The Emmys and last week's Breaking Bad-gasm notwithstanding, network TV hasn't entirely given up its spot on the "coolness radar" to cable.
Sure, Homeland has President Obama as a fan.
But that other show about chicanery and secrets in Washington, ABC's Scandal, has Oprah Winfrey as a die-hard (she's called it, "a new moment in our culture"). And one fervent tweeter is Marion Barry, the erstwhile Washington mayor best known for his own scandal involving crack cocaine (no, I said WASHINGTON mayor).
And its star Kerry Washington is the cover girl du jour, graduating from everybody's movie wife (Django Unchained, Ray) to arguably the most powerful female character on TV.
The series, which begins its third season Thursday, follows the further murky adventures of Republican ex-presidential-spokesperson/fixer-for-hire Olivia Pope (Washington) and her team of "gladiators in suits" at Olivia Pope and Associates.
A Republican war hero turned politico with a secret gay double-life and a dead girlfriend? They can spin that. A Supreme Court justice candidate with an iffy sex life? Easily fixable. Need some wiggle room from the cops when someone turns up inconveniently dead? Olivia has considerable pull with the various levels of law enforcement.
Think Condoleeza Rice turned mercenary. Or an upscale, Beltway version of Ray Donovan, combined with The Good Wife's always sellable angle of the cold fury of a woman scorned (did we mention Olivia has a bitter, serial affair with the aforementioned President Grant, played by Tony Goldwyn?).
Part of what sets Scandal apart, especially from a series like The Good Wife, is that Olivia didn't empower her way up from victim in the course of the show. She hit the ground running in the very first episode as one of the most powerful non-elected people in the Capital, male or female - and a particularly dangerous one now that she's gone freelance.
All the while, she maintains her femininity and role as "mother" to the gladiators.
If that's catnip to its female audience, all audiences can savour Scandal's underlying message - that Washington is one big cesspool of outwardly noble hypocrites with ignoble secrets that hover over their careers like a constant storm cloud.
Even, of course, Olivia herself. Otherwise fueled by moral indignation, as the third season opens, she's still guiltily sitting on damning secrets about the election of President Fitzgerald Grant.
It's a sign of integrity by producer Shonda Rhimes (Grey's Anatomy, Private Practice) that one of the few African-American women protagonists on TV shouldn't get away with being an unequivocal heroine. Similarly, openly-gay White House Chief of Staff Cyrus Beene (Jeff Perry) breaks the patronizing best-friend/supportive trope into which gay characters usually fall. He is one ruthless operator, albeit one who believes in his own righteousness, who is not above "playing" his own journalist husband as a means to an end.
It's fun to imagine the powerful as completely and wholly corrupt. God knows, a lot of them are - enough, at least, to keep the writers' imaginations alive on Scandal for another season or two.