The American political landscape is one of the most divided spaces right now, with Democrats and Republicans at odds, both trying to model the process of democracy within the walls of their parliamentary offices in vastly differing ways.
However, no one office is as cloaked in drama, secrets, security, and scandal as The White House – the official residence of the President of The United States (POTUS).
The white columns of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW in Washington, D.C have housed its fair share of scandals throughout history – including wartime meetings, clandestine schemes, marital spats, and problematic tenants.
Of course, it’s all under deep security, so writers and TV show producers are left to their imaginations about what happens in the White House, especially the enigma of the Oval Office.
With that in mind, we looked up some of our favorite TV shows about the White House, to sate our curiosity and hopefully yours as well!
Designated Survivor, Netflix (2016 – 2019)
There is a very interesting custom when it comes to the line of succession for the presidency of America called the Designated Survivor – a person elected to become president should there be a catastrophe where the line is broken.
This person does not attend events but is kept isolated, to preserve the succession.
In the show, we meet Thomas Kirkman, who becomes the Designated Survivor of the State of the Union address.
Soon what is a customary title becomes very real when an explosion kills everyone that would have been ahead of him.
Suddenly he moves from a normal Secretary of Housing and Urban Development to the role of a lifetime – President of the United States!
As he juggles his new responsibilities amid a cacophony of chaos, he is also tasked with uncovering the truth of the bombing – all while facing a deeply uncertain future and a threat that has only begun to develop.
Deeply riveting and such a unique look at the job of POTUS and the customs of the White House.
The West Wing, NBC (1999 – 2006)
One of the most compelling shows about the inner workings of the White House, The West Wing reigns supreme as one of the best political dramas in history and has won numerous awards, often ranking as one of the best shows of all time.
Most of the show takes place in the titular West Wing, showcasing the Oval Office and its presidential staff.
The show revolves around the intrigue of fictional democratic president Josiah Bartlet, played by Martin Sheen, who walks a hard line with his policies, often to the dismay of his rivals.
Running a country is not a normal 9 to 5 job, and the advisers, president, and staff members in the West Wing often find their personal lives hopelessly entangled in their work lives.
Follow the two presidential terms that put this group of staffers through their paces with threats, scandals, and the weight of being the leader of the free world.
Commander in Chief, ABC (2005 – 2006)
The POTUS is often called Commander in Chief, making it an apt name for a TV show about the job.
Meet President Mackenzie Allen, the first female president of the United States, after she succeeded the sitting president Teddy Bridges when he suffers a cerebral aneurysm.
At first, she is met with skepticism and even suggestions that she hand over the reins to another male, but after meeting with her would-be successor she realizes that he does not have values that align with her own.
Instead, she steps up under intense scrutiny, determined to prove the world wrong about their views on women in politics, especially the Oval Office!
Veep, HBO (2012 – 2019)
Of course, it can’t always be drama in the White House, and in Veep we are given a more satirical look at life in 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Follow Selina Meyer, played by the legendary Julia Louis-Dreyfus as the Vice President (or Veep), as she and her team attempt to navigate the political landscape, even though they often find themselves distracted by day-to-day drama and political games.
Selina is entirely reliant on her wacky team and though she has her own political machinations, she often finds herself skating past on pure luck and the skills of her team.
The show follows her as she tries her best to build a decent working relationship with the Commander in Chief, a faceless caricature we don’t get to meet for quite some time.
What makes the show stand out and earn its numerous awards is the talent of the cast; who will often rehearse their scenes with a hearty dose of improv for the writers who will incorporate these sessions into shooting scripts.
This gives the characters a properly lived-in feel and ups the comedic value.
Scandal, ABC (2012 – 2018)
Is there anyone you can trust more in a scandalous situation than iconic TV heroine, Olivia Pope?
After switching careers from White House Communications Director to her own firm as a crisis manager, Olivia is what’s called a fixer.
Where there’s a crisis, Olivia has the means to make it go away, and her skills have earned a fearsome reputation in the industry.
For those with money and power, Olivia Pope and Associates can defuse reputation bombs before the ink has time to hit the morning papers.
As she and her team face weekly crises, we the audience grow with them, and see how living in a constant state of crisis control slowly eats away at the armor they so keenly prepare before heading into the office.
Madam Secretary, CBS (2014 – 2019)
Follow Elizabeth McCord in her role as the Secretary of State – one of the highest-ranking political jobs other than being the POTUS.
In her day-to-day job, she faces immense political pressure and office politics while deftly navigating the tricky water of international diplomacy – with a tenacity that sees her cutting a corner or two to get the job done.
She often employs her skills as a former CIA analyst to balance the scales and has an aptitude for language and strategic thinking.
Of course, a job this demanding does take a personal toll and we also follow her marriage and three children as they go on this journey with her.
Ultimately she wants to become president herself and is determined to prove her worth and political skills.
Political Animals, USA Network (2012)
In Political Animals we not only see the familial toll of being the President of the United States but we also get a look at what it means to be a driven woman in a world dominated by outdated gender policies.
Meet Elaine Barrish (who is very loosely based on Hillary Clinton) the ex-wife of a very popular former president, Bud Hammond.
In her life post-White House, she is trying her best to be a devoted mother to her fractured family, while also serving as the Secretary of State.
The show stars Sigourney Weaver and has garnered very positive reviews, with some even hoping for it to be extended to a full season instead of its current limited run.
White House Plumbers, HBO (2023)
Many remember the “Watergate” scandal, and it permeates pop culture to this day with many scandals having the suffix -gate added to the end of their names such as Spygate and Deflategate.
Now in this 5-part limited comedy series, we look at the “true” story of Watergate and the political sabotage it entailed.
Meet E. Howard Hunt and G. Gordon Liddy as they fail forward through a series of events that ultimately sees them accidentally toppling the presidency.
As the titular White House Plumbers, they are the men tasked with keeping political leaks out of the papers by any means.
Of course, the show draws heavily from history but gives it a satirical spin in the hands of the immensely talented Woody Harrelson.
The Night Agent, Netflix (2023 – present)
The Night Agent is a newcomer to Netflix and is based on the acclaimed novel by Matthew Quirk.
This action-thriller introduces us to FBI agent Peter Sutherland, a man assigned to the unique job of guarding a phone in the White House basement that seemingly never rings.
Until it does.
This sends him into a series of conspiracies that threaten the Oval Office and national security.
Peter is soon tasked with safeguarding Rose, a cybersecurity expert who has more than her fair share of assassins on her trail.
The show is a classic political thriller, combining the intrigue of working for the FBI and the danger of stepping foot into the political arena.
House of Cards, Netflix (2013 – 2018)
One of the best political thrillers to grace our screen, House of Cards is a slow-burning tale of revenge dripping in sarcasm as thick as Frank Underwood’s Southern accent.
The show opens with the celebration of the election of President Garret Walker, as Frank prepares for his rise from House Majority Whip to Secretary of State under the new presidential regime.
However, the promises made to him are soon revoked, and thus begins the sweeping saga as he sets out to topple the White House like a house of cards from the inside out.
Both Frank and his wife Claire are equally driven and power-hungry, and use each other’s connections as a means to an end through their mutual schemes – and yet somehow they seem deeply devoted to each other.
Whether they’re leaking articles to journalists, moving people around like chess pieces, or committing murder, the Underwoods will see themselves seated in the Oval Office at any cost.
State of Affairs, NBC (2014 – 2015)
The president cannot possibly have time to stay atop all the international affairs and incidents in his own country without a trusted team around them – enter Charleston “Charlie” Whitney Tucker, who is responsible for preparing the President’s Daily Briefing on the State of Affairs including the most pressing security threats of the day.
This gives Charlie the unbearable responsibility of targeting these threats by bringing them to the attention of the president’s office, often leading to moral quandaries that she has to navigate – especially as she is engaged to the president’s son!
Although it has only one season, it is a wonderful woman-centered show as we see the first female president place her trust in another woman to keep her and the country safe.
Backstairs at the White House, NBC (1979)
When we picture the White House, we only scan our memory for presidents and politicians, often forgetting the myriad of unseen staff who are paid to see as little as possible and keep the house running.
Based on the book My Thirty Years Backstairs at the White House by Lillian Rogers Parks, the show tells the story of eight administrations, not through the eyes of politicians, but from the memory of those who occupied the backstairs, working silently to serve the country.
Lillian performs as the main protagonist, retelling her 30 years as a maid behind those historic white walls.
Going all the way from President Taft to President Eisenhower, history is explained through unnoticed witnesses that are often taken for granted.
The Comey Rule, Showtime (2020)
In recent years, writers needn’t look to fiction to conjure up a good political drama, as the extreme divide and clashes of political ideologies have been ramping up more than their own imaginations can keep up.
Based on the book A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership by former FBI Director James Comey, The Comey Rule follows him during the 2016 election and the first few months of the controversial presidency of Donald Trump.
As their extremely different personalities lead them in the same direction, Trump and Comey are on a collision course that will alter both of them forever.
It starts with the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails, and in the second part, we see Comey grapple with Trump’s erratic first few months in office.
It is a very well-written and compelling show that draws back the veil on the White House and what may be one of the most contested, speculated, and reported presidencies in history.
That’s My Bush!, Comedy Central (2001)
Comedy so often draws from real life, and in That’s My Bush!, the clever writers at Comedy Central turned their gaze to the White House to create a satirical sitcom that pokes fun at politics and the traditional sitcom formula in general.
The show is centered on a fictionalized version of President George Bush and his first lady, wacky secretary, sassy housekeeper, and unusual next-door neighbor – who lives next to the White House of all places!?
Although the show often took on serious topics such as abortion and gun control, it did so by completely upending the idea of what a “family sitcom” ought to be.
Don’t expect a regular political satire when tuning in, but look for a few pop culture references in between, as creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker are known for.
Mr. President, Fox (1987 – 1988)
Taking things back a few decades, Mr. President is a Carson Productions sitcom that follows the fictional Samuel Arthur Tresch, his wife, and two children ages 16 and 12.
The show famously tagged itself as “a look at what it’s like to be in the President’s shoes nd slippers”, and looks at what family life in the White House is like – drama, laughs, family problems, and all.
Hail to the Chief, ABC (1985)
Meet Julia Mansfield, the first woman to step into the Oval Office as the President of The United States of America.
Of course, she takes on the role during a politically trying time and constantly has the sword of nuclear war hanging over her head.
With that aside, she still has to manage her personal life, spies who want to bring her down, religious leaders out to destroy her reputation, or even a sex scandal!
The intrigue never ends in this sitcom, and though the topics are serious, the approach most certainly isn’t.
What makes the show unique is that the storylines are often open-ended, much like a soapie, creating a very interesting satire of the soap-opera genre.
The First Family, MyNetwork (2012 – 2015)
It is no easy feat being The First Family and that’s exactly what President William Johnson is about to learn after being sworn in as the 45th President of The United States.
Together with his First Lady, Katherine, and their four children, the Johnson Family is moving into the White House.
Of course, no first family exists in a vacuum and there are bound to be a few wacky family members who come out of the woodwork.
Here we meet Pauletta, the invasive sister-in-law, and the President’s father Alvin – who despite their constant bickering are often involved in various hilarious schemes within the walls of this prestigious address.
1600 Penn, NBC (2012 – 2013)
Every family has their oddballs, but what happens when those oddballs find themselves within the walls of the White House?
In the sitcom 1600 Penn, we meet Standrich Dale Gilchrist, the sitting President of the United States – and his dysfunctional family.
Standrich is left to balance his public image and the absurdity of his home life with his overachieving but pregnant daughter, his second wife who some consider a trophy, and his slacker son who recently moved back home – what a couch to crash on right!?
And that’s just a few of the cast members to contend with. This is a wild ride of a show, and what makes it so absurd is the setting it all takes place.
Cory in the House, Disney Channel (2007 – 2008)
How do you go from hanging out with your psychic teen icon sister to living in the White House?
That’s just Cory In The House – a spinoff from the hit show That’s So Raven.
Young Cory Baxter moves from San Francisco, California to Washington, D.C. to follow his dad, the new White House Executive Chef.
During his time there he butts heads with the President’s daughter while also working various schemes to get rich quickly – schemes that inevitably fall apart with hilarious results.
The show is known for its quick-witted plot and a revolving roster of guest stars, including Dwayne ” The Rock” Johnson himself!