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Television’s best and worst hidden pregnancies

Kerry Washington spent the winter awards season proudly showing off her baby bump in beautiful gowns. But things have been dramatically different for Washington’s character Olivia Pope on “Scandal.” Pope — everyone’s favorite gladiator/fixer — is not pregnant on the show. Her white and iced lavender wardrobe has suddenly grown darker. Her coats look a bit more like ponchos, and in recent weeks, every scene featuring Washington has her character standing behind a lamp, a desk, or being tightly embraced by Tony Goldwyn (President Fitzgerald Thomas Grant III). It’s time for someone to invent a “Scandal” drinking game. Whenever Washington is filmed from the shoulders up, take a drink.

But Washington’s pregnancy has remained better hidden on TV than most. For decades, costumers have struggled to conceal pregnant actresses whose characters are not pregnant in a show’s plotline as directors scramble to find clever ways to film around them, or writers simply incorporate weight gain into the story line. When “The Nanny” actress Lauren Lane became very, very pregnant during the fifth season of the show, her character, C.C. Babcock, went on a tongue-in-cheek rant about how poorly Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s pregnancy was hidden on “Seinfeld.” Later in the episode, she appeared carrying a poster covering her bump for a new musical called “Baby.”

Not every show is able to poke fun at itself in the way “The Nanny” once did. Here’s a look at some of the best and worst attempts to hide growing bumps.

THE BAD


Photofest

“I Love Lucy”

  • During the second season of the show, Lucille Ball became pregnant with son Desi Arnaz Jr. The pregnancy was written into the story, but in the weeks leading up to the announcement, Ball was clearly expecting as she wore maternity blouses. Unless he was visually impaired or spending all of his time at the Tropicana, Ricky Ricardo couldn’t have been surprised by Lucy’s news.

Chris Haston/NBC

“Will & Grace”

  • No number of muumuus, jackets, or oversize purses could hide a very pregnant Debra Messing. At one point, it felt as if creative talents behind the show simply gave up and parked Messing being Will Truman’s (Eric McCormack) table and left her there until she skipped out on the show’s final four episodes for bed rest.

Getty Images/FILE

“Frasier”

  • Jane Leeves’s season seven pregnancy was handled with all the subtlety of a raccoon knocking over a trash can. Writers heaped fat jokes on Leeves’s character, blaming her weight gain on binge eating and putting her in a series of ridiculous outfits. Show writers eventually sent her to fat camp, and it was a relief to no longer hear those jokes. Pictured: Leeves at the Emmys in 2000.

Justin Lubin/nbc

“Parks and Recreation”

  • When you have a political character who favors power pantsuits over dresses, hiding a pregnancy becomes next to impossible unless you opt to take the dreaded prop-and-desk route. Star Amy Poehler hid behind nearly every object in fictional Pawnee, including a giant time capsule. Her pregnancy was still obvious.

THE GOOD

Craig Blankenhorn/HBO

“Sex and the City”

  • Not every actress is as fortunate as Sarah Jessica Parker when it comes to wardrobe. Her character Carrie Bradshaw was known for experimenting with fashion, so it made sense to put a pregnant Parker in custom-made billowy blouses and baby doll dresses. It also helped that season five of “SATC” was shortened from 13 to eight episodes and Parker’s pregnancy weight-gain was minimal.

AMC

“Mad Men”

  • It would have been easy for “Mad Men” writers to create a story involving a pregnant Betty Francis. Instead, they made January Jones’s character even larger by giving the actress a benign tumor on her thyroid. After months of attempting to “slenderize,” Betty’s condition was treated and the weight came off, just as Jones lost the baby weight.

Jason Merritt/Getty Images

“How I Met Your Mother”

  • There was a tidal wave of grumbling over the show’s finale earlier this week, but the pregnancy of Alyson Hannigan (right, at the 2012 People’s Choice Awards) was smartly written into season four of the show as her character Lily Aldrin developed competitive eating skills. Would a woman grow a gut that looked like an advancing pregnancy from eating so many hot dogs? We’d say it’s totally ridonkulous.

Jessica Miglio/NBC

“30 Rock”

  • Jenna Maroney would be a horrible mother (a fact acknowledged many times on “30 Rock”), so Jane Krakowski’s pregnancy was kept out of the show. Instead, the horrifically insecure Maroney gained weight after appearing in “Mystic Pizza: The Musical.” Her character capitalized on the gain by becoming spokesmodel for Enorme, a perfume for plus-size women. Krakowski looked pregnant rather than plus-size, but she was outfitted in such ridiculous and brave wardrobe choices (roller skates! puppy costume!) that it was difficult not to love the story line. Right: Krakowski as Maroney.

Christopher Muther can be reached at christopher.muther@globe.com.

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