Parks and Recreation (2009-2015)
Politics begins at home – or at least, it does in American Midwest towns like the fictional town of Pawnee, where this political satire is set. The show, which ran for seven seasons on NBC, revolves around the town’s Parks and Recreation department and the efforts of Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) to improve Pawnee, one project at a time. Sure, there are no massive, world-altering events for Knope and her staff, but real-world politics is often about local politicians struggling to cut through the bureaucratic red tape that many state leaders can afford to sidestep.
The Election (選戰) (2014)
During the 2014 Occupy movement in the 852, Hongkongers talked about politics everywhere – in classrooms, at work, and on the MTR with complete strangers. The Election came out that same year on the now-defunct internet TV station, HKTV, and it won praise citywide for being timely as well as a slick political thriller that wouldn’t feel out of place on US TV. The Election charts the 2022 chief executive election, and the murky goings on that happen during the race. Angelica Lee Sinje and Liu Kai-chi star as the rival candidates that use every above (and below) board tactic to ensure their victory, even if it costs them their friends and family. No one comes out looking like a hero – this 15 episode drama shows us how even the most idealistic of people can fall prey to power if they’re not careful.
West Wing (1999-2006)
Aired during the Bush era in the US, The West Wing showed an alternate, idealised version of American politics in the White House. It follows fictional US President Josiah “Jed” Bartlet (played by Martin Sheen) and his team of impossibly smart, witty, and dedicated senior staff throughout his tenure. The show proved highly influential, winning three Golden Globe Awards and a staggering 26 Emmys, paving the way for the political drama genre that we know and love today.
Yes Minister (1980-1984)
This 1980s British sitcom and its sequel Yes, Prime Minister offered political satire by the shovel. Up-and-coming politician Jim Hacker (Paul Eddington) believes he can bring about some much-needed government reforms, but, well, politics doesn’t really work that way. With just a small core group of characters and a LOT of hilariously brilliant dialogue, this show is still funny – and highly relevant – almost 40 years on. Yes Minister is proof that comedy could take on serious subjects (like politics) and make them real and relatable to a general audience.
The Good Wife (2009-2016)
Alicia Florrick, played by Julianna Margulies, takes centre-stage as the wife of the Illinois State Attorney, who was jailed for political corruption and other scandals in the US state. After spending the last 13 years as a stay-at-home mum, she returns to her career in law to provide for her two children. Her character grew in complexity over its seven seasons and, while it’s amazing to see her juggle her home and professional life, it’s her gradual descent into corruption and moral grey areas that is the most fascinating. As a whole, the show gives great insight into social media and the internet during the first half of the 2010s in society, politics, and law.
If you’re looking for a lighter political show to watch, try Veep. The American political satire series is set in the office of Selina Meyer, played by the charismatic and hilarious Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who swept six consecutive Emmy Awards for Lead Actress in a Comedy Series for the role, from 2012 to 2017. The fictional vice-president (who later becomes president) of the United States, and her team together try their best to run the office and leave a lasting mark without getting tripped up in the day-to-day political games typical of the American Government.
Former lawyer and political aide Olivia Pope (played by a fabulous Kerry Washington) runs a firm that specialises in protecting the reputations of America’s rich and powerful. How? By making scandals go away. However, when Pope takes on a case that leads her back to the White House and her old boss (and love interest) US President Fitzgerald Grant (Tony Goldwyn), it becomes clear that the more she fixes the lives of those around her, the more her own life begins to unravel. It’s sensational, but highly entertaining, viewing.