With the midterms behind us, some folks might be going through politics withdrawal. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad we’re done with the bombardment of ads and that pundits can go back to covering other hard-hitting news, but I still need a light dose of political drama now and again.
That’s where TV and the big screen come through for us. While this list is not exhaustive, it offers a starting point for anyone who wants to explore politics from another angle. Here are the best political shows and movies for those of us who just can’t get enough. Feel free to add them to your list of procrastination material for reading week.
Parks and Recreation
It may not be your typical political T.V. show, but that’s definitely not a bad thing. The show demonstrates the difficulty Leslie Knope, a well meaning Parks and Recreation department official, has in trying to improve the city she loves and how it is usually the people she is trying to help that get in her way. It mirrors political affairs that happen on a grander scale but makes it more accessible by using the scenario of a small town. For those of us who have seen Leslie go from a determined deputy director of the Pawnee Parks and Recreation department to the Regional Director for the National Parks Service, the seventh and last season of Parks and Rec is an awaited treat but also a melancholy goodbye.The show is on Netflix and will be back on air sometime early next year.
The West Wing
I can attribute a good deal of my knowledge about how the executive branch operates to the West Wing. From the very first episode, Aaron Sorkin has you hooked on the Bartlett administration. You get a feel of the serious and the everyday situations of the White House. Every episode is a new crisis that has to be dealt with and every character contributes so much to the entirety of the show. The West Wing is the best political drama because it presents tough issues that the president has to deal with and makes them accessible to us. You can’t help but feel an attachment to the Bartlett administration. That being said, every episode is about 45 minutes long and the show spans seven seasons so if you plan on starting this show, be prepared for a decent time commitment. And just like in Parks and Rec, Rob Lowe plays a role that he was made for. The entire show can be found on Netflix.
The Wire is based around the city of Baltimore, and each season focuses on a different institution of the city and how it affects the city. The show lays out the realities of life in America. It shows the interconnectivity of all the institutions that make up a city and explores issues on a micro scale, something that tends to be overlooked by TV shows focusing on large-scale politics. It may not be completely about politics but it covers issues that affect politics in compelling ways. If you need any more convincing, President Obama called The Wire “one of the best shows of all time.” You can catch The Wire on HBO.
House of Cards
This show depicts the dark side of the Hill. From the beginning, you can’t be sure if you are supposed to cheer for the Underwoods or detest them (It’s like Breaking Bad but with Kevin Spacey). The show follows Frank Underwood, the House majority whip, after he is shunned by the president for the appointment of Secretary of State and begins his elaborate scheme to get more political power. By breaking the fourth wall, House of Cards feels more personal. It helps demonstrate the desire politicians have to ascend in Washington and all that they must go through to get farther up the Hill. It is perfectly casted and doesn’t fail to surprise, especially during the first episode of season two. For anyone who wants to lose a little more faith in those who represent us in Washington, this is the show for you. House of Cards is exclusively on Netflix.
V for Vendetta
Not exactly a political movie by conventional standards but nonetheless V for Vendetta covers many issues that are political in an extreme nature. The movie is based in an Orwellian United Kingdom where there is no longer a democracy but instead a surveillance state that tightly controls the people. V is the terrorist/freedom fighter that tries to tear down this government by showing the people that the true power rests in their hands. The movie shows us what can happen when a government goes too far and is the perfect movie to watch the day after elections.
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
It’s cute. It’s touching. It’s nothing like what Washington is like today. The movie follows a young senator sent to Washington by luck and how his plans for an honest service are trumped by the higher powers of Washington. While it is a heartfelt story, the true merit of the film is its explanation of the filibuster. The film explains what a filibuster is better than most news outlets can. If nothing else, it gives me hope that someday gridlock will be subdued and the filibuster will be used for more than stalling the implementation of Obamacare. The movie can be found on Netflix.
If anything, watch it for Daniel Day-Lewis. He plays Lincoln the way we all imagine Lincoln. But the movie also focuses on everything it took to abolish slavery: Every under-the-table deal that had to be made and how closely Lincoln worked to make sure he had enough votes in Congress to pass the 13th Amendment. It shows that compromise is what brings about change of grand scale and that, sometimes, other values must be put aside in pursuit of nobler acts. While the movie is two and a half hours long, for anyone who wants a strong understanding of one of our greatest presidents, it is time well spent.