The 10 Best Political Dramas and Comedies on Television

designated-survivorWill Hillary and Trump be watching HBO Veep and ABC Designated Survivor?

By Gabrielle Pantera

HOLLYWOOD, CA (Hollywood Daily Star) 2016/9/14 – The U.S. Presidential election is this November. Want to know what happens when a female President faces one PR crisis after another? Or, when a man who seems entirely unprepared becomes President? Television to the rescue. For the former, watch the HBO series Veep. For the latter, the ABC series Designated Survivor.

POTUS, that is, being the President Of The United States, makes for great television political drama or comedy. Become President through dastardly Machiavellian mischief, House of Cards, or… Try running a progressive European country while your family sabotages you daily with their personal dramas, Borgen. Pull the strings of the U.S. President as the President’s mistress, Scandal. Or, run a post-apocalyptic nation from a safe distance, The Last Ship.

If you want the glam of politics without all the messy effort of campaigning for office, The Royals. Let’s not forget Madam Secretary and Commander-in-Chief. When our taste runs more toward political reality, even activism, there’s the creative and very funny political comedy of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. Truly, television has a lot to offer for all of us into the drama and comedy of politics.

The newest political drama, Designated Survivor, is being heavily promoted by ABC for its September 21st premiere. It’s the story of the one cabinet member does not attend the President’s State of the Union address. After an explosion at the Capital Building, the “designated survivor” becomes the President. Keifer Sutherland is Secretary of Housing and Development Tom Kirkland, a low-level secretary and devoted family man.

The first episode of Designated Survivor beautifully sets up the drama. It’s quite gripping watching the capital in flames. This hasn’t happened, by the way, since British Major General Robert Ross set fire to the Capitol after defeating the American forces at the Battle of Bladensburg in 1814. Kirkland is a mild-mannered and reluctant hero. Leading the world without starting WWIII is the ultimate hero’s journey.

It’s political intrigue, his family life, and the FBI team trying to solve the mystery of who instigated the attack. Starring Kiefer Sutherland, Natascha McElhone, Maggie Q, Kal Penn, Adan Canto, Italia Ricci, LaMonica Garrett, and Tanner Buchanan.

Designated Survivor premieres September 21st, 2016, on ABC.

as Frank Underwood

Kevin Spacey as Frank Underwood

House of Cards is a no-holds barred story of American politics, of being determined to become President no matter what it takes. Renewed by Netflix, its 5th season will air in 2017. The hit British series of the same name aired in 1990, the story of ruthless political pursuit to rise to the office of Prime Minister. In the Netflix reboot, a corrupt US Rep who is the House Majority Whip uses every trick to become President, with more violence, anger and sexual exploits in the American version. Kevin Spacey as Frank Underwood behaves more like a Soprano gangster than a politician. Next season has a new showrunners, Melissa James Gibson and Frank Pugliese, both joined the show in the third season, and will be co-showrunners for the 2017season. Binge watch on Netflix, both the new series and the original British version.

Kerry Washington as Olivia Pope

Kerry Washington as Olivia Pope

Scandal launched on ABC in 2012. Kerry Washington is Olivia Pope, a Washington D.C. fixer having a secret affair the President. The series themes of bed-hopping and conflicting morals took a darker turn when it had the President order the torture of one of Pope’s lovers. Scandal has shadowed or anticipated many real-life political issues, such as torture, election rigging, and widespread illegal spying on American citizens by the government. As Snowden revealed on Wikileaks, the extent of real-life domestic spying is all too real.

Showrunner Shonda Rhimes is a master at getting you hooked on a show and to root for a character. They go too far, then, try to redeem themselves in the name of love or politics. All the characters are broken in some human way. The series return to ABC midseason 2016 . Also on the ABC app. Seasons one through five on Netflix. Hulu has season five. For purchase on Amazon.

Veep premiered on HBO in 2012, the same year as Scandal. Veep is the only current political comedy on TV. It’s sharp and crass, with self-obsessed big egos and office hacks. The truth to the clichés is the fun of the over-the-top story. Julia Louis-Dreyfus is a master of comedic timing. On HBO and HBO apps. Season one and two on Amazon prime free. Other seasons for purchase.

 Leoni stars as Elizabeth McCord,

Téa Leoni stars as Elizabeth McCord,

Madam Secretary premiered on CBS in 2014. Téa Leoni is Elizabeth McCord, a former CIA analyst and college professor who’s appointed Madam Secretary. She has to deal with politics within and outside the White house. She’s cool under pressure. Her family keeps her grounded. The show uses real life events, without revealing whether the White House is Democrat or Republican. Previous seasons on the CBS app. View five episodes free on the CBS website. For purchase on Amazon. New season premieres October 2nd, 2016, at 9/8c.

high-castleThe Man in the High Castle is alternate reality political world set in 1962. America has lost WW2 after Hitler dropped an atomic bomb on Washington. Like Cold War Berlin, North America has been partitioned off under the control of the victors. Except this time the victors are the Axis powers, not the Allies. The western U.S. is ruled by Japan. The Rockies is no man’s land. In the German sector, the East Coast, if you’re a minority or Jewish you’re either dead or trying to escape to the mountains. On the West coast the Japanese regime is not quite as cruel as the German side. Loosely based on the book by Philip K. Dick.

The Man in the High Castle is disturbing, and violent. However, you can’t help wanting to know how America will be brought back. The paranoia and biases of the show’s characters are a disturbing reminder of the divisions being played out in America today, whether it’s Trump’s anti-Hispanic wall or protests against police by Black Lives Matter. On Amazon Prime. Season two premieres on December 16th, 2016. Binge watch the first season of ten episodes now.

theroyals_s2_showsThe Royals is a lavish peek at a fictional Royal family of England. It’s soap opera fun, like Dallas or Dynasty. You think you know what will happen next, sometimes you do sometimes you don’t. There’s scandal, intrigue romance, sex and drama. Season 3 premieres Dec 4th at 10 p.m. ET/PT, on E!


commander-in-chiefCommander In Chief spanned 19 episodes from 2005 to 2006. Geena Davis is Mackenzie Allen, a female Vice President who becomes President. The show started off strong, but the revolving door of showrunners ultimately made for a too many cooks in the kitchen mash-up. Watch on Hulu. For purchase on Amazon.

AH_KeyArt_FM2.inddAlpha House premiered in 2013 and 2014 as an Amazon original series. Three Republican senators sharing a row house in Washington add a fourth roommate, Andy Guzman (Mark Consuelos), a freshman senator for Florida. Starring Matt Malloy, John Goodman, and Clark Johnson, the series has funny moments but couldn’t find its stride in ensemble or writing. Created by Doonesbury cartoonist Garry Trudeau, who also executive produced. The show is about politicians trying to keep their jobs, not actually doing anything for the people who elected them. It needed a hero’s journey or a House of Cards anti-hero to move the theme beyond self-preservation. On Amazon Prime.

Yes Prime Minister is a BBC-2 political comedy that premiered in 1986 and 1987. Like Designated Survivor, this is a story of being unprepared for leadership. This British farce features the inept Jim Hacker (Paul Eddington) and his conniving Cabinet Secretary Sir Humphrey Appleby (Nigel Hawthorne) and Bernard Woolley (Derek Fowlds) as his efficient private secretary. Series creators Sir Antony Jay and Jonathan Lynn continued the characters from a previous British sitcom, Yes Minister. A huge hit at the time, the story was rebooted a few years ago as a play in London’s West End (which I saw and found less believable than the TV series). Available for purchase by episodes or seasons on Amazon.

Borgen is a Danish political series that premiered in 2010 ran for three seasons. Because it’s in a foreign language, you may have missed this drama treat. Worth the subtitles. Their political landscape is similar to an American one. The show features the first female Prime Minister. She struggles with her ideas of what is right and wrong and when to compromise. Her family is not very understanding of the demands of her job, just want their mommy. Humor, betrayals, angst and trying again. Purchase on Apple iTunes.

Other series to binge watch… The West Wing, the iconic series which aired from 1999 to 2006 has amazing dialog. Seven seasons. Watch on Netflix or purchase on Amazon. Spin City is available for purchase on Amazon as DVDs.

The best political TV series are based on a kernel of truth. Last Week Tonight with John Oliver is a political comedy that’s all based on truth. While the irreverent tone is reminiscent of of Saturday Night Live Weekend Update, the stories are all real news and issues worth caring about. Oliver is able to find a funny way to look at serious political issues such as the European refugee crisis and the debt crisis. In doing so he brings compassion and hope to topics that in broadcast news reporting cause depression and despair.

Whether political drama or comedy, truth still matters in a political post-truth age.

Our picks, Designated Survivor premiering on September 21st, 2016, on ABC, and Last Week Tonight with John Oliver comes back from hiatus September 25th, 2016 on HBO.

Twitter: @HillaryClinton@ABCDesignated@LastWeekTonigh@TheRoyalsOnE,@HighCastleTV, @MadamSecretary@VeepHBO@HouseofCards@ScandalABC@AlphaHouse

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