Updated: Jan 24, 2019
Snow + Furlough = Netflix!
It's a weird time in Washington, DC, y'all. We had a foot of snow accumulate last weekend (with more on the way) and we're on day 28 of the longest government shutdown in U.S. history. Between the snowstorm and the furlough, local residents have affectionately named this era—which we do hope will end soon—"Snurlough." Government employees and contractors, students and teachers, parents and kids have all spent a *lot* of time at home around here, and we thought it was only right for us to do our civic duty and round up some of the best government-themed television there is.
Scandal (TV-14, 2012, Netflix, 7 Seasons) This one's a guilty pleasure for sure, friends. We were a little late to the game, but it didn't disappoint when we finally got there. From the brilliant and prolific Shonda Rhimes (Grey's Anatomy), this show is like a soap opera on steroids: it's got allllll the delicious drama, but also some darn good writing and acting. Fixer Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) knows the solution to any political problem, and she knows how to execute it in style. If only she knew how to solve her personal problems so confidently.... After bingeing a season or two, you might find yourself buying a lot of white clothes and eating drinking a lot of red wine for dinner. Don't say we didn't warn you.
The Americans (TV-MA, 2013, Amazon Prime, 6 Seasons) You don't need us to tell you that this show is a winner—literally. With numerous awards and accolades to its name (including many for lead actors Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell), it's some of the finest television out there. It's also some of the most brutal. Set during the Cold War, The Americans follows Soviet spies Phillip and Elizabeth Jennings as they work for Mother Russia, undercover, in Washington, D.C. They're ruthless—they have to be—because, well, so are their enemies. It's easy to think we know who the good guys and the bad guys are, but the show often refuses to take a stand: villainy is tempered with patriotism and loyalty, violence with tenderness and compassion. We recommend pairing this one (it's
heavy) with something a little lighter (like Parks & Rec!).
(TV-MA, 2012–present, HBO, 6 Seasons)
Had enough of laughing at the real-life political mayhem currently unraveling? Take a break with Veep! The comedic series follows Vice President Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus of Seinfeld), offering up an absurdist take on legislation, lobbying, and lawmakers. She's just trying to make a difference... if only the day-to-day political happenings, such as a utensil scandal, could get out of her way! Selina is unlikably likable. Her staff are endearingly incompetent. And the jokes keep coming! Oh! And somehow this show manages to make fun of politics without bringing party affiliation into the mix, which really is a pretty impressive feat in today's climate.
Parks & Recreation (TV-14, 2009, Netflix, 7 Seasons) Absolutely nothing brings us more joy than turning people on to Parks & Rec. (We know, it seems wild that there's anyone who hasn't watched this contemporary classic yet!) But every once in while, you do meet a person with a Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) sized hole in their life. While Veep and West Wing are set in DC (in the White House!), Parks & Rec zooms in on local government in a small Indiana town. Leslie's love for Pawnee and its parks is matched only by her ambition; she has big plans to follow in the footsteps of her idols, women like Madeleine Albright, Condoleezza Rice, and Hillary Clinton. Leslie's unfettered faith in government might be just the thing we all need a taste of right now. Press play on this one ASAP, you beautiful land mermaids!
The West Wing (TV-14, 1999, Netflix, 7 Seasons) Truth be told, I (Grace) was a little smitten with Josh Lyman (Bradley Whitford) when I watched West Wing on primetime with my family growing up. (Yes, Get Out totally ruined my crush.) His cool-guy charm, sardonic humor, and (more or less) dogged work ethic seemed to represent the show's whole ethos: running a country is tough, but it's also sexy, exciting, and fast-paced. Cue January 2019, when the government is actually moving at a snail's pace. Now is the perfect time to watch President Jed (Martin Sheen), Press Secretary C.J. (Allison Janney), Chief of Staff Toby (Richard Schiff), and the rest of the gang move things along at a nice clip with a refreshing and balanced dose of humor and gravitas. (Jump to Season 5, Episode 8 to experience another government shutdown, this one purely fictional—and short-lived!)
The X-Files (TV-14, 1993–2002, Hulu, 9 Seasons; we wouldn't recommend the reboot) "My name is Elizabeth, and I am an X-Files addict." I have watched every single episode, set my ringtone as the theme song, own the VHS tapes of Season 1, and may have recently acquired the TV Guide that originally billed the series premiere on September 10, 1993. In short: I realllly love this show. Part police procedural part supernatural thriller, the series follows conspiracy theorist Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and the very skeptical Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) as they work to uncover unsolved mysteries for the Federal Bureau of Investigations known as "X-Files." It's made up of funny-but-frightening "monster of the week" standalone episodes as well as "mythology arc" ones that unravel a government conspiracy regarding the existence of extraterrestrial life. Despite the low-budget constraints of 1990s television, this is one of the best series to ever grace our airwaves. (Yes, this is a hill I'm willing to die on!)
A big reason these shows work so well is the stellar casts and the one-of-a-kind chemistry between each one. Watching people (even fictional ones!) work together so well is inspiring, since cooperation and compromise are in short supply in our country right now. Our roundup is a nonpartisan one: viewers from across the political spectrum should find pleasure in these binge-worthy offerings. We tried to keep it light, but if you're looking for a heavy-hitting political feature, feel free to slide into our DMs and we'll give you a personalized recommendation. (Cough, cough, Confirmation on HBO.) All in all, though, it seems like we all probably need a break from real-life, from the news, and from the stressful situation currently occurring (or rather, not occurring) in the nation's capital.
Friends, we'll be making our best effort to Leslie Knope our way through the remainder of the Snurlough and the long winter months ahead. We hope these pseudo-patriotic picks help you do the same.
Grace and Liz