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Political TV shows to keep you entertained during lockdown

If you want to keep the political theme running, here are a few suggestions of real-life and fictional political shows to keep you entertained!

By Lauryn Clarke, Third Year, History

Whether you spent last week religiously hitting refresh on Google or your news outlet of choice like me, or whether you only vaguely care, I think we can all agree that the 2020 United States Presidential election had people hooked. If you want to keep that theme running, here are a few suggestions of real-life and fictional political shows to keep you entertained!

Knock Down the House (2019)

By far my personal favourite on this list, this documentary follows four women’s journey, from primary challenges to established Democrat politicians in the 2018 election cycle.

Rachel Lears’ documentary premiered at Sundance Film Festival before being acquired by Netflix and has gained increasing popularity and acclaim, especially after Netflix deemed it important enough viewing that they uploaded the whole film to their YouTube channel to watch for free.

Featuring possibly one of America’s most outspoken and inspiring politicians, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14), in her primary challenge against Joe Crowley (who was at the time one of the most powerful Democrats in Congress), as well as Black Lives Matter activist Rep. Cori Bush (MI-01), this documentary will show the realities of running for election and really make you feel like you’re rooting for the underdog. (P.S: You might want some tissues for the last 10 minutes).

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in Knock Down the House (2019) | Courtesy of Netflix

Recount (2008)

This 2008 television film starring Laura Dern and Kevin Spacey is a political drama based on the Florida election recount in 2000 and the court case of Gore .v. Bush, which helped determine the winner of the 2000 US Presidential election.

Starting at the election on November 7th 2000 and closing out on the outcome of the Supreme Court ruling to stop the recount on December 12th, this film will have you hooked, despite probably already knowing the outcome. This film, although dramatised and definitely taking some creative liberties, shows just how tense the 2000 Presidential election (and American politics in general) can be, and the effect on those working behind the scenes. This election is still contentious 20 years later, so if you want some knowledge on modern US political history, this is definitely one to watch.

House of Cards (2013-18)

Popular with audiences and critics alike – and with 33 Emmy nominations to show for it – House of Cards got many people hooked onto the dramatic world of American politics and it rightly deserves its place on this list.

With one of the best uses of the fourth-wall break in television and some excellent performances from the whole cast, this show has so many twists and turns you will be left on the edge of your seat – much like most of us during the 2020 campaign!

While this show is marred by controversy following the allegations against Kevin Spacey that caused him to be fired, it still deserves its place on this list for its ruthless portrayal of the US political system.

If you like the show but want something a little closer to home, it is a remake of BBC’s House of Cards (1990) miniseries which is equally as enthralling.

Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright in House of Cards | Courtesy of Netflix / David Geisbrecht

The Thick of It (2005-12)

Bringing the political action a little closer to home, The Thick of It is a British comedy show that is more light-hearted than others on our list.

This iconic show features the ever-quotable Macolm Tucker (played by Peter Capaldi) whose razor-sharp insults and quick delivery truly make the show as enjoyable as it is – you may have seen this clip from the show circulating over the past few months on social media. Taking place in the fictional Department of Social Affairs and Citizenship, this is the ultimate political office show, especially for those who enjoy dark humour and British dry wit.

Although the departments are fictional and the political parties are never named, if you know a little about the politics of the time you can clearly tell what the writers are alluding to. Also, this show was partly the inspiration for the fantastic show Veep, so you know this is going to be good!

Editors' Picks: Presidential Election

The West Wing (1999-2006)

Aaron Sorkin’s The West Wing follows the administration of Democratic President Jed Bartlett (played fantastically by Martin Sheen), who I would argue is the best fictional US President on TV. Tackling topics such as homosexuality, the 25th Amendment, and domestic and international terrorism, this show has been consistently praised for its handling of modern issues and allusions to controversial topics that were affecting the nation during the duration of the show’s run.

This praise was not unrewarded as by the time the show had ended, it had collected 3 Golden Globes and a remarkable 26 Primetime Emmys. This show is also credited with developing the “walk-and-talk” filming technique which just enhances the in-world feel to audiences. Heaping recommendations from political analysts, former White House staffers, and even Time Magazine listing it in the 100 Best TV Shows of All Time, this is always my go-to recommendation for anyone wanting to engage with a US political show.

These are some of the political shows that I find most engaging and enjoyable in the current climate but there are so many more including Designated Survivor, Veep, Scandal, and more.

Featured: IMDb, Netflix / David Geisbrecht

Do you have any burning opinions on these shows that you want to share? Let us know!

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