Election Selection: let’s watch politics

Julia Jacoby

To celebrate the close of the election season, the Bark has reviewed the most binge-worthy political shows. From sitcoms to soap operas, the Bark explores which shows best capture the power and impact of politics.  

House of Cards

Photo courtesy of Netflix
Photo courtesy of Netflix

“For those of us climbing to the top of the food chain, there can be no mercy. There is but one rule: hunt or be hunted,” said Congressman Frank Underwood, played by Kevin Spacey in the Netflix original series “House of Cards.” After learning he will not be appointed Secretary of State as promised, Underwood and his wife Claire (Robin Wright) scheme to enact revenge on the administration he helped elect. Wonderfully cynical, “House of Cards” explores the borderline-sociopathic tendencies of some politicians. Spacey portrays the pure ruthlessness of Underwood with ease, especially with his malicious monologues aimed directly at the viewer. These breaks in the fourth wall show us just how two-faced he really is. Likewise, the cool color scheme creates a dark undertone and complements the cold-blooded nature of the characters. At points the relentless evil of the characters becomes frustrating and anticlimactic, even boring. But overall, “House of Cards” is a deliciously sinister show that will leave you questioning your own morals.

Scandal:

For those of us who obsessed over Shonda Rhimes’ “Grey’s Anatomy,” we find a similar binge-worthy series in “Scandal.” The show is centered around the life of “fixer” Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington), who is hired to control media crises alongside her team of “Gladiators in Suits.” These crises are often centered around the White House and Washington D.C.’s elite. The show intertwines the cases that Pope is hired to fix with her steamy and complicated affair with the married president. Washington delivers a stellar performance as Pope, perfectly capturing the strength of being an independent woman with the emotional turmoil of an impossible romance. Because Pope’s job is concerned with appearances, the audience sees the heartbreaking toll as characters are forced to perpetuate false realities. However, the plotline progressively becomes more cliché as it goes on, and the soapiness of it eventually becomes predictable and underwhelming. The episodes all follow a similar pattern: a media crisis to handle that loosely relates to Olivia’s moral dilemma, past secrets uncovered, new and shocking information presented, and a late night phone call between Olivia and the president. However, Washington’s strong acting never falters. Fittingly named, “Scandal” is an unadulterated guilty-pleasure show. 

West Wing:

In contrast to the cynical political outlook of “House of Cards,” “West Wing” centers around politicians who fight for ideology instead of power. At first, the show depicts the liberal fantasy of a Democratic bubble surrounding Capitol Hill, but slowly

brings in a more right-wing perspective. Nevertheless, there is a lack of realism in the show. The attempt it makes to present a romanticized version of a chaotic institution includes unrealistically well-intentioned idealists and we see a little too much of the characters walking and talking. This becomes dull and the show loses momentum towards the end of the series. Though unrealistic, “West Wing,” is a compelling and intelligent drama that seamlessly weaves together the ideology and personal lives of its characters. Performances from Martin Sheen as Josiah Bartlet, the honorably dedicated President, amongst other notable actors like Rob Lowe, Allison Janney and Dulé Hill make the cast of “West Wing” extremely likeable.

Parks and Recreation:

A comedic alternative to the other three shows, “Parks and Recreation,” is a light story following waffle-loving, salad-hating Leslie Knope, the deputy director of the Parks and Recreation Department in the fictional town of Pawnee, Indiana. The show takes a satirical look at local government, finding a way to poke fun at budget constraints, corruption and business interests.  The show centers around Knope’s office,

Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) is the enthusiastic Deputy Director of Parks and Recreation for the fictional town of Pawnee.
Photo courtesy of NBC

filled with hilarious performances that contribute to the parodic nature of the show, from Nick Offerman as Ron Swanson, a tight-lipped Libertarian who despises the government he works for, to Aubrey Plaza as April Ludgate, the apathetic, deadpan intern. The show gives Leslie no obvious partisan agenda, and instead plays up her unbridled optimism. “Parks and Recreation,” bears obvious resemblances to another NBC show , “The Office.” They were both created by Mike Schur and Greg Daniels, and they share a faux-documentary, single-camera structure. “The Office,” better captures the dull workplace and finds humor in a less-than-dynamic leader. “Parks and Recreation,” places emphasis on the quirks between coworkers and has a more engaging and brighter setting. Though it doesn’t have the wit of  “The Office,” “Parks and Recreation” provides an absurd charm that is infectiously funny. Unfortunately, it is impossible to watch without being extremely reminiscence of “The Office.”