In our cover story this week, T.A Frank surveys the eight current TV shows set in the nation's capital to see which come closest to understanding Washington—and "Homeland" and "House of Cards" wind up with a failing grade. Maybe you expected "Scandal," a show that's so self-consciously operatic and over-the-top it can be exhausting, to rank just as badly. But the ABC hit—with its top-secret spy organization, multiple presidential murders, rigged elections, and back-from-the-dead parents—gets the twisted, paranoid spirit of Washington right, even if it exaggerates the details. Here are five clips that show just how "Scandal" nails Washington's self-deceiving cynicism:
Washington's political elite are all related or married to each other
The most powerful crisis manager in town is the daughter of the guy who runs a top-secret paramilitary organization? Of course. The president's chief-of-staff is married to a White House correspondent? Welcome to "This Town."
They convince themselves they're acting for a higher purpose...
Even election-rigging can be a "patriotic thing" if you're trying to put an honest man in the White House.
...As they stop at nothing to keep power
Affairs in the oval office
The soundbite slip-up
"Scandal"'s First Lady has her 47 percent moment.
Correction: This article originally stated that the vice president mas married to a White House correspondent; in fact, it the chief-of-staff's husband.