For better or worse, Anatomy of a Scandal is the kind of series Netflix does well. The better? Take handsome actors in a slickly produced six-part series by David E. Kelley (Big Little Lies) in wealthy London and you have the makings of a quality . . . soap opera. Yet the scandal, if you will, is lack of effort to make it special. In Anatomy of a Scandal, you get the same old, same old. When the husband of a beautiful woman gets caught in an affair with a younger subordinate, why not re-use Paul Newman’s “why go out for hamburger, when you have steak at home?” Explaining same to that beautiful wife, recycle “it’s just sex; it didn’t mean anything.” Then, of course, a male chauvinist pig repurposes “my wife says once okay, twice go away.” Roll the eyes, please!
James Whitehouse is the Home Office Minister in Prime Minister Tom Southern’s cabinet. They’ve been best friends since their rowdy days at Oxford, some escapades known, others Omerta de Libertines. (Omerta means code of silence.) Two decades later, James’ five-month office affair with Olivia, an aide, hits the press. Once consensual, she now claims rape. Will Tom stand behind his friend or will Anatomy of a Scandal bring down the government? Certainly, the fallout will go far beyond these three. I give Anatomy of a Scandal 3.5 Gavels and it receives a 61% Rotten Tomatoes rating with a 7.1/10 IMDb score.
Kate Woodcroft, Q.C., rarely loses but typically shuns high profile cases. Yet, she can’t refuse prosecuting The Queen vs. James Whitehouse. Dating since their days at Oxford, Sophie Whitehouse thinks she knows her husband. Now, she wonders if clues were missed. As she listens to Olivia’s testimony, did she enable James’ behavior? Angela Regan, Q.C. for the defense, claims that James is a Conservative feminist, shaken to the core, that Olivia could misread and misrepresent what happened to her. Intercourse is not the issue. The affair ended one week prior, the issue is consent in an elevator.
Oddly, Olivia (Naomi Scott) almost becomes an afterthought as the series fixates on Sophie (Sienna Miller) and Kate (Michelle Dockery), both exceptional. You know Scott as Jasmine in Aladdin, Miller from 21 Bridges, and Dockery from Downton Abbey. If only Rupert Friend as James was the equal of his female counterparts . . .
When Sophie asks the nanny in Anatomy of a Scandal ”James is a good man, isn’t he?” The telling reply is ”he’s a man.” Is that an indictment of all men? Ultimately, Anatomy of a Scandal strains credibility with a highly unlikely twist involving Kate, she also a third-party in a marital affair. Is this a rape case or a revenge case?
“Don’t get me wrong, it’s garbage, but it’s high-end garbage and eminently binge-able. That kind of thing has its place.” Chicago Tribune
“But kudos to the three principal stars — Friend, Miller and Dockery — who hold the story together despite its absurdist twist and help the series retain its strangely gripping, binge-worthy status as it chugs toward its conclusion.” New York Post
Therein lies the answer, it’s binge-worthy, just not quality binge-worthy. Kelley can do better.