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10 Fantastic Political TV Shows You Can Stream Right Now

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With the frenzy of the 2016 election on full display, it’s an ideal time to take a break from cable news and revisit some of the great fictional political TV shows instead. Historically, during the network era, broadcasters tended to shy away from controversial political material, but in recent decades—thanks in part to cable and streaming video—we’ve seen TV shows featuring captivating political content flourish. But political TV shows can do more than entertain us; they can also provide us with powerful insights about our political culture—about the daily functioning of local and national governments. Here are 10 political TV shows you can watch after you’ve had your fill of cable news.

1. TANNER '88 (1988)

Where to watch it: HBO Now, Hulu

Created by director Robert Altman and Doonesbury cartoonist Garry Trudeau, Tanner ’88 is a mockumentary that follows a fictional Michigan Congressman, Jack Tanner (Michael Murphy), as he pursues the Democratic nomination for President. Altman and Trudeau filmed on location in Iowa and New Hampshire, leading to cameos by real-life politicians including Bob Dole, Pat Robertson, Jesse Jackson, and Gary Hart, but the short-lived series endures because of its satirical insight into the ways in which TV was making elections even more artificial and stage-managed. With Tanner’s ironic campaign slogan, “For Real,” a fake presidential candidate became a powerful vehicle for showing us how politics itself has become a highly scripted spectacle.

2. THE WEST WING (1999-2006)

Where to watch it: Amazon, Netflix

Aaron Sorkin’s White House drama offers audiences a romanticized vision of the president (Martin Sheen) and his staff. Unlike the power-hungry careerists seen in most political shows, The West Wing depicted Washington insiders as having good intentions for improving the lives of the citizens they served. Tackling subjects from Supreme Court nominations to the war on terrorism and government shutdowns, The West Wing continues to be a prescient show that speaks to current issues. It also used bold storytelling techniques, including a largely unscripted episode that featured a debate between Democrat Matthew Santos (Jimmy Smits) and Republican Arnold Vinick (Alan Alda) that served as a powerful articulation of two competing visions for how government should work.

3. THE WIRE (2002-2008)

Where to watch it: Amazon, HBO Now

David Simon’s brilliant drama about the narcotics scene in Baltimore, Maryland depicted that world not just from the perspective of law enforcement but also from the point of view of the dealers and users who were affected by legal and institutional forces that have contributed to the neglect of the black underclass. The Wire also serves as a powerful reminder of the failures of local politicians, bureaucrats, and even the news media in contributing to the collapse of many urban centers like Baltimore. But the show is also passionately acted and sharply scripted, making it a powerfully complex drama—one that teaches us about the importance of not just local but national politics in shaping our daily lives.

4. PARKS AND RECREATION (2009-2015)

Where to watch it: Hulu, Netflix

In the first season of the classic NBC mockumentary-style sitcom, Amy Poeher’s Leslie Knope is depicted as a pushy and naive small-town bureaucrat lacking in self-awareness. But as the show evolved, it turned Knope into a canny, likeable character who stood up for the value of local government in making a difference in people’s lives. It also gave Knope a perfect foil in Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman), a libertarian who believed the government should do as little as possible but who still managed to be a supportive friend. Parks and Recreation also satirized current political events—most notably Michael Bloomberg’s infamous soda tax and the recall of Wisconsin governor Scott Walker—and featured cameos by politicians including Vice President Joe Biden, First Lady Michelle Obama, and Secretary of State Madeline Albright.

5. VEEP (2012-PRESENT)

Where to watch it: Amazon, HBO Now

Created by Armando Iannucci, who was also the driving force behind the British political comedy The Thick of It, Veep features Julia Louis-Dreyfus as the charismatic, but mostly ineffectual, Vice President Selina Meyer. The show brutally satirizes Washington bureaucracy and ambition, as Selina’s staff members compete to gain favor with their superiors. Unlike the utopian presidency of The West Wing, the characters in Veep are driven completely by self-interest and more interested in the appearance of success than in actually making things happen. Add a highly talented cast headlined by Louis-Dreyfus, Tony Hale, and Anna Chlumsky, and you get one of the most biting commentaries on American politics ever made.

6. HOUSE OF CARDS (2013-PRESENT)

Where to watch it: Netflix

Based on a four-episode British TV show from 1990, House of Cards made a big splash as one of the first original series produced by Netflix. It features Kevin Spacey as Frank Underwood, an ambitious politician who manipulates, cheats, and even kills his political opponents while embarking on an audacious effort to grab power. The show has drawn comparisons to Shakespeare’s Richard III with its depiction of Underwood’s elaborate pursuit of revenge against all of his personal and political rivals. You can also enjoy Spacey mugging for the camera, directly addressing viewers through asides in which he confides in the viewers about what he is doing, implicating us in the process.

7. SCANDAL (2012-PRESENT)

Where to watch it: ABC.com, Amazon, Hulu, Netflix

While many critics have dismissed Scandal as soapy melodrama, Shonda Rhimes’ primetime series offers an entertaining and stylish depiction of political ambition and greed. The show’s lead character, Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington), is a fixer—someone who works with her team of “Gladiators” to help her wealthy clients make scandals go away. Frequently, that involves coming to the aid of President Fitzgerald Grant, with whom she has an ongoing affair. But these emotional storylines can also speak to questions of political power. See, for example, “The Lawn Chair,” an episode from season four that tackles the issue of police brutality, and a long-running season one subplot about tampered voting machines.

8. THE AMERICANS (2013-PRESENT)

Where to watch it: Amazon

Set in the early 1980s at the peak of the Cold War, The Americans depicts Philip and Elizabeth Jennings as a pair of KGB agents living in an arranged marriage in suburban Washington, as they work to spy on the American government while raising two children who have no knowledge of their parents' true identities. The show is a powerful meditation on the psychic toll of living your life—working, vacationing, and having sex—while pretending to be someone else. It’s also a powerful commentary on today’s use of surveillance, spying, and torture in the fight against terrorism.

9. THE GOOD WIFE (2009-2016)

Where to watch it: Amazon, CBS All Access, Hulu

A complex legal drama, The Good Wife focuses on attorney Alicia Florrick (subtly played by Julianna Margulies) as the wife of a philandering politician who goes back to work in a law firm after her husband’s infidelities go public. During the course of the series, Florrick chooses to make a run for the office of State’s Attorney, forcing her to make a series of ethical choices about what principles she's willing to sacrifice in order to get elected. But the show is also one of the most insightful series ever about the nuances of the legal system and its ability to handle complicated cases. In particular, watch for the episode where Florrick represents a client who was wounded in a shooting range when a gun he built using a 3D printer explodes. Should the printer manufacturer be sued? The designer of the gun? The Good Wife has the foresight to tackle many of these complex issues.

10. SHOW ME A HERO (2015)

Where to watch it: HBO Now

This miniseries, produced by The Wire creator David Simon, is based on the true story of Yonkers mayor Nick Wasicsko (Oscar Isaac) and his efforts to comply with a federal order demanding that the city desegregate its public housing despite resistance from the city’s white, middle-class residents who feared the changes that integration would bring. Like The Wire and The Good Wife, Show Me a Hero captures the drama and intrigue of local politics, while serving as a brutal reminder about the dysfunctional nature of political institutions in many urban centers. Isaac powerfully inhabits the role of Wasicsko, one of the youngest mayors ever to hold office in a major U.S. city, and Catherine Keener also shines as Mary Dorman, a naive East Yonkers resident who initially fights against desegregation.

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20 Things You Might Not Know About Mr. Show
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You never need an excuse to look back at Mr. Show with Bob and David, but given that today is co-creator Bob Odenkirk's 55th birthday, now seems to be as good a time as any.

1. BOB ODENKIRK AND DAVID CROSS’S FIRST MEETING DID NOT GO VERY WELL.

Following four years of writing on Saturday Night Live, Odenkirk was in Los Angeles in 1992 as a writer for the Chris Elliott Fox cult classic Get a Life. David Cross was a comedian in L.A. after performing for years in Boston. One boring afternoon, Cross asked friend and fellow stand-up Janeane Garofalo if she knew anybody that played basketball. The two went to Odenkirk’s house, and Garofalo introduced David to Bob and then asked if he wanted to play basketball. He said no.

2. ODENKIRK AND CROSS FIRST WORKED TOGETHER ON THE BEN STILLER SHOW.

Despite their inauspicious beginning, the two ended up having numerous fruitful collaborations, starting with their work on The Ben Stiller Show. Odenkirk was a writer/performer on the short-lived but Emmy award-winning sketch show with Garofalo, Stiller, and Andy Dick. Cross was brought in in the middle of the show’s 13-episode run as a writer.

3. THE CO-STARS FIRST PERFORMED ON STAGE TOGETHER AS "THE THREE GOOFBALLZ."

Odenkirk and Cross performed sketch comedy together at the Diamond Club in Los Angeles, with a third improviser that, the joke went, would either be deceased or out elsewhere getting high.

4. "THE THREE GOOFBALLZ' WAS ALMOST THE TITLE OF MR. SHOW

Odenkirk also pitched the title Grand National Championships, but David Cross was never a fan of it.

5. JACK BLACK, SARAH SILVERMAN, AND OTHER FUTURE STARS APPEARED ON THE SHOW BEFORE THEY WERE FAMOUS.

Black was in four episodes of Mr. Show, starring in the classic Jesus Christ Superstar parody “Jeepers Creepers.” Silverman was a performer in 10 episodes. Mary Lynn Rajskub, best known as Chloe on 24, was a featured actress in the first two years. Tom Kenny, the voice of SpongeBob SquarePants, was a series regular for a majority of the run. Scott Adsit, a.k.a. 30 Rock’s Pete Hornberger, was in six episodes.

6. PATTON OSWALT WARMED UP THE MR. SHOW CROWD.

In addition to performing stand-up before tapings and keeping the studio audience interested in between scenes, Oswalt played Famous Mortimer in the episode “Operation: Hell on Earth” (but was credited as “Patton Oswald.”)

7. HOMELESS PEOPLE WERE NOT KIND TO THE ORIGINAL SETS.

Because the pilot episode was shot at a “down and dirty,” small Central Hollywood club, the sets had to be placed outside, where homeless people defecated on them.

8. YOU MIGHT ALSO RECOGNIZE SOME OF THE WRITING STAFF.

Dino Stamatopoulos was already on the original writing staff of Late Night with Conan O’Brien and had written for David Letterman before writing for Cross and Odenkirk. He would later create three shows and play Starburns on Community. Writer/performer Scott Aukerman co-created and executive produces Between Two Ferns, and created and stars on Comedy Bang! Bang!. Writer/performer Paul F. Tompkins hosted VH-1’s Best Week Ever! and currently hosts the satirical debate show No, You Shut Up!, where he moderates discussions by a panel full of puppets. Bob Odenkirk’s brother Bill has written ten episodes of The Simpsons.

9. THE DIRECTORS OF LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE LEARNED HOW TO DIRECT COMEDY FROM MR. SHOW.

Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton were known for directing music videos like The Smashing Pumpkins’ “Tonight, Tonight” and Jane’s Addiction’s “Been Caught Stealing,” and decided to direct two Mr. Show episodes to expand their filming vocabulary. The husband and wife team were behind the camera for the classic sketch “Monk Academy.”

10. ONE SKETCH WAS INFLUENCED BY LOUIS C.K.

One of the first sketches in the show’s history involved Odenkirk playing a priest forced to do rather unpleasant and un-priestly things. The idea sprang from a conversation David Cross had with fellow young Boston comic Louis C.K., where Louis talked about annoying people that try to claim a prize on a bet that their friends never agreed to in the first place.

11. HBO ONLY CENSORED THE SHOW ONCE.

Throughout four years and 30 episodes, the lone note Odenkirk and Cross got from HBO was to get rid of a line where one character tells another to have sex with a baby. Odenkirk admitted that being told to edit it out “wasn’t too much to ask.”

12. THEY ONLY RECEIVED ONE VIEWER COMPLAINT.

The only angry letter that Odenkirk and Cross were ever made aware of was from a military veteran who was offended by the sketch in “Who Let You In?” where Cross’s performance artist character attempts to defecate on the American flag. The two stars actually called the viewer and discovered that he didn’t watch the entire sketch, and therefore never realized that Cross’ character was never able to actually go through with it.

13. ONE SKETCH WAS CUT FROM THE SHOW SIX TIMES AND NEVER MADE IT TO AIR.

A sketch called “Party Car,” a joke on old, low-quality shows filled with '70s celebrities was cut from half a dozen scripts and never filmed. It would have featured Nipsey Russell, Zsa Zsa Gabor, (or reasonable facsimiles), and a baby in a balloon-filled car.

14. BOB ODENKIRK GOT IN TROUBLE FOR USING A PICTURE OF HIS DEAD GRANDFATHER.

Because the sketch “Old Man In House” needed a photo of an old man, and the elderly gentleman was not the butt of the joke, Odenkirk thought it would be fine. Instead, some Odenkirks were “very upset.”

15. CROSS WAS PAYING OFF HIS STUDENT LOAN DEBTS THROUGHOUT MOST OF THE SERIES.

David Cross and Amber Tamblyn
Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Despite executive producing and co-creating a series on television, Cross had trouble paying off his student loan debts from his time at Emerson College. Figuring that the person calling from the bill collection agency wouldn’t believe that he couldn’t pay if he knew his job status, Cross pretended that he worked at Mr. Show as a messenger.

16. ONE PERSON WAS GIVEN A "SPECIAL THANKS" IN THE CLOSING CREDITS OF EVERY EPISODE AS A JOKE.

As Cross once explained, Rick Dees was thanked in the credits of the pilot episode, even though he was “certainly nobody we would ever thank, or be in a position to thank.” Some personalities that were thanked for no discernable reason were Greg Maddux, Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov, Gabe Kaplan, and Howard Zinn.

17. HBO CHANGED THE TIME SLOT FOR ITS FINAL SEASON, AND IT WAS "DEMORALIZING."

After airing Fridays at midnight for the first three seasons, HBO moved the show to Mondays at the same time, confusing some loyal viewers, and the ratings decreased as a result. Bob Odenkirk told a reporter that, after 30 episodes, HBO was still treating the cast and crew as “second-class citizens,” and that they were “demoralized” by the slot shift.

18. BOB AND DAVID TOLD A STUDIO AUDIENCE THAT THEY HAD JUST WITNESSED THE FINAL EPISODE, AND THEY WEREN'T JOKING.

“Patriotism, Pepper, and Professionalism,” the 40th and final episode of Mr. Show, was taped on November 21, 1998. After the final sketch was filmed, Odenkirk and Cross made their announcement, although the show’s cancellation wasn’t made official for another few months.

19. THERE WAS A MR. SHOW MOVIE THAT WENT STRAIGHT TO VIDEO.

Run Ronnie Run focused on David Cross’s redneck criminal character Ronnie Dobbs. It was filmed in 2001, but never made it to theaters. Bob Odenkirk admitted that the movie wasn’t perfect, but he blamed the poor quality on director Troy Miller, for not allowing himself and Cross to edit the movie.

20. THE TWO HAVE REUNITED A FEW OTHER TIMES.

David Cross and Bob Odenkirk star in 'W/ Bob and David'
Saeed Adyani/Netflix

In 2002, Bob, David, and Mr. Show writer/performers Brian Posehn, John Ennis, and Stephanie Courtney (Flo in the Progressive commercials) toured the country to perform some of the show’s sketches and material from their unproduced screenplay Mr. Show: Hooray For America! The next year, Odenkirk guest starred as Dr. Phil Gunty on a season one episode of Arrested Development, alongside Cross’ character Tobias Fünke.

In 2012, Odenkirk, Cross, and Posehn went on a six-city tour to promote their book filled with more unproduced material. Bob and David appeared briefly together the next year on an episode of Aukerman’s Comedy Bang! Bang! In 2015, 20 years after Mr. Show's debut, Netflix premiered W/ Bob and David, a five-episode sketch comedy show created by and starring the duo.

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30 Memorable Quotes from Carrie Fisher
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Just days after suffering a heart attack aboard a flight en route to Los Angeles, beloved actress, author, and screenwriter Carrie Fisher passed away at the age of 60 on December 27, 2016. Though she’ll always be most closely associated with her role as Princess Leia in Star Wars, Fisher’s life was like something out of its own Hollywood movie. Born in Beverly Hills on this day in 1956, Fisher was born into show business royalty as the daughter of singer Eddie Fisher and actress Debbie Reynolds.

In addition to her work in front of the camera, Fisher built up an impressive resume behind the scenes, too, most notably as a writer; in addition to several memoirs and semi-autobiographical novels, including Wishful Drinking, Surrender the Pink, Delusions of Grandma, The Best Awful, Postcards from the Edge, and The Princess Diarist (which was released last month), she was also an in-demand script doctor who counted Sister Act, Hook, Lethal Weapon 3, and The Wedding Singer among her credits.

Though she struggled with alcoholism, drug addiction, and mental illness, Fisher always maintained a sense of humor—as evidenced by the 30 memorable quotes below.

ON GROWING UP IN HOLLYWOOD

“I am truly a product of Hollywood in-breeding. When two celebrities mate, someone like me is the result.”

“I was born into big celebrity. It could only diminish.”

“At a certain point in my early twenties, my mother started to become worried about my obviously ever-increasing drug ingestion. So she ended up doing what any concerned parent would do. She called Cary Grant.”

“I was street smart, but unfortunately the street was Rodeo Drive.”

“If anything, my mother taught me how to sur-thrive. That's my word for it.”

ON AGING

“As you get older, the pickings get slimmer, but the people don't.”

ON INSTANT GRATIFICATION

“Instant gratification takes too long.”

ON THE LEGACY OF STAR WARS

“People are still asking me if I knew Star Wars was going to be that big of a hit. Yes, we all knew. The only one who didn't know was George.”

“Leia follows me like a vague smell.”

“I signed my likeness away. Every time I look in the mirror, I have to send Lucas a couple of bucks.”

“People see me and they squeal like tropical birds or seals stranded on the beach.”

“You're not really famous until you’re a Pez dispenser.”

ON THE FLEETING NATURE OF SUCCESS

“There is no point at which you can say, 'Well, I'm successful now. I might as well take a nap.'”

ON DEALING WITH MENTAL ILLNESS

“I'm very sane about how crazy I am.”

ON RESENTMENT

“Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die."

ON LOVE

“Someone has to stand still for you to love them. My choices are always on the run.”

“I've got to stop getting obsessed with human beings and fall in love with a chair. Chairs have everything human beings have to offer, and less, which is obviously what I need. Less emotional feedback, less warmth, less approval, less patience, and less response. The less the merrier. Chairs it is. I must furnish my heart with feelings for furniture.”

“I don’t hate hardly ever, and when I love, I love for miles and miles. A love so big it should either be outlawed or it should have a capital and its own currency.”

ON EMOTIONS

“The only thing worse than being hurt is everyone knowing that you're hurt.”

ON RELATIONSHIPS

“I envy people who have the capacity to sit with another human being and find them endlessly interesting, I would rather watch TV. Of course this becomes eventually known to the other person.”

ON HOLLYWOOD

“Acting engenders and harbors qualities that are best left way behind in adolescence.”

“You can't find any true closeness in Hollywood, because everybody does the fake closeness so well.”

“It's a man's world and show business is a man's meal, with women generously sprinkled through it like overqualified spice.”

ON FEAR

“Stay afraid, but do it anyway. What’s important is the action. You don’t have to wait to be confident. Just do it and eventually the confidence will follow.”

ON LIFE

“I don’t want life to imitate art. I want life to be art.”

“No motive is pure. No one is good or bad-but a hearty mix of both. And sometimes life actually gives to you by taking away.”

“If my life wasn't funny it would just be true, and that is unacceptable.”

“I shot through my twenties like a luminous thread through a dark needle, blazing toward my destination: Nowhere.”

“My life is like a lone, forgotten Q-Tip in the second-to-last drawer.”

ON DEATH

“You know what's funny about death? I mean other than absolutely nothing at all? You'd think we could remember finding out we weren't immortal. Sometimes I see children sobbing at airports and I think, 'Aww. They've just been told.'”

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