1. House of Cards
What’s it about?: With only slightly more backstabbing than real politics (heyo!), House of Cards is a darkly soapy look at the lives of the most powerful people in the nation and the lengths to which they’ll go in order to ascend the political ladder.
You should watch if: You’ve got a taste for betrayal in your political tales and love watching impeccably dressed people shoot daggers with their eyes.
How to watch: The first three seasons are now streaming on Netflix. The fourth season will be released on March 4.
What’s it about?: Borgen catalogues the rise of a Danish politician as she, unexpectedly, becomes the nation’s first female Prime Minister. Yes, it’s Danish. Yes, that means there are subtitles. But don’t let that deter you; even if you know nothing about Danish politics, it’s wildly compelling.
You should watch if: You want a little European flair in your TV viewing habits and are looking for a political show that captures the home lives of the elite as well as it does their work lives.
How to watch: You can find the entire series on iTunes.
3. The West Wing
What’s it about?: An exemplar of characters performing so-called “walk and talks,” The West Wing chronicles the administration of president Josiah Bartlet and the staff around him. The series often draws on real-world issues, from nuclear proliferation to oil prices.
You should watch if: You want to witness numerous incredible actors (Sheen! Janney!) at the top of their game and aren’t afraid of Aaron Sorkin’s (occasionally-maligned) fast-paced style of dialogue.
How to watch: You can purchase all seven seasons on Amazon or stream them on Netflix.
4. Parks and Recreation
What’s it about?: This series presents the trials and tribulations of small-town government and lead character Leslie Knope’s (Amy Poehler) altruistic aspirations, which often come to pass in spite of her fellow employees at the Parks and Recreation department in the town of Pawnee, Indiana.
You should watch if: You’re tired of political cynicism and want to see someone who actually loves their job in government and genuinely believes that politics can make a difference.
How to watch: The series can be streamed on Netflix.
What’s it about?: Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) is a master of controlling the images of political power players, but often finds herself drawn into situations that are, for lack of a better term, scandalous.
You should watch if: You’re not tied to the belief that political shows have to strive for complete realism and would rather prioritize complex characters dealing with heightened situations.
How to watch: You can purchase episodes from all five seasons on Amazon, or watch the first four seasons on Netflix.
6. The Wire
What’s it about?: What isn’t it about? It presents a sweeping portrayal of the city of Baltimore, from drug dealers to dock workers, mayors to journalists. And while politics is not always overtly front and center, the ramifications of the various political institutions portrayed in the series can always be seen reverberating.
You should watch if: You love wide-ranging series with a bevy of compelling characters and are able to keep up with the intricacies that the show presents.
How to watch: The entire series can be viewed on HBO Go or HBO Now.
7. Show Me A Hero
What’s it about?: A true story, this miniseries (from David Simon, the same guy behind The Wire) relays the events of a housing crisis in Yonkers, New York, in the late 1980s and the local politicians tasked with handling the racial tension and class stratification that the crisis brings to the surface.
You should watch if: You want a quicker-to-digest tale of urban politics than The Wire presents, but are still interested in the darkly unidealized take on political life and its ramifications that David Simon offers.
How to watch: The miniseries is available via HBO Go and HBO Now.
What’s it about?: Julia Louis-Dreyfus plays Selina Meyer, a power-hungry politician who finds herself in the thankless position of vice president. The series documents the hilariously incompetent staff around her as she attempts to solidify what little political clout she does have.
You should watch if: You love to be cynical about politics and are hoping to laugh at the ridiculousness that goes on behind-the-scenes.
How to watch: The first four seasons can be viewed using HBO Go or HBO Now, and the fifth season premieres on HBO this spring.
What’s it about?: Homeland is, in many ways, two completely different series. The first few seasons are about a CIA agent and her attempt to prove that a recently-returned P.O.W. is actually a terrorist mole. The more recent seasons follow the same character, but deal with crises of a more typically “political-thriller” fashion.
You should watch if: Watch the first few seasons if you’re interested in the psychological toll that high-stakes political machinations can take on those involved. Watch the more recent seasons if you just want an entertaining and high-adrenaline thriller.
How to watch: The first five seasons can be viewed via Showtime Anytime. An upcoming sixth season was announced in December.
10. The Honorable Woman
What’s it about?: The Stein family are major players in Middle Eastern commerce and politics, and are attempting to leverage their business and technology connections in the service of peace in the region. Of course, things become complicated when the son of their family housekeeper is kidnapped…
You should watch if: You’re interested in the relationship between business, humanitarianism, and politics.
How to watch: The 8-episode miniseries is available to stream in full on Netflix.
11. Wolf Hall
What’s it about?: During the reign of King Henry VIII, various noblemen with political aspirations seek to curry favor with the king, with the rise of Thomas Cromwell during this period providing the main thrust of the miniseries.
You should watch if: You’re interested in the ways that political power has — and hasn’t — changed over time and also love series with striking period details.
How to watch: All episodes are available for purchase on Amazon.
What’s it about?: In the largely lawless Dakota town of Deadwood, power is up for grabs, with the intra-community politicking providing a look into the way control was established in new American territories throughout history.
You should watch if: The highly-polished nature of current political campaigning has you yearning for a time when people weren’t afraid to get dirty in search of power.
How to watch: Find the series on HBO Go or HBO Now.
13. The Good Wife
What’s it about?: When a sex scandal brings down her politician husband, Alicia Florrick (Julianna Marguiles) returns to work as an attorney to provide for her family. Over the course of the show’s seven seasons, both Alicia and the people around her experience various changes of fate with regards to their social and political statuses.
You should watch if: You want to see a badass woman taking care of business and working her way up the legal and political ladder.
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