The Telefile

TWoP 10: Best TV Politicians

by Ethan Alter April 20, 2012 6:00 am
TWoP 10: Best TV Politicians

Hail to the Chief! Well, the Vice Chief at least. HBO's Veep kicks off this Sunday and we can't wait to see Julia Louis-Dreyfus ascend to the second highest office in the land, not just because this is Elaine Benes we're talking about, but also due to the fact that it's sadly still all too rare to see a female politician elected to televised office. As Veep's first season unspools, we fully expect Louis-Dreyfus's VP Selina Meyer to become one of our favorite TV politicians. In the meantime, here's are our current picks for the best political characters to hold elected office on TV. (That latter requirement is why you won't find our favorite Deputy Parks Director and current Pawnee city council candidate, Leslie Knope, on this list. If she beats Bobby Newport in the election, though, she'll instantly jump to the number one spot.)

10. Senator Williams Powers (The Powers that Be)
In the annals of shows that were cancelled too soon, this hilarious Norman Lear-exec produced 1992 political sitcom ranks towards the top of the heap. A veteran, silver-haired U.S. Senator from an unidentified state, William Powers had decades of experience navigating the halls of Congress, but zero control over his crazy home life, where he was decidedly second-in-command to his overbearing wife, self-conscious daughter and suicidal son-in-law (David Hyde Pierce, a few years shy of Frasier superstardom). Maybe that's why he was so committed to his constituents -- they were easier to tolerate than his own kin.

9. President Charles Logan (24)
If David Palmer represented the Presidential gold standard on 24, Charles Logan was a prime example of how the office could corrupt weaker-minded individuals. Still, his weasely ways made him the most entertaining (and, strangely enough, most productive) of the post-Palmer presidents and he was fortunate to be married to the show's all-time great First Lady, Martha Logan.

8. U.S. Representative Jack Tanner (Tanner '88)
Long before The Office popularized the mockumentary format on television, Robert Altman helmed this 1988 HBO series, which purported to follow the real presidential campaign of an ex-Democratic congressman from Michigan named Jack Tanner. While not as distinguished as his chief competitor in the race, Michael Dukakis, Tanner possessed strong personal convictions about the role of government in society and an authentic, from-the-heart speaking style. No wonder he didn't win the '88 nomination. That and the fact that he wasn't real, of course.

7. City Council Representative David Aceveda (The Shield)
From the moment he arrived to captain The Barn -- the rough-and-tumble police precinct located in the heart of Farmington, Los Angeles -- David Aceveda had his eyes set on a bigger target: the mayor's chair. By the end of the show's run, he seemed poised to realize that goal. Before that, though, he had to maneuver to win a City Council seat, make backroom deals to maintain his political viability and suppress a rape scandal in which he was the victim. That he survived all that guarantees that he'll arrive in higher office as tough and battle-hardened as the streets he used to protect and serve.

6. State Senator R. Clayton "Clay" Davis (The Wire)
Say it with us now: "Sheeee-it." That was the signature catchphrase of Maryland's most corrupt state senator, who could always be counted on to put himself ahead of the citizens he was elected to serve. A master behind-the-scenes manipulator, Davis even managed to outsmart the great Stringer Bell, a betrayal that helped set the stage for Bell's eventual downfall. We wouldn't necessarily want Davis representing us, but you can't accuse him of slacking off on the job.

5. State's Attorney Peter Florrick (The Good Wife)
Yeah, yeah, Cook County's crusading state attorney made a big mistake when he used state funds to hire prostitutes, a choice that cost him the trust of his wife and (temporarily, at least) his freedom. But after serving his time, he managed to convince a skeptical public to re-elect him (with the aid of master campaign strategist Eli Gold) to his old job and now seems to be walking the straight and narrow. Heck, he's even running for governor! Clearly, the voting public is realizing something that his long-suffering wife Alicia has known for some time: Peter's just too damn charming to stay angry at for long.

4. Mayor Richard Wilkins III (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)
A political dynasty of one, Richard Wilkins had served as Sunnydale's mayor for well over a century -- a term that was aided and abetted by the sunny California town's literal demons who made up his most dedicated constituency. Far from a laid-back Cali type, this mayor was the kind of politician who liked to roll up his sleeves and get his hands dirty when it came to accomplishing his signature initiatives... like, say, transforming into a giant demon snake at Sunnydale High's graduation ceremony and swallowing that pesky vampire slayer and her Scooby Gang pals.

3. President Laura Roslin (Battlestar Galactica)
Some are born to be President of the Twelve Colonies of Kobol and others have the Presidency thrust upon them. That's the situation Secretary of Education Laura Roslin found herself in when the Cylon attack wiped out the rest of the colonial government, leaving her in charge of the surviving ragtag fleet crossing the galaxy in search of the mystical 13th colony on Earth. Although she may not have asked for this Herculean task, Roslin came to embrace it and even run a strong re-election campaign against a formidable opponent, Dr. Gaius Baltar. And, in the end, she was actually able to deliver on her central promise to the electorate: that she would find them a home. How many presidents can say that?

2. President David Palmer (24)
Jack Bauer may have been the invincible, torture-happy star of 24, but in his stately way, David Palmer was just as much of a bad-ass. Despite experiencing terrible personal and professional disasters (watching a nuclear bomb explode in the Mojave Desert and almost dying from a lethal virus passed onto him by Naked Mandy) during his time in office, President Palmer always took his oath of office seriously and did his best to protect the American public using whatever methods were at his disposal. It's a shame his presidential fortitude didn't rub off on his younger, dumber brother Wayne, whose administration was a series low point.

1. President Josiah Edward "Jed" Bartlet (The West Wing)
C'mon... you knew he was going to be number one. Heck, for the seven years The West Wing was on TV, a big segment of the public preferred him to the sitting president who inhabited the actual West Wing. A dedicated public servant, Bartlet kept a steady hand on the country even in times of great personal trial and possessed a strong steak of compassion that endeared him to his staff. More than just being a Commander-in-Chief, he was almost like a Father-in-Chief. No wonder they loved him so much.

Think you've got game? Prove it! Check out Games Without Pity, our new area featuring trivia, puzzle, card, strategy, action and word games -- all free to play and guaranteed to help pass the time until your next show starts.

What are people saying about your favorite shows and stars right now? Find out with Talk Without Pity, the social media site for real TV fans. See Tweets and Facebook comments in real time and add your own -- all without leaving TWoP. Join the conversation now!




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