This Friday is America’s birthday, and what better way to celebrate than watching all your favorite shows set in the nation’s capital? I’m currently interning in Washington D.C. –sadly Olivia Pope is not here—and I think it’s given me a bit more insight into my favorite political shows. Here are my picks for the best fictional D.C. shows:
The West Wing
Now this one’s a classic. The late ‘90s and early ‘00s Aaron Sorkin drama full of quippy dialogue is what everyone wishes D.C. was. Martin Sheen’s President Bartlet transcends party lines and always does the right thing. His staffers are idealists who romanticize government and are clever masters of the walk-and-talk. The characters are so invested in making America great that you’ll actually find yourself caring about whether a new tax law passes. Plus, the theme song is all sorts of patriotic goodness.
Shonda Rhimes’ take on D.C. is everyone’s worst nightmare complete with a murderous president, rigged elections, and a secret spy agency that goes around killing everyone. Scandal pays very little attention to governing and a whole lot on gaining power. Of course, the real draw is Olivia Pope’s relationship with President Grant (and her undying love for a glass of wine). This show is completely ridiculous and thrives off of cliffhangers, but it’s must-see TV every week.
HBO’s dry comedy based on the struggles of the most powerless position in Washington—the vice president—is a hilarious concept in itself. From my experience in D.C. this is the most realistic show because it hinges on how slow and ultimately silly government can be. Whether Vice President Meyer is dealing with a public appearance at a pig roast or being made into a meme by bloggers, Veep is never afraid to call out American politics for what it is—a public relations game.
House of Cards
We’ve got a real life House of Cards situation going on in Congress now that Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy is slowly rising through the ranks. Kevin Spacey’s delightfully ruthless portrayal of Frank Underwood probably isn’t that far from the truth for many Congressmen, which makes it all the more entertaining. Netflix’s breakout hit has transformed the television landscape and reinforced the idea that Americans love a charming, power-hungry anti-hero.
I’m going to save you some time with this one – just watch the first two seasons. The Showtime series revolves around CIA agent Carrie Mathison as she obsessively investigates POW Nick Brody, whom she suspects of being a secret terrorist. Unfortunately, Homeland dropped in quality over the years, but those early episodes tap into Americans’ greatest fears and will give you an anxiety attack in the process.