House of Cards
Originally a book by Michael Dobbs which was then used as a basis for a BBC 4-part miniseries sharing the same name, House of Cards is a Netflix produced TV series. The show is reaching its fifth season in 2016, much to the delight of its many fans.
Kevin Spacey plays the role of Frank Underwood, a cunning and charismatic politician who starts the series as a congressman from South Carolina. He is as smart as he is greedy, a mentality and state of mind he shares with his wife, Claire. Together, the two conjure a political storm that is aimed in the direction of the White House, and they are coming along for the ride. Spacey's Frank is a complex character with very simple motivations, and his methodologies are not only intricately planned, but also quite telling of his power-hungry nature.
Underwood makes for a very unique lead character, as in he is as much the protagonist and antagonist of the show. The story revolves closely around him, but his moral choices always venture across the lines of acceptability. Still it is hard to not keep rooting for him during some of the show's most important moments -no matter how evil he is compared to every other character in the show. House of Cards makes an excellent argument about what a true politician should be like, and what traits should be expected of anyone wanting to succeed in this field of work.
The West Wing
The West Wing follows the presidency of Josiah Bartlet, who starts the entire series by crashing his bike into a tree (which is something that the press is quick to pick up on). It has a pretty serious tone that most fans of political drama love, but there is also a certain sense of lightheartedness to the nature of the characters. The series revolves around the president, his aides, staff, and everyone who helps keep the Oval Office running. The entire show spans 7 full seasons and is concluded with Bartlet's term ending (the last season basically covers his administration preparing to leave in order to give way to the next elected president. In between that and the pilot, West Wing manages to go through a lot of important existential and moral dilemmas for both the administration and the people within it.
It is not going to be easy to binge-watch West Wing, but it makes for a great show to catch about 2-3 episodes each day on. The pacing of The West Wing is well done, with lots of exposition delivered in a very organic and realistic manner. Most of the set is a recreation of the White House interiors and it is heavily praised for the accuracy or at least the extremely close resemblance to the look and feel of the actual place. Still, a few former White House regulars have noted that while the general layout seems correct, the characters move about the facility in ways that they shouldn't in real life.
This 5 season TV series covers a unique perspective of politics: it deals less with the responsibilities of governance and instead, focuses on the very delicate, yet important matters of national defense. Series protagonist Carrie Mathison is part of the CIA's Counterterrorism Center. In this position, she finds herself dealing with matter that require her to balance the freedom of American citizens with the measures that are needed to be taken in order to ensure national security. Instead of a being a drama, this is more of a action-themed political-thriller. As mentioned, 5 seasons of Homeland have already been aired while a sixth season has already been green-lit.
Carrie's initial conflicts revolve around the investigation of a potential plot of terrorists to assassinate the Vice President -and the plot seems to implicate the involvement of a decorated Marine Sergeant.
Now here's a concept that is not often explored: crisis management firms. They are basically professionals whose jobs are to help facilitate process of, for lack of a better term, surviving a crisis. Olivia Pope & Associates is one such firm that handles the important issues faced by political leaders -and it is up to the OPA to ensure that the public does not lose their trust in the firm's clients. Of course, this job is easier said than done, and when their chief client is none other than the POTUS, you can expect that they have their hands full every single time.
It is hard to deny that media and politics go hand in hand -while many government decisions are made behind closed doors, the media still plays an important part in ensuring that the public are able to be part of the government. But as with celebrities, fame can be a fickle thing, and it is this unique source of conflict that makes Scandal different than other political shows, it focuses on how problems have to be presented order for the public to stay happy.
The Thick of It
Satire is often the best way to present reality, and that is what the screenwriters of The thick of It has so masterfully executed. They don't go into details or specific (definitely no name dropping), but anyone who has had their hand on the pulse of UK politics from 2005 onwards (the Tony Blair era and after) would definitely see the dim reflection of reality in the show.
The Thick of It is a situational comedy and a political commentary rolled into one. Focusing on the fictional Department of Social Affairs (which would later evolve to include "and Citizenship"), the series expounds deeply on the many issues and failings of the government -particularly the people who run it. Since the Department's responsibilities are pretty much across the board (for the sake of a more efficient narrative that allows for the series to delve in a wide variety of topics obviously), the team is often busy and worn out which is a crazy environment for the already half-insane team that they are. Leading the crew is Hugh Abbott (Chris Langham) and Malcom Tucker (Peter Capaldi); the two often clash as Tucker is constantly trying to discipline Abbott (unsuccessfully).
The series is known for its spot-on humor and tongue-in-cheek approach. And looking back at the issues with the perspective of hindsight, the jokes feel a lot less biting than they were at the time of airing (as timing with issues conveys a different level of significance), so for those of you who have already seen a few episodes before, know that a second watching makes for a completely much lighter perspective now.
Wrap Up: Heavy is the Head
Political stories are not for everyone, there is a certain level of appreciation and concern for the current well being of one's own society and government that is needed for the issues of politics to have any sense of relevance at all. So if you enjoy a little bit of social commentary, these shows would be amazing to watch. They come in all forms too -it does not have to always be serious political drama after all.