Over at MSN.com, Kati Johnston has posted a list of the eleven best political shows ever on television. See it by clicking here.
Of course, she managed to miss some of my favorites. I'm not really the political expert on Pop Culture America with John and Dave; this is really more Dave's thing. Maybe he'll chime in with an insightful addendum to both lists, featuring his trademark blend of brilliance, outrage, and loads and loads of profanity. We live in hope.
Ms. Johnston selects some obvious candidates like "The West Wing" and "The Daily Show" as well as a few less obvious ones like "Benson" and the PBS mini-series "The Civil War." And she also cheats her list by lumping a batch of cable punditry shows together as one selection (Shame!).
Here are a few I remember fondly.
"Mr. President" -- David Steven Cohen created this show for the then-fledgling Fox network in 1987 before going on to help craft the more successful Fox show "Parker Lewis Can't Lose" and later the subversive Comedy Central cult fave "Strangers With Candy," both also political shows of a sort. "Mr. President" boasted a stellar cast with the legendary George C. Scott in the title role of President Samuel Arthur Tresch and Madeline Kahn in support. Smart and serious, the show was an odd fit for the network that was making its name with the likes of "Married with Children" and didn't last long.
"Grandpa Goes to Washington" -- Don't let the cutesy-poo title fool you: this was a remarkably tough-minded but short-lived NBC show from the late seventies with Jack Albertson, fresh from the untimely demise of "Chico and the Man" and its star Freddie Prinze (Sr.), in the title role as a kind of elderly Jefferson Smith, entering Washington politics as a relative innocent and facing down corruption. Larry Linville, recently Frank Burns on "MASH," played another major on this show, as well. Like "Mr. President," it was probably too earnest for its own good and lasted only one year. Where's the complete series DVD box set?
"Mr. Smith" -- More Misters. A bizarre high-concept show from 1983: "Mr. Smith" concerned the doings of a super-intelligent talking orangutan (you heard me!) who worked as a behind-the-scenes political advisor in Washington. As weird as it sounds, but actually pretty enjoyable. Cha Cha the orangutan was ably supported by the great persnickety character actor Leonard Frey and voiced and directed by "Taxi's" Ed. Weinberger. This was one of the lowest-rated shows in the history of NBC.
I'd tell you to seek these shows out, but best as I can gleen, you'd have to do something illegal to see them, as none has an official home video release, or is ever likely to get one. Maybe some industrious DVD impresario could get the (undoubtedly cheap) rights to all of them and package them together in a big "Mr TV Goes to Washington" gift box. Hint, hint.