The things going on in the White House today are pretty ridiculous. I mean, we have a reality TV star as our President and everything has descended into mass chaos. So, we wouldn’t blame you for wanting a respite from the craziness. Luckily there are plenty of fictionalized versions of the White House that you can pretend are the reality. Focusing in on the White House, and the President for that matter, on television is a great way to imagine different political scenarios. And remember a time when we had a literate President.
Over the years, TV shows set in the White House have ranged from family sitcoms to espionage thrillers, and we love them all the same. Some days, the craziness happening in the White House seems to be too much so we turn our eyes to a fake version where we don’t have to live with the consequences of whatever the fictional Commander in Chief does! Here are some of our favorite TV shows set in the White House of all time!
16. Madam Secretary
While most TV shows about the White House peer into the life of the President, this one focuses on another important figure: the Secretary of State. The titular Madam Secretary is Téa Leoni as Elizabeth, a CIA analyst-turned-Secretary of State who is specifically requested by the President. Seeing a look into the White House focuses on a woman in power is a refreshing change of pace. Because, sadly, on-screen and off, the government is a bit of a boys club. So we are all for seeing more females in power on our TV screens!
15. The First Family
For anyone who wishes President Obama had been followed by the second black President, not the first orange one, this is the show for you! This show follows the First Family of the United States as they deal with the obvious stress that comes with the presidency — as well as the craziness family can bring. Because let’s be honest, if any of us became President, we’d have a whole bunch of crazy family members to deal with on a daily basis. The show ran for a few seasons in syndication before ultimately ending, but not before it got a few NAACP Image Award nominations for its performances!
14. 1600 Penn
This star-studded sitcom took a look at the dysfunctional family of the President running around the White House and causing trouble. The series starred Josh Gad, Jenna Elfman, and Bill Pullman rounding out the cast as the President himself. The silly show only lasted one season but gave a more lighthearted look at what goes on in the White House apart from the everyday stresses of, you know, leading the free world!
13. State of Affairs
This series focuses on a very specific part of the presidency: the daily briefing. Katherine Heigl plays Charlie Tucker, the CIA analyst responsible for giving the briefing. And who is she giving the briefing too? President Constance Payton (Alfre Woodard), the first female black President of the United States. Obviously, the two have some deep, dramatic ties — Tucker was engaged to the President’s son, who died a year prior. Drama. Because what’s a show about the White House without some good old complicated romantic entanglements?! The show only lasted one season, but the idea of a black woman President will be with us forever.
12. Commander in Chief
A great trend in TV shows about the White House is that many focus on a female President, a reality that has not been fully realized in real life yet. This series is another that bends reality, focusing on President Mackenzie Allen (Geena Davis) who ascends from Vice President to the President after the sitting President dies. She must adjust to her new role and deal with a country that didn’t vote for her, but her predecessor. It’s an interesting look at what would happen within the White House if the President was unable to perform their duties and the Vice President had to take over. That’s a POV rarely seen on TV or in real-life, so we’ll take it.
11. Mr. President
Mr. President gives a uniquely ’80s perspective of the White House. In the era of Ronald Reagan and strong conservatism in the country, this look at the presidency mirrored that. George C. Scott played President Samuel Tresch, a former governor turned President. The show examined his family life as well as life in the White House during the first season. The second season turned things around a bit, focusing on the President’s wife leaving him. That narrative had rarely been used on TV before in relation to the President. The twist gave new layers to the President on the show and made viewers realize that he’s human just like us!
10. Political Animals
This show delves deep into the world of politics and how hard some people will fight to get in and stay in. Sigourney Weaver plays a former First Lady-turned-Secretary of State. Remind you of anyone? Her husband was a popular ’90s President, despite his less-than-couth behavior. Seriously, remind you of anybody?! The series focuses on her and her family, a family that has a long White House history they don’t want to give up. The miniseries really showed the power the White House has over the world, and over the people within it. The politics don’t stop at foreign policy and healthcare, they extend to every interaction in the famed house. And we can’t help but believe that’s exactly what it’s like in real life!
9. Hail to the Chief
Another female President! This time it’s Patty Duke in the role. The show not only broke barriers with their female President but with one of the only reoccurring gay characters on TV in the ’80s. It’s such a shame the show didn’t last longer than one season! Regardless, that first season was a progressive, soapy look inside the White House. Sometimes you need a TV show to just be comedic, dramatic, and open-ended — even when it’s about something as serious as the government! The show was known for its wacky tone and silly storylines. It’s one of the most fun looks inside a fake White House!
8. Alpha House
This show is unapologetically a satire of life in Washington. The series follows a group of senators who live together in D.C. and work inside the White House. It’s inspired by the real-life senators who live together in a row house in Washington, getting into zany hijinks we assume. With John Goodman leading the cast and a Bill Murray cameo sandwiched in there, you know it’s going to be hilarious. The show is a straight-up comedic look inside the inner workings of government and the silliness that goes on between those who work in it. While we know it’s totally fictional, we can’t help but imagine how much better the White House would be if they embraced this kind of silliness!
This political thriller provides a no-frills, albeit dramatized, look at what goes on in our government. From foreign relations to undercover work to the exploration of a female President, this show gives a wide scope. The show mostly focuses on Carrie Mathison (Clare Danes), a CIA operative with bipolar disorder who is constantly doing covert work and taking care of national security. She’s basically a do-it-all badass in Washington. The show gives a look at the behind-the-scenes moral ambiguities in the White House and beyond. The award-winning series gives a realistic look at the world today — no sugar-coating here!
6. Cory in the House
This may be the only kids’ show set in the White House! The spin-off of That’s So Raven brings Cory Baxter (Kyle Massey) and his dad to the White House when he gets a head chef job there. He must be a pretty good cook! Cory runs around the White House causing trouble and being annoyed by the President’s daughter. It’s a fairly light-hearted look at the famed house. He even gets mentored by the President himself! Realism. This conflict-free version of the White House is quite far from reality but it’s a breezy, fun look at something very serious!
5. Designated Survivor
The crazy premise for this series is based on real protocol, which makes it even more insane! Tom Kirkman (Kiefer Sutherland) is the low-level cabinet member that is marked as the “designated survivor.” This is a real thing in the United States government where a cabinet member “sits out” big events where most of the government will be so that someone can carry on and lead the country in the event something tragic happens at said event and all the others die. This designated person is there as a back-up, no one really expects they’ll have to be President. But that’s exactly what happens to Kirkman. When most of the government is wiped out in an attack, he’s suddenly leading the country. It’s a fresh take on the presidency and looks into what could be if something catastrophic were to happen.
4. House of Cards
This series brings to the forefront the greed and corruption that is, no doubt, present in real-life U.S. politics. Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) and his wife Claire (Robin Wright) will do anything and everything to rise to power and prominence in Washington. The thriller deals with power politics and a whole lot of manipulation as it depicts its version of the White House. And we can’t help but think it’s not too far off from real life! When the two climb up the ladder as far as you can go — Frank becomes President, and then Claire succeeds him — they must deal with all new issues in Washington. It’s grim but thrilling.
Can you think of a more scandalous show about the White House than Scandal?! The show embraces its soapy nature like no other and really goes for it when it comes to crazy storylines and shocking political strife. Oliva Pope (Kerry Washington) is a Washington fixer who is too smart, too manipulative, and too powerful for her own damn good. Between fixing the presidency and having an on-again-off-again affair with said President, she has the government right in the palm of her hand. She is constantly working her way up the ladder, bending the White House to her will. She eventually becomes the advisor to the first woman President and basically runs the show herself. The show brings to the spotlight the behind-the-scenes stuff going in government. You never really know who’s pulling the strings!
There is no funnier show about the White House than Veep. Julia Louis-Dreyfus stars as Selina Meyer, the Vice President of the United States. The VP, and later President, tries to navigate politics with her team while trying not to mess everything up on a daily basis. The satirical look at the White House provides tons of laughs at the government’s expense. The comedy has earned Dreyfus six Emmys for her work as the hilarious, sarcastic Meyer. Political TV shows have a tendency to be dark and gritty, with good reason — lots of real-life political things are dark. But this show takes the world of politics and the White House and give it a light-hearted spin. And we could all use a few more belly laughs in our lives these days!
1. The West Wing
This is the defining show about the White House. The West Wing follows the inner-workings of the White House staff as they try to make everything function on a day-to-day basis. The show follows the two terms of the Bartlet (Martin Sheen) administration as the staffers try to balance the country’s needs with political compromise in Washington. The drama is set primarily in the West Wing of the White House, where the Oval Office and most White House staffers are located. From threats of war to romantic entanglements, the show covered it all. Not only is it by far the best show about the White House, but it’s one of the best shows of all time. As idealistic as the show could be at times we could use more of that in the real White House. Sometimes a little political positivity goes a long way!