Crime Times: A Different Type of ‘Scandal’

One of the most frustrating things that can happen to a show is the writing off of a character because of something its actor or actress did off-camera.

It’s happened outside of crime dramas before, but now the sort of punishment is something that could very well happen with Columbus Short, who plays Harrison Wright on ABC’s “Scandal.” Short, 31, was arrested on March 26 after a bar altercation earlier in the month resulted in a man unconscious and rushed to the hospital, according to the LA Times.

Short allegedly got into the fight after a middle-aged man insulted Short’s wife. This then led to the same patron being knocked out by Short, who left the scene. As reported by CNN, the Claremont Police Department arrested Short last Wednesday, but he was then released on $50,000 bail. He is charged with felony battery. The Daily Mail also wrote that the charge can put Short in jail for up to four years.

The Daily Mail also pointed out this is not the first time Short has been in trouble for “violent behavior.” Earlier this month, he was involved in a “domestic dispute with his wife,” and last February, “He was said to have been arrested for physically attacking his wife in front of their children.” This, mind you, was after an incident in a Los Angeles gym back in June 2010, which earned him three years of informal probation. The LA Times reported that story as well, writing that the probation simply stated that he could not “threaten or use violence on anyone.” That probation was up, however, when the newest incident occurred last month.

ABC – the channel “Scandal” is on – strives to come across as the “family network,” the network families can watch together. Its reputation also stems from the fact that ABC is owned by Disney, and is affiliated with channels such as ABC Family. It is supposed to be a family-oriented channel.

Is it ethical, then, to have someone who is said to have physically attacked his wife in front of his children to continue to be a star for that network?

The answer could very well be “no.” ABC has every right to pull actors from programs if they do not represent the company well. Even if he did not attack his wife in front of his kids, the other acts of violence must certainly be alarming to the network. Short’s actions go directly against what ABC stands for. The network would not be wrong if they decided to write Harrison Wright out of the series. And there are ways to write a main character out of a series: “CSI” did it with Warrick Brown, “CSI: New York” did it with Stella Bonasera,Warehouse 13” did it with Leena and countless other shows have bid farewell to a main character. It’s actually not that uncommon of a practice in television in general.

The main point is that Short seems to have some qualities that might not be appropriate for ABC’s standards. At the end of the day, ABC needs to protect its reputation and its “family friendly” approach. Actors can be replaced, but inappropriate responses to inexcusable acts of violence cannot be forgiven.

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