TV’s Most Beloved Politicians

With reelection of Barack Obama, we can all take a deep breath of relief knowing that the job of selecting our President for the next four years is complete.  If your favorite thing about election night was that it signaled the end of the ceaseless barrage of attack ads that commandeered TV over the last handful of months, you’re certainly not alone.

Still, some of television’s most beloved characters have come from the political arena. After all, politics is fertile ground for both comedy and drama. So in celebration of another completed election cycle, here are a few of the most memorable politicians to grace the small screen in recent years.

Josiah Edward “Jed” Bartlet-The West Wing (NBC)

For many, if you could draw up the model Commander-in-Chief, President “Jed” Bartlet would be the final product. The Democrat is widely respected among both parties for his compassion, intelligence and effectiveness as a leader. The West Wing derived much of its success from the seeming realism of its portrayal of the presidency and its refusal to shy away from covering the hot button issues of the day.

For seven seasons, Martin Sheen painted an intimate portrait of a sitting president, both through triumph and tribulation.  Assassination attempts, scandals within the administration, the battle for reelection-West Wing covered it all and more over the course of Bartlet’s two terms in office. Throughout the series, President Jed handled each situation with the grace, intelligence and confidence we expect from the ideal leader of the free world.

 The Mayor of Portland-Portlandia (IFC)

Portlandia has generated a loyal following by skewering anything and everything “hipster,” pseudo-Bohemian and yuppified.  Although just about every character in Portlandia’s sketches fit this aesthetic, the show’s Mayor of a Portland takes the shtick to a whole new level.

Fueled by his hatred for all things Seattle, the mayor embodies what it means to be citizen of Portland- he sits on an exercise ball instead of a chair and kayaks to work instead of driving. Brought to life by Kyle McLaughlin of Twin Peak’s Special Agent Dale Cooper fame, the Mayor of Portland character has become so popular that it’s evolved from a onetime guest appearance to a recurring role. That’s good news for Portlandia fans; the Mayor is easily one of fictional Portland’s most hilarious inhabitants.

Leslie Knop-Parks and Recreation (NBC)

Parks and Recreation’s Leslie Knop has become one of the most recognizable and beloved politicians on television, both for her single minded devotion to public service and her at once charming but puzzling naiveté when it comes to the political process. Nevertheless, as the Deputy Director of the Pawnee Parks Department, Knop has long harbored political aspirations.

Leslie’s dream of holding an elected office came true in season four when she narrowly edged out a well-moneyed competitor for a seat on the City Council.  From her comically inept campaign staffers to her own “fish-out-of-water” type approach to the cutthroat world of local politics, Knop has become a refreshingly “real” politician in a profession many feel is dominated by phonies.

The Mayor of Jefferton-Tom Goes To the Mayor (Cartoon Network)

Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim is known for its irreverent and unconventional sense of humor and Tom Goes to the Mayor just might have been one of its most avant garde offerings.  The show held fast to the idea that humor is best served dry.

Few characters tapped into that dry sense of humor with better results than the Mayor of Jefferton. The mayor is an odd government official indeed-from appointing his 12 year old nephew to consult on the building of a new World War II memorial to his insistence that a perimeter of bear traps is the best way to protect Jefferton’s youth, the Mayor of Jefferton certainly has earned his place among television’s strangest and most memorable politicians.

Sandy Aiken blogs about television and pop culture for Sterling Satellite.