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‘Scandal’ season 6 premiere review: Prepare to be shocked

Kerry Washington returns as Olivia Pope for the

Kerry Washington returns as Olivia Pope for the sixth season of ABC's "Scandal," Thursday night, Jan. 25, 2017.  Photo Credit: ABC / Tony Rivetti

THE SERIES “Scandal”

WHEN | WHERE Thursday night at 9 on WABC / 7

GRADE B+

WHAT IT’S ABOUT In the long-delayed sixth season premiere, “Scandal” at last gets down to the matter of electing the 45th president. Who will it be? Mellie Grant (Bellamy Young), and her team -- headed by Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington)? Or Francisco Vargas (Ricardo Chavira) and his team, lead by Cyrus Beene (Jeff Perry), also Vargas’s vice president? It’s election night, and tensions are running high ... The episode is entitled, “Survival of the Fittest.”

MY SAY “No spoilers here!” How many times have you heard that promise -- only to have it promptly broken by a word or a wink or a nod, or some unintentional, albeit dopey, giveaway that may not giveaway the whole plot but the general thrust and parry of the thing.

But no spoilers here. The best way to approach the return of “Scandal’s” sixth season is to offer generalities and so those you’ll get. Foremost, the return of Washington: She looks great. That vague enough?

Shonda Rhimes also seems like she had a good time writing this -- that Shondaesque sense of humor pops up in the damndest places -- and you’ll have a good time watching this, too. But do remember that this is “Scandal.” Anything can happen, the crazier the better. Anything will.

More generalities: Joe Morton -- Rowan Pope, of course -- is great (of course). Give him a line, a word, a speech, a sneer, a grimace, an insult, a gesture ... give him the SLIGHTEST opening and he’ll charge through. And he sure does here.

More generalities still: Mary Tyler Moore died Wednesday at the age of 80, and watching the fine female protagonists of “Scandal” at work, you too may be left with the sense that in some hard-to-define way they walk in her footsteps. Before “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” the notion of an independent unmarried woman in a workplace setting on a TV series was inconceivable, or at least to the three networks that did all the conceiving back in those days. Diahann Carroll’s “Julia” (‘68-71’) was the first TV series with a black female lead -- that was groundbreaking enough -- but in the workplace, she was still secondary: A nurse more consumed with romantic interests as opposed to professional ones. There was Marlo Thomas in “That Girl” but even the title diminished her character while giving away the show’s larger preoccupations: Will that girl EVER marry Donald Hollinger?

There have been plenty of strong, central, memorable female protagonists since “MTM” but “Scandal” has four: Washington; Darby Stanchfield’s Abby Whelan; Bellamy Young’s Mellie Grant; and Katie Lowes’ Quinn Perkins. If you like – and no reason not to – also throw in Portia de Rossi’s Elizabeth North and Kate Burton’s Sally Langston. Strong protagonists all, and memorable. They dominate their scenes (sorry, no de Rossi or Burton Thursday night), and Rhimes make certain they get the best lines.

Could “Scandal” or could THEY have gotten to this point without “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” breaking through that much-discussed ceiling all those years ago? Maybe. It’s just hard to see how.

BOTTOM LINE Fans will love the sixth season opener. Prepare to be shocked. This is “Scandal,” after all.

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