RANKED! Our 20 Favorite Political Drama TV Shows of the Last 20 Years
No matter what your party leanings, at some point all of us elect a political drama as our entertainment of choice. Politicians — and the people who do their bidding — are just like us (OK, maybe richer) but their failures are more visible thanks to the high-profile nature of their jobs, so they enthrall us like no other characters can. Though the 2016 presidential election finally made real-life politics more terrifying and scandalous than TV could ever be, we still need an escape this day in age, and political dramas let us experience fake conflicts that hopefully get resolved at the end of the season (unlike the real world, where we continue to death-spiral). In these fictional governments, any damage done is repaired, the good guys take power, and the bad guys go to that special place in hell reserved for evildoers. Today, we take a look back at the past two decades of political dramas that reveal how naive and unprepared we were for what the future had in store.
Who said it: The Joker or President Trump?
20. 'The Honourable Woman' (2014)
An Israeli woman named Nessa Stein (Maggie Gyllenhaal) inherits her father's arms business and finds herself in a political shitstorm as she attempts to broker peace between Israelis and Palestinians in this critically-acclaimed series.
19. 'The Good Wife' (2009-2016)
When the Cook County State Attorney (Chris Noth) finds himself jailed due to a sex and corruption scandal, his wife (Julianna Margulies) returns to practicing law in this series inspired by real-life douchebag politicos including former President Bill Clinton, former North Carolina Senator John Edwards, and former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer.
18. 'The Politician's Husband' (2013)
What happens when two politicians marry and the wife's career begins to eclipse the husband's? Find out in this BBC drama.
17. 'Designated Survivor' (2016 - 2019)
Cabinet member Thomas Kirkman (Kiefer Sutherland) is thrust into power after a terrorist attack kills every other successor to the office of the president of the United States in this network-to-Netflix series.
16. 'Madam Secretary' (2014 - 2020)
Secretary of State Elizabeth McCord (Téa Leoni) navigates the political minefields of Washington, D.C., in this CBS drama.
15. 'The Newsroom' (2012 - 2014)
News anchor Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels) struggles to deliver ethical and accurate TV news with political integrity under the guidance of a new executive producer (and his ex) MacKenzie McHale (Emily Mortimer).
14. 'The Handmaid's Tale' (2017 - Present)
This dark, dystopian, and violent Hulu series, based on Margaret Atwood's novel of the same name, explores what a totalitarian society -- in which women are valued only for their baby-making abilities -- would look like.
13. 'The Crown' (2016 - Present)
This moody Netflix original series unveils the private and political life of Queen Elizabeth II (Claire Foy) from the 1940s to the present day.
12. 'State of Play' (2003)
This conspiracy drama follows a journalist, Cal McCaffrey (John Simm), and his friend, Stephen Collins (David Morrissey), as they attempt to solve the mysterious death of a political researcher.
11. 'Jack Ryan' (2018 - Present)
Based on author Tom Clancy's character, CIA analyst Jack Ryan (John Krasinski) is torn away from his desk job by a field assignment that puts him at the center of a terrorism maelstrom.
10. 'Scandal' (2012 - 2018)
In this award-winning drama, Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) runs a crisis management firm in Washington, D.C., but might need crisis management of her own when she embarks on an affair with the president of the United States.
9. '24' (2001 - 2010)
Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) attempts to protect the U.S. from terrorist plots as part of the fictional Counter Terrorist Unit in this uniquely conceived and heart-pounding series.
8. 'A Very English Scandal' (2018)
This riveting series unpacks the alleged real-life affair of former Member of Parliament Jeremy Thorpe (Hugh Grant) with a male lover named Norman Scott (Ben Whishaw). Thorpe was later accused of -- and went to trial over -- hiring a hitman to murder Scott.
7. 'Bodyguard' (2018 - Present)
Tensions -- sexual and political -- abound in this gripping BBC series that trails veteran David Budd's (Richard Madden) new gig as a Specialist Protection Officer guarding Home Secretary Julia Montague (Keeley Hawes). The show was so popular, it may be back soon for a second season.
6. 'The Americans' (2013 - 2018)
A pair of '80s era Soviet KGB officers, Elizabeth (Keri Russell) and Philip Jennings (Matthew Rhys), embed themselves in suburban Washington, D.C. and pose as an American married couple in this spy drama.
5. 'Boardwalk Empire' (2010 - 2014)
This award-winning HBO series focuses on Enoch "Nucky" Thompson (Steve Buscemi), a New Jersey political figure whose star rises during Prohibition.
4. 'Homeland' ( 2011 - 2020)
Claire Danes plays Carrie Mathison, a bipolar CIA operations officer in hot pursuit (in more ways than one) of a Marine and former hostage (Damien Lewis) whom she suspects has been turned by Al-Qaeda in this thrilling and sexy Showtime drama.
3. 'House of Cards' (2013 - 2018)
Political power couple Frank (Kevin Spacey) and Claire (Robin Wright) Underwood do whatever it takes -- corruption, seduction, murder -- to seize and hold on to the highest office and our most favored political drama until, well, you know.
2. 'The Wire' (2002 - 2008)
The Baltimore drug scene takes center stage in this wildly popular series that jostles between multiple levels of law enforcement and government agencies involved in the drug war.
1. 'The West Wing' (1999 - 2006)
Personal, professional, and political lives collide in this fan favorite drama starring Martin Sheen.