The concept of Notorious is both its blessing and its curse. It’s no secret that ABC has a particular brand when it comes to choosing the majority of its lineup: complex woman, high profile careers, and romantic roller coasters. It’s nothing new. Sometimes there are personal secrets and sometimes there are outside obstacles, but the blueprint for a successful ABC show more or less remains the same.
This is where Notorious finds its blessing in that it follows this model to a T and still remains an enjoyable enough show for those looking for another soapy indulgence. But, if you are looking for a show to invest in rather than a show that will just act as superficial entertainment, Notorious' cookie-cutter format is its curse.
It only takes a couple minutes for any watcher to realize that Notorious is just a lesser grade, more bland version of Scandal. That doesn’t mean it's inherently terrible; it just means it's not necessarily original. It’s hard to think of where this show would have ended up had Scandal not been pushed mid-season because of Kerry Washington’s pregnancy. Notorious feels like a replacement Scandal with tinges of How to Get Away with Murder, and it might just be the best TGIT companion ABC had it in its arsenal. So it adds up as to why they gave Notorious that golden Thursday 9pm time slot.
Piper Perabo stars as Julia George, the pseudo Olivia Pope, but, instead of handling the White House, she handles the media circus and her TV show. Same premise, different locale. Perabo is great in the complex woman role, but, with writing that isn’t as sharp and with stakes not as high, Julia George is no Olivia Pope. Maybe that’s why Notorious banks on the will they/won’t they chemistry between Julia and Jake Gregorian (Daniel Sunjata) to help sell the show.
Jake and Julia, a lawyer and a news producer, collaborate to pull the strings (or, as Olivia would say, “handle”) the news and have the media eat out of the palm of their hands to benefit both of their careers. Sunjata, with his smile and cool demeanor, is definitely a smooth talker and a charmer, and it is fun to see these two simultaneously manipulate and aid each other in their respective zones.
Possibly something to help Notorious individualize itself from the fellow TGIT fodder is the strong supporting cast, which includes alums from beloved shows such as Angel and Friday Night Lights. It’s not hard to see Aimee Teegarden and Ryan Guzman as the quintessential sexy millennials who, no doubt, will eventually be hooking up on a work desk. Likewise, J. August Richards fits well as the Abby or Daniel Rosen of the series.
Overall, the show is not bad, but it's not on our must watch list either. There’s a little too much going on in the pilot aside from the main storyline. Julia’s love life is supposed to deepen her character, but it doesn’t completely hit the mark. We did love the quick pace of the show with its energetic dialogue and swapping scenery, though, all of which help keep the viewer engaged. There is also a final twist at the end of the episode that no doubt will remind most of other Shondaland shows, but it will also hook viewers into riding this bumpy roller coaster -- at least for another couple of episodes.
ABC obviously has a lot of faith in the show, as it has placed it behind Grey’s Anatomy (ABC’s highest rated drama), which will help it draw in viewers as the fall TV season progresses. It is, however, paired against FOX’s buzzy, more original show, Pitch. It will be interesting to see if Notorious can pull in the ratings ABC hopes it will.
BOTTOM LINE: Notorious is a perfect fit in the soapy, sexy, Shondaland that ABC has crafted for itself on Thursday nights. Here’s to hoping that Notorious can stop trying to be Scandal and start trying to be -- if not notorious -- at least noteworthy.
You can watch a clip of the premiere, featuring Julia (Piper Perabo) and Jake (Daniel Sunjata), below.
Notorious premieres on September 22 at 9/8c on ABC.