‘Ray Donovan’ Vs. ‘Scandal’: Could TV Fixers Handle Real-Life Crises?
Could TV ‘fixers’—Showtime’s Ray Donovan or Olivia Pope of ‘Scandal’—cut it in real life? By Kevin Fallon.
Give Liev Schreiber a bat, and he’ll make all your problems go away. That’s the terrifying lesson from the first episode of Showtime’s new drama Ray Donovan, which premieres Sunday night and already has its first episode up for free on YouTube. The ultra-intense series stars Schreiber as Donovan, the go-to “fixer” for Hollywood’s rich and famous who in the first episode creatively helps to cover up possible murders and a major celeb’s accidental tryst with a transsexual.
Schreiber’s Donovan is now TV’s second major fixer, alongside Kerry Washington’s Olivia Pope on Scandal. On the hit ABC series, Pope’s crisis management includes everything from helping recover an ambassador’s kidnapped baby, to attempting to keep a rigged election brushed under the rug, and—of course—disguising the president’s secret affair with Pope herself. So what if Donovan and Pope existed in real life? Here, we imagine how they could’ve managed some of the most notable recent scandals.
The problem: After blowing the lid off the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs, Snowden fled to Hong Kong and then Russia, facing charges of espionage if he returns to or is extradited to the U.S. After Ecuador’s foreign minister announced that the country’s government is “analyzing” whether to grant Snowden asylum, it was reported that Snowden was on a plane to Cuba.
The fixer: Olivia Pope. Fooling all those journalists into thinking that Snowden was on that plane to Cuba was a move straight from Olivia Pope’s playbook. BBC reports that at least two dozen journalists packed the Havana-bound flight they assumed Snowden would be on, only to photograph the whistleblower’s empty seat from 30,000 feet above the Atlantic. Of course, if Pope were in charge, Snowden would already be in a secluded estate somewhere, reunited with his girlfriend, preparing to live the rest of his life under an assumed identity … happily ever after.
NATIONAL SECURITY AGENCY
The problem: Big Brother’s been watching. Snowden leaked highly confidential documents detailing National Security Agency surveillance programs that gave the Obama administration access to telephone records and data, as well as the “PRISM” program, which collected information from Google and Facebook.
The fixer: Ironically, also Olivia Pope. Sure, Pope would’ve been Snowden’s best bet for eluding espionage charges and detainment, but she’d also never have let the confidential documents leak in the first place. Her team would’ve, through the glorious deus ex machina that guides Scandal, somehow been tipped off to Snowden’s conversations with The Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald and strong-armed both parties into squashing the story before it was published.
The problem: The South African “Blade Runner” became the first double amputee to compete in the Olympics, making the heartthrob an international hero. All that came crumbling down when he was charged with the murder of his girlfriend after fatally shooting her in their bathroom. Pistorius claims he thought the person in the bathroom was an intruder and that his girlfriend was sleeping in their bed. Prosecutors allege that the murder was premeditated.
The fixer: Ray Donovan. If Donovan can get his client through waking up next to a dead hooker, he can get Pistorius through a murder case in which there’s actually a (granted, depending on who you ask) believable back story.
TORONTO MAYOR ROB FORD
The problem: Gawker and The Toronto Star both report they’ve seen a video in which Toronto Mayor Rob Ford allegedly smokes crack—next to someone who appears to be a now-slain drug dealer, to boot. As coverage of the scandal spirals, key members of Ford’s staff abandon his administration.
The fixer: Olivia Pope. No one knows the lengths it takes to keep an embarrassing, career-ruining tape under wraps as well as Olivia Pope, who had, at least for two seasons, done just that by keeping the tape of her having sex with President Grant a secret. It seems in the finale that the cat may be out of the bag, with reporters asking her if she’s sleeping with the president. But at this point, with the number of boneheaded PR moves Ford has made, the Toronto mayor would be lucky to have his tape stay secret for half as long.
The problem: The football player warmed the hearts of the nation by telling media outlets that his girlfriend died after a battle with leukemia, but that he’d keep playing through the emotional pain. It turns out, however, that the girlfriend didn’t exist and the whole thing was a hoax. But Te’o said he was also a victim, duped by a friend playing an elaborate practical joke—and defended himself against skeptics who said he couldn’t possibly have had a longtime girlfriend whom he never met.
The fixer: Ray Donovan. In the pilot of Ray Donovan, Donovan helps an action-movie-star client who claims he unknowingly picked up a transsexual—a PR nightmare. In fact, the PR nightmare that Donovan saved his client from (by employing Crisis Management 101: changing the story) is exactly the debacle Te’o found himself and his image suffering through when the hoax was leaked. It would have been all too easy for someone like Donovan to get ahead of the story and paint Te’o as the victim long before the media cried foul over the hoax.
The problem: The celebrity chef and mogul was sued by a former employee for harassment. In her deposition related to the case, Deen admitted to having used the N word in the past and at one point wanting to stage a Southern-plantation-style wedding in which all the waiters were black and served guests like slaves. She has since been fired by the Food Network.
The fixer: Either. Someone. Anyone. Honestly, perhaps no PR team ever has handled a situation so poorly. Amid the initial uproar over her usage of the N word, Deen’s company released a baffling apology on her behalf saying that it’s OK that she used the word because she did it a long time ago and, besides, she's old and from the South, where that used to be OK. Then she released three successive apology videos in which, done up in almost cartoonishly awful makeup, she mutters about being sorry in her heart while sitting in what appears to be the reception area of a dentist’s office. Pope, Donovan, me, you, my 5-year-old cousin … pretty much anyone would’ve been smart enough to, if in charge of her PR, simply say, “Just keep your mouth shut and maybe it will blow over.” Instead, Deen’s crisis-management strategy was a model disaster.