#Gladiators and #Olitz: ‘Scandal’ takes over Twitter

Devan Coggan, Copy Chief

If you’re on Twitter, you may have noticed that on Thursday nights, your feed devolves into a lot of nonsense about gladiators in suits and white hats. The normally articulate people you follow may begin tweeting with bizarre hashtags like #Olitz and the occasional incoherent keyboard smashing.

Welcome to the world of “Scandal,” the biggest show on Twitter.

Now in its third season, “Scandal” follows crisis management queen Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) as she tries to navigate the dark and dangerous world of Washington, D.C. As a political fixer, Pope pays her bills by fixing the dirty secrets of Washington’s political elite, but she’s got plenty of problems of her own (most notably her torrid love affair with the president of the United States, who happens to be married). Based partially on the life of George H.W. Bush’s deputy press secretary Judy Smith, “Scandal” feels like a soapier, more sordid “House of Cards.” The writing is sharp but believable, and each character feels like a living, breathing human being focused on only one thing: self-preservation.

The show does extremely well in the ratings each week and has inspired a practically rabid base of fans who have dubbed themselves “Gladiators,” the nickname for Pope’s team of fixers on the show. And each week, the Gladiators take to Twitter and offer their thoughts on everything from major plot developments to Pope’s wardrobe.

Impressively, ABC has embraced the show’s role on Twitter. The network even schedules the stars’ appearances so they will be available to tweet during live broadcasts, and when Washington (@kerrywashington) had to fly from New York to LA last month, ABC made sure she was on a flight with Wi-Fi.

Even the writers (@scandalwriters), the makeup department (@scandalmakeup) and the props guy (@scandalprops) chime in when the show airs, offering a behind-the-scenes look at what makes the show tick. Thanks to hashtags like #AskScandal, fans, cast and crew can interact and geek out together over every detail.

And the live tweeting experience extends beyond the actual broadcast of the show. If you choose to catch an episode the next day on Hulu, tweets pop up on screen as you’re watching. Sometimes a character you haven’t seen in two seasons unexpectedly reappears, and an on-screen message gently reminds you who they are and why they’re important. This could feel condescending from any other show, but in a series with this much backstabbing and drama, you’re going to need the occasional refresher.

“Scandal” is a show made for Twitter, and every episode has multiple one-liners, each one conveniently less than 140 characters. Plus, a show with this many plot twists lends itself perfectly not to lengthy commentary but to gut reactions and all-caps tweets of disbelief. So if next Thursday night your Twitter feed fills up with talk of rigged elections and white hats, think about tuning your TV to ABC and joining the world of #Scandal.

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Twitter: @DevanCoggan