Image credit: Knope2012.com
Tonight's season finale of Parks and Recreation will feature one of the most hotly contested elections since Truman defeated Dewey. While we wait to see whether Leslie Knope trumps Bobby Newport for a seat on the Pawnee City Council, here are some of our other favorite TV election episodes.
After Boston City Councilman Kevin Fogarty wins the support of the Cheers gang after a few mindless clichés ("I'm a hard worker, and I take a stand...on the issues of the day...the things that concern you and your family the most."), Dr. Crane bets them that he could get a trained monkey on the ballot and win 10% of the vote. With no simians handy he instead collects signatures and gets naïve bumpkin Woody Boyd into the City Council race. Woody unwittingly aces an interview with a reporter who misinterprets his farming anecdotes as clever political analogies. (Frasier's prescient advice: Just "say the word 'change' about 100 times.") Woody goes on to win the election, and every time Frasier closes his eyes he has visions of a bumbling President Boyd pushing the Big Button and starting World War III.
2. Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
Uncle Philip Banks is running for Circuit Court Judge, but his opponent – incumbent Judge Carl Robinson – is running a smear campaign, calling Uncle Phil “soft on crime” in TV commercials. But Phil refuses to fight dirty and resolves to stick to the issues. The womanizing, slightly sleazy Robinson (played by the inimitable Sherman Hemsley) wins by the largest margin in recent history. All is not lost for Uncle Phil, however, as Robinson soon keels over from a heart attack and Banks is appointed to the bench as his replacement.
3. The Dick Van Dyke Show
During the Camelot years of the early 1960s, Rob and Laura Petrie were often described as the John and Jackie Kennedy of television. That point was reinforced by the writers of The Dick Van Dyke Show in the episode entitled “The Making of a Councilman.” Rob had reluctantly entered the race for a seat on the New Rochelle City Council (“reluctant” because he felt he wasn’t well-versed on the issues) and found himself the toast of the local media and influential women’s clubs strictly due to his good looks and ready wit, as well as his beautiful, elegant wife. His opponent, played by nerdy Wally Cox, possessed an encyclopedic knowledge of everything from local high school athletics to urban redevelopment.
After a press conference, Rob began to suspect that he was running on his “smile,” especially since the most probing question he was asked by the media was a fawning “How tall are you?” Morey Amsterdam even worked in a sly mention of Richard Nixon, further solidifying the Kennedy connection. (Spoiler alert: Rob won the election. But the TV announcer continually mispronounced his surname.)
4. Designing Women
Who doesn’t relish a good Julia Sugarbaker “Terminator”-style rant? And it was obvious throughout her debate with incumbent councilman Wilson Brickett (in “The Candidate” episode) that she was spoiling for a major eruption. Conservative Brickett thought that taxpayer dollars in his school district were wasted on “petticoat sports” and “screwball curriculums (sic)” such as dance and other fine arts. Add that to his pro-gun stance and there wasn’t one of Julia’s buttons he didn’t manage to push. Her classic meltdown was insightful and entertaining, but it cost her the election, of course:
Frasier Crane had no better luck with elections after he moved to Seattle (and his own series). Having twice lost his bid as president of his condo board, he got the bright idea of having his father, Martin, run in his place. Martin was an affable chap, well-liked by the other residents of the Elliott Bay Towers, and if he got elected then Frasier could effectively use him to get his own policies in place. Martin did win the election, and Frasier worked out a careful series of hand signals with him to guide his responses when dealing with tenant complaints. But power went to Martin’s head and he ignored Frasier’s signals and his advice and started implementing his own ideas instead. Or, as Frasier succinctly put it, “Well, well, well - the puppet thinks he’s a real boy!”
6. Green Acres
Oliver Wendell Douglas has had it up to here (my hand is under my chin) with the deplorable road conditions in Hooterville. Come to think of it, there are many other services supposedly provided by the State that are woefully inadequate, in his opinion. Being the civic-minded citizen he is, Douglas does some research to find out exactly who his State Representative is. Turns out it's Ben Hanks, who stops by Hooterville once every four years (right before election time) to pass out official Ben Hanks crab legs, balloons, toupees, enchiladas, gold watches, baby cribs, you name it. Everyone in Hooterville supports kindly, big-hearted Ben Hanks and they very vocally denounce Mr. Douglas (while munching on their Ben Hanks cotton candy) when he finds out that Hanks has padded the State payroll with a host of his relatives and attempts to blow the whistle during a town meeting (held just prior to election time).
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Tell us about these and your other favorite TV Election Day memories!