The Best TV Shows About Politics And Power

The best shows about politics and power include The West Wing, Boss, and The Crown.

By TeeJay Small | Updated

Since the very creation of television as an artistic medium, esteemed series have been taking aim at the corruption and scandal at the heart of any political enterprise. Whether it comes in the form of the fantasy world of Westeros in Game of Thrones or the real-life Nixon administration in the upcoming series White House Plumbers, these series seek to expose the seedy underworld of politics and reveal important truths of humanity and corruption to the viewing public. Here are ten of the best TV shows about politics and power.

10. The Newsroom

Aaron Sorkin has had a long and storied history of writing tales of political tension. From The West Wing, to his 2010 historical drama The Social Network, the quick-witted writer clearly has a special focus on the ins and outs of shifting power dynamics. The Newsroom ran for three seasons on HBO and took aim at the modern political structure of the United States through a lens of media literacy amid sustained reports of the general public losing faith in television news.

The series follows a team of reporters as they struggle to maintain an incredibly high standard of integrity and accuracy in reporting the daily news. Led by an all-star cast of A-list actors such as Jeff Daniels, Olivia Munn, Emily Mortimer, and Dev Patel, the series examined an idealistic world where viewers can place their full trust in news media.

9. Homeland

This political thriller began in 2011 and ran for eight seasons on Showtime. Homeland was developed for American television by Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa, based on an Israeli TV series called Prisoners of War.

The story centered around Marine Sgt. Nicholas Brody’s (Damien Lewis) return to his life after nearly a decade in captivity, leaving the CIA to wonder where his loyalties lie. After a terror plot is carried out on American soil, an intense game of cat and mouse breaks out between Brody and CIA agent Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes), revealing innate truths about the corruption of government power and the intense political game at play amongst military agencies.

8. Boss

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Not to be confused with The Boss Baby, Boss follows Kelsey Grammer‘s Tom Kane, the mayor of Chicago, after he has been diagnosed with Lewy body dementia. As the most powerful man in the Windy City, Kane resolves to hide his diagnosis from his constituents as he begins grooming his state treasurer to take over in his stead. Kane’s constant vying for political power has alienated him from his family and any genuine relationships in his life, forcing him to confront the stark reality of what he’s lost in the pursuit of money and influence.

Boss originally aired for two seasons on the Starz premium television network before being canceled ahead of its time. The series is available to stream now on Amazon Prime Video.

7. Madam Secretary

After examining the ethical ramifications of working for the CIA, Téa Leoni’s Elizabeth McCord leaves her position as a high-ranking CIA analyst behind to pursue more noble efforts, such as working alongside Keith Carradine’s President Conrad Dalton as the newly appointed Secretary of State. Unfortunately, despite her best efforts, the political machine present in Madam Secretary’s world pushes McCord to the brink, leaving her to rely only on her husband and three politically minded children for support.

Madam Secretary aired for six seasons on CBS, with recurring themes of the United States’ disconcerting foreign policy and the treatment of women in the male-dominated space of powerful fields such as government and big business lobbying.

6. Designated Survivor

Designated Survivor began its run in 2016, airing two seasons on ABC before being picked up by Netflix for a third and final season. The show starred Kiefer Sutherland as a low-level government employee thrust into the office of President of the United States when a devastating attack claimed the lives of the entire sitting presidential administration. Forced to rapidly come to grips with his newfound position and the sudden onslaught of responsibility, Sutherland’s Tom Kirkman must navigate a social and political minefield as he struggles to remain afloat.

The series serves as an intense look into the reality of the presidential line of succession and the difficulty faced by modern political figures trapped in the swirling power grab of Washington, D.C.

5. The Crown

The Netflix original series The Crown has been a major hit since it first aired back in 2016. With the show’s sixth and final season set to premiere later this year, fans can expect to finally see the British royal family in their modern state, including young and old actors portraying Prince William, Prince Harry, and Kate Middleton, respectively.

The series thus far has chronicled the many tumultuous scandals to engross the royal family from the 1940s to the modern day, displaying the business and political relationships the various Kings, Queens, and Princes have held with members of the public during their reign, as well as the shifting position of power the family has occupied in the last century.

4. Veep

Another classic HBO series, Veep, follows Julia Louis-Dreyfus‘ Vice President Selena Meyer, as she struggles to garner any meaningful political presence in the fast-paced world of Washington D.C. The political satire began in 2012 as a dry take on the modern state of politics, showcasing the difficulty presented in trying to get anything meaningful accomplished in a world of backstabbing, power-grabbing, and favor-asking, but morphed into a bonkers takedown of modern discourse in the later seasons as the Trump administration took office in real life.

With the mounting absurdity of the daily news cycle following the true blunders of the Trump presidency, Veep began to spiral into a comedy of errors, lampooning the newly appointed administration in real time.

3. Scandal

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Kerry Washington leads Scandal, the 7-season drama Grey’s Anatomy’s Shonda Rhimes created for ABC. The series follows Washington’s Olivia Pope, a former White House media consultant who opens her crisis-management firm offering her PR expertise to the general public. Unfortunately, Pope can’t seem to escape her past, which sees her and her staff constantly coming under fire for their involvement with and engagement in public scandals that rock the company to its core.

Much like a few other shows on this list, Scandal dives into the mounting pressure placed on the personal lives of public figures and media journalists and the relationship that public relations play in the political power of Washington, D.C.

2. The West Wing

Aaron Sorkin’s first HBO outing, 1999’s The West Wing, touts an incredible cast, including Martin Sheen, Bradley Whitford, Allison Janney, and Janel Moloney, as cutthroat politicians tangled in the professional world of the presidential administration. The series follows Sheen’s fictional president Jed Bartlet, whose headstrong unimpeachable policies alienate many of his constituents within the party, forcing him and his staff into a constant state of battle.

Like The Newsroom, The West Wing examines not the political reality of Washington, D.C., but the reality that could exist if a powerful figure such as the president could rely solely on their own morals and ethics to motivate their political move rather than an endless pursuit of power and influence.

1. House of Cards

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Widely regarded as one of the greatest political thrillers of all time, Netflix’s House of Cards ran for six seasons, starring Kevin Spacey, Robin Wright, Mahershala Ali, and a number of incredible performers, as they portray the seedy underbelly of back-door deals between ruthless politicians and a desperate grab for power. The series critiques the inhuman pragmatism needed to rise to the top of a modern political structure while examining corruption in all its forms.

Unfortunately, after five nearly-perfect seasons, House of Cards was rocked by a real-life scandal of its own when it was revealed that Kevin Spacey had allegedly engaged in a series of behaviors resulting in sexual harassment and assault allegations, the sixth and final season aired without Spacey in the lead role, killing his character off-screen. This resulted in user scores for the final season dropping from their usual standard, as seen on aggregate sites such as IMDb.