ABC's hit Scandal lives up to its name. It's the kind of show that (spoilers ahead) introduces, blows through, and wraps up a presidential-assassination plot in the space of a few episodes. The premise itself is crazy: Kerry Washington stars as D.C. crisis management and PR impresario Olivia Pope, who "fixes" the problems of political bigwigs and big business while also carrying out a tempestuous affair with the President of the United States.
Implausible, made-for-TV fiction? Absolutely. But in some ways, it's surprisingly true to reality. The show is based on the life and work of Judy Smith, a crisis manager who worked for the White House during George H.W. Bush's presidency and whose clients have included Monica Lewinsky and Michael Vick. While the D.C. crisis managers I spoke with say they would never proffer potential clients with the same kind of wizardry Olivia does, they do say the show gets something right: how the Internet shapes scandals.
Take the Season Two premiere, where Olivia takes on a Democratic congressman worried about that his secret sex tape will be leaked by a conservative website. Olivia and her team spend most of the episode trying to get a court to impose an injunction to prevent the video from being published, but when that fails, they decide to speed up the story so it burns out faster. "It's all about controlling the narrative. We email the footage to a bunch of friendly sources," she explains to the congressman. "We leak it to a celebrity gossip site so it doesn't have the spin of politics on it," her colleague adds.