Men Who Love ‘Scandal’

His Side: How ABC's prime-time soap is turning guys into "gladiators."

Screenshot of Kerry Washington in Scandal (ABC)
Screenshot of Kerry Washington in Scandal (ABC)

(The Root) — Thursday night is date night at my apartment.

Nothing special, just drinks — a glass of water for me, red wine for her. We have not seen each other in months, and I’m excited to be reunited.

Her name is Olivia Pope.

We will meet in my living room, where she has shown up promptly at 10 p.m. on and off for the last 18 months. I will be on my couch. She will be in my television set.

She is not real, but my love for her, as she is played by Emmy-nominated actress Kerry Washington on the hit political drama Scandal, is very real.

Olivia and I will pick up where we last left off tonight with the season 3 premiere, and I will remain devoted to her week in and week out. I will tweet about Scandal incessantly while it airs. I will cut off any real dates with real women on Thursday nights by 9, and I will start every conversation on Friday with, “Did you watch Scandal last night?”

Trust me, this is not a familiar relationship. The only thing to which it can compare is my devotion to NFL football on Sundays (and Mondays). The other shows I love — House of Lies on Showtime, House of Cards on Netflix, Sportscenter on ESPN — don’t get this much dedication. I watch them when time allows. For Scandal, I make time, and what has surprised me most about my allegiance to Olivia and her cast of “gladiators” is that when I started watching in season 1, I didn’t see the relationship lasting this long.

Notice what’s the same about the other shows I mentioned as favorites. They center around men or are geared toward men. Scandal is anything but.

It is written and executive-produced by the amazing Shonda Rhimes. The show is also based on a woman, real-life crisis-management expert Judy Smith. And its popularity is driven by women. According to Nielsen, women viewers outnumbered male viewers 3 to 1 for both seasons, which makes me and guys like me as rare as a smile from Huck.

Often, the hook into the show for men is Kerry Washington, whose work I liked enough (I Think I Love My Wife, hello!) to give it a chance.

Scandal may be soap opera-esque in its storytelling, and more women than men may love it, but Rhimes has made gladiators out of a host of men, like Kevin Walker. He’s a married man who runs a printing press and is an assistant basketball coach at Meredith College in Raleigh, N.C.

During a slow summer day at the office, Walker decided to give the show a shot on Hulu. Four episodes later, he came home to tell his wife about his new favorite show. She was unconvinced, so Walker started season 2 without her, and soon the questions started coming. “She’s asking me these questions, and I told her to keep watching,” Walker says. “And, bam! She got hooked, looked at me and said, ‘I hate you.’ “