"Revenge." "Missing." And now, "Scandal." ABC's new dramas aren't out to waste words.
The network's latest show with a strong female center stars Kerry Washington ("Ray") as Olivia Pope, a former White House power player now running her own crisis-management firm.
The character was inspired by Judy Smith, a former deputy press secretary to President George H.W. Bush - though their relationship was presumably less intimate than the one depicted here - who's now a crisis-management specialist, as well as one of the show's producers. (Also on her resume: a stint as a high-level spokeswoman for NBC.)
The show's set in Washington, where the crises that need managing are unending, so there's bound to be material, some of it all too familiar. Lansdale's Liza Weil ("Gilmore Girls") guest-stars, for instance, as a White House intern who's causing problems for Olivia's former boss.
But then, since this is a show created by Rhimes, whose adult characters tend to be in very close touch with their inner adolescents, smart women (and men) will no doubt be making plenty of foolish choices.
Olivia and the people who work for her - among them a character played by "Lost's" Henry Ian Cusick - talk a tough game (they're "gladiators in suits"). Just don't look for any more common sense from them than you would from anyone else in that town.
Naming sitcoms is apparently harder than it looks - apparently you can't just call them "Funny!" or "Unwatchable!" and NBC, whose charming (and largely overlooked) "Bent" (9 and 9:30 p.m. Wednesday, NBC10) seemed made to be broken, is doing only a little better with the possibly too-optimistic "Best Friends Forever" (8:30 p.m. Wednesday, NBC10).
Even "Friends" didn't promise forever and that was when NBC's viewers were so loyal they'd have watched a blank screen if it aired between "Friends" and "Seinfeld."
"Best Friends Forever" is better than a blank screen, but beyond setting what I think might be a 2011-12 season record - 0 to vagina joke in 15 seconds - it doesn't do much to break through the sitcom clutter.
Jessica St. Clair ("Bridesmaids") and Lennon Parham ("Accidentally on Purpose") star as characters named - wait for it - Jessica and Lennon, who used to be roommates in Brooklyn before Jessica got married and moved to the West Coast and Lennon got a live-in boyfriend (Luka Jones).
But now Jessica's getting divorced. And Lennon's inviting her to move back in.
I wish I could say hilarity ensues, but mostly it doesn't. On the other hand, it's replacing "Are You There, Chelsea?" (and following the new hidden-camera show "Betty White's Off Their Rockers," which might conceivably attract a larger audience than "Whitney"). So things could be worse.
On the documentary front, Katz's film on the yellow fever isn't the only one worth a look.
Women's History Month is over, but PBS' "American Masters" has back-to-back profiles tonight of two distinctly different women writers, each from the South and each with just one very big book to her name.
"Margaret Mitchell: American Rebel" (9 p.m., WHYY 12) tracks the life and career of the author of Gone With the Wind, while "Harper Lee: Hey, Boo" (10 p.m., WHYY 12) looks at the author of To Kill a Mockingbird. If you only have room on the DVR for one, "Hey, Boo," which I first saw on Netflix several months ago, is the better of the two films and will probably send you back to reread the book, which is never a bad thing.
On Thursday at 8, HBO presents the rather endearing "God Is the Bigger Elvis," an Oscar- nominated short film on actress Dolores Hart, who got her big break in Elvis Presley's "Loving You" and starred in a number of films, including "Where the Boys Are," before leaving it all behind - especially the boys - to become a Benedictine nun. n
Contact Ellen Gray at 215-854-5950 or firstname.lastname@example.org follow on Twitter @elgray.Read her blog at EllenGraytv.