5 TV Shows That Made Politics Compelling

Matt Roush
House of Cards

David Giesbrecht/Netflix

This year’s over-the-top presidential campaign may be a ratings magnet, but politics can be a tough sell in primetime. (Example: CBS’s summer flop BrainDead.) Madam Secretary and ABC’s new hit Designated Survivor are bucking the trend, and here are five shows that got our vote as the best (political) party animals of all time.

Warner Bros.

The West Wing (1999–2006)

Where to Watch

iTunes, Netflix

Why It Got Our Vote

Aaron Sorkin’s impassioned, idealized vision of the Oval Office soared with witty rhetoric. We still miss President Bartlet (Martin Sheen) and his fabulously entertaining staff.

Veep

Lacey Terrell/HBO

Veep (2012–present)

Where to Watch

Amazon Prime, HBO Go, HBO Now, iTunes

Why It Got Our Vote

As brutally, hilariously cynical as The West Wing was high-minded, HBO’s unforgiving satire shows Washington at its incompetent worst. That’s why we love it.

House of Cards

David Giesbrecht/Netflix

House of Cards (2013–present)

Where to Watch

iTunes, Netflix

Why It Got Our Vote

Devilishly enjoyable intrigue, as an unscrupulous congressman (Kevin Spacey) schemes his way to the top. And the original 1990 British miniseries (on Netflix) is even better.

tanner-88

HBO

Tanner ’88 (1988)

Where to Watch

Hulu

Why It Got Our Vote

Robert Altman and Doonesbury’s Garry Trudeau used actual politicians and journalists to ground this fascinating dramedy about a fictional contender (Michael Murphy) in reality.

Jeff Neumann/CBS

The Good Wife (2009–2016)

Where to Watch

Amazon Prime, CBS All Access, Hulu, iTunes

Why It Got Our Vote

No show has more convincingly or enjoyably revealed the private toll that being in public life takes on flawed players with great ambitions.

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