There will be less Scandal on ABC‘s schedule this season than originally planned. The network has reduced the order for the hot Shonda Rhimes drama from 22 to 18 episodes. The network wouldn’t give a reason for the cutback but, of course, it is not because ABC doesn’t want a full season of Scandal — it would gladly take 40 episodes a season from its new flagship drama series if it could. But Scandal star Kerry Washington is pregnant, and it’s getting hard to hide the pregnancy in loose-fitting clothes for the normally super stylish and elegant Olivia Pope — and it’s hard to reduce Washington’s workload as Pope is the show and in most scenes. The episode reduction would probably be an unexpected but welcome relief for Scandal‘s writers as it is extremely hard to sustain a dense serialized drama like Scandal for a 22-episode season. (The show did seven episodes in Season 1 and 22 in Season 2.) Scandal cannot be hotter — season-to-date, the series is up 57% in adults 18-49 (4.4) and 50% in total viewers (12.6 million) vs. last year. It is the fastest-growing returning series this season and in the so-important C3 ratings that determine ad revenues, Scandal just moved ahead of NBC’s breakout The Blacklist (3.58 rating vs. 3.55). Scandal also has been regularly building on its Grey’s Anatomy lead-in, by a best-ever 29% last night. A pregnancy of a series’ leading lady has led to shortening a season before, most recently with HBO’s True Blood and Anna Paquin.