With its intelligent, rapid- fire dialogue and plot twists dealing with the steamy, shady, secretive and occasionally deadly behind-the- scenes activities in Washington, it's no wonder political thriller Scandal has become a firm favourite on US television.
The series revolves around the crisis management team at Olivia Pope and Associates, experts at hiding secrets and making problems - and sometimes people - disappear.
Although it seems like nothing could possibly stick to Teflon suit- wearing chief-fixer Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington), she harbours possibly the biggest secret of them all - her affair with President Fitzgerald Grant (Tony Goldwyn), for whom she was previously communications director.
As season three kicks off in the US, Australian audiences are finally set to see season two of the drama headed by Washington, who became the first African-American woman to anchor a prime-time drama on American network television in many years when the show launched there in April last year.
Washington, who has juggled Scandal with her career in movies including Django Unchained, was not worried about the pressure on her; she was more interested in how the audience would react.
"Lots of people have been doing it beautifully on cable like Jada (Pinkett Smith), it is very exciting," Washington said, of playing Olivia, on set in Los Angeles earlier this year.
"I feel most proud of our world. The pressure wasn't on us; the pressure was on audiences in America and now in other countries all over the world.
"Are our audiences ready to embrace protagonists that look like lots of different people? Are we ready to have the heroes of our stories to be men and women, black and white, or Asian? For me, I feel really proud to live in a world where a show like Sandal could be a success.
"It's not that this show couldn't be done by really talented actresses before me; the fact the world is ready to now embrace this character as the lead of a show is phenomenal.
"But also I think the credit goes to the cast. This really is an ensemble show, there are no weak links; this is one of the most talented casts I have ever worked with."
The season opens with Olivia and her team battling to defend Quinn Perkins, whose real identity, Lindsay Dwyer, was discovered after the murder of reporter Gideon Wallace by Billy Chambers. Quinn is now on trial for killing seven people including her boyfriend by sending a parcel bomb.
Quinn has no idea how she came to be in Washington with a new identity but viewers will quickly discover through flashbacks that some of Olivia's staff know more than they are letting on.
"We know who Quinn Perkins is but we don't know why and that continues throughout the season," explained Katie Lowes, who plays Quinn.
"It is sort of the centre of the vortex of all the things that are coming together, all the conspiracies are connected through that 'why'.
"It's sort of the tipping point to the much bigger conspiracy we spend the first 13 episodes of the season finding out."
There are plenty of flashbacks this season to help fill in the pieces of various puzzles, personal and political.
"They use that device a lot to look into Fitz and Olivia's relationship when it was good and when they were together," Lowes said. "There are lots of flashbacks for Quinn when she was Lindsay Dwyer."
The role of President Fitzgerald's wife Mellie Grant has been increased this season; they are expecting "America's baby" - something she believes will be great for their relationship and the country.
"Mellie is very devoted both to her man and to her life and I think for her, the two things are very entwined," Bellamy Young, who plays Mellie, said.
"She has a very specific idea of how things should be run, how things should be done, she is coming from a very honest place about it.
"She has never been comporting herself as anything else.
"She has been very clear with Fitz, very clear with everyone; everyone's on board with Mellie's agenda. Well, aware of Mellie's agenda. I think she has told herself she is doing the best she can and the best for everyone."
Young has no doubt Mellie will stop at nothing to save her marriage.
"Mellie loves him; it is just hard to see the person you truly love find his true love with a different person years into your marriage.
"We are meeting them at such a sad. difficult moment but there are years and decades of marriage before. They worked so well as partners before he discovered it wasn't love."
'This really is an ensemble show, there are no weak links; this is one of
the most talented casts that I have ever workedwith.'