style and swagger of Miami Beach in the late 1950s. Both are very much worth a look.

Boss, which premieres Friday at 8 p.m. on Super Channel, stars Kelsey Grammer as Chicago Mayor Tom Kane, a ruthlessly effective and beloved politician in a town with a long tradition of crime and corruption among its elected officials.

Kane has accomplished a lot, but feels he has a lot more to do. And, in the opening moments of Friday's premiere, he realizes that there's a ticking clock guiding both his career and his life after a doctor informs him he has an incurable degenerative brain disorder.

Grammer, as Kane, brings a startling level of purposeful fury as he portrays a man struggling to deal with the consequences of a betrayal -- by his own body -- that he could not have foreseen and, in the long term, cannot overcome. Simply put, he's a hard guy not to watch.

Super Channel's other newcomer, Magic City, is a sun-soaked and deliciously mobbed-up serial set in the resort-hotel world of Miami during the late '50s -- a time of massive hotel developments, alluring Rat-Pack-era celebrity sightings, and political intrigue both at home and in nearby brink-of-revolution Cuba.

Ike Evans (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) is a man who has seemingly made his dream of running a top-notch hotel in the town called "Magic City" come true. But of course, as is the case with all magic, nothing is quite as it seems.

Self-made man Ike actually owes much of his success -- and perhaps, most of his soul -- to local mob boss Ben Diamond (Danny Huston), an ego-crazed gangster who isn't likely to enjoy playing the silent-partner role for much longer. It's a dose of reality Ike is most eager to keep from his sons, Danny and Stevie (Christian Cooke, Steven Strait).

And on New Year's Eve, 1958, with a hotel full of guests, a Sinatra show booked in the main showroom and a mob of union protesters threatening to block the entrance of the Miramar Playa on the biggest night of its young life, there will be fireworks.

Beautifully appointed, well acted and breezy in its approach to storytelling, Magic City might be just the kind of end-of-week getaway the Friday-night cable schedule needs.

brad.oswald@freepress.mb.ca

TV REVIEW

Scandal

Starring Kerry Washington, Henry Ian Cusick, Columbus Short and Tony Goldwyn

Tonight at 9

ABC and Citytv

3 1/2 stars out of 5

Boss

Starring Kelsey Grammer and Kathleen Robertson

Friday at 8 p.m.

Super Channel

4 stars out of 5

Magic City

Starring Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Steven Strait and Christian Cooke

Friday at 9 p.m.

Super Channel

4 stars out of 5

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 5, 2012 D6

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