Rupert Friend in “Anatomy of a Scandal.” | Kiefer Sutherland in “Designated Survivor.” | Source: YouTube/Netflix | Disney-ABC Domestic Television
“House of Cards” debuted onscreen in 2013 and remains among Netflix’s highest-ranked TV shows. The thrilling drama chronicles a messy rise to power and is just one glimpse into American politics provided by one show out of many equally gripping series.
Congressman Frank Underwood is set on exacting revenge on those who betrayed him. He enlists the help of his “equally conniving” wife, Carrie, but it’s only the beginning as the couple doesn’t stop there.
While their story begins with a sickening revenge plot, a gripping pursuit for more power ensues as they make more than a few morally questionable decisions to get from one level to the next. And in “House of Cards,” most figures care little, if at all, about being good people.
Described as a “grim reflection” of American politics, the fictional storylines in “House of Cards” reveal an alarming truth about real-world politicians. Yet, audiences often find rooting for even the most conniving fictional ones more cathartic.
Trevor Parry-Giles, a professor of political communication at the University of Maryland, said this is partially because, despite their methods, fictional political leaders get things done, a characteristic many feel real-world leaders lack.
This trait can be attributed to Carrie (Robin Wright) and Frank (Kevin Spacey). Alongside Wright and Spacey, the show, adapted from the eponymous 1990s BBC version, also starred Kate Mara and Michael Kelly.
For more seat-gripping political drama and some commentary on the failures and successes of current governing systems — some with a bit of satire and comedy — find a list of series as enticing as “House of Cards” below.
‘Designated Survivor’ (2016 – 2019)
For three seasons, “Designated Survivor” chronicled the life of low-level Cabinet member Tom Kirkman after being told, “Sir, you are now the President of the United States.” Just moments before, all State of the Union members were assassinated in a bomb attack at the Capitol.
Tom is now first in line of succession, and while he scrambles to find the culprit responsible for the deaths of his leaders, the mystery that makes itself more prevalent is that of his sole survival. Kiefer Sutherland portrays the new president alongside Italia Ricci and Maggie Q.
‘Anatomy of a Scandal’ (2022)
A Netflix original mini-series, “Anatomy of a Scandal,” is adapted from author Sarah Vaughan’s titular novel, following British political leader James Whitehouse accused of what he initially paints as a meaningless fling: rape.
As the case unravels, so does James’ marriage with his wife, Sophie, and reputation. The show, painfully grounded in the lived realities of the entitled political elite and their victims, stars Rupert Friend, Sienna Miller, and Michelle Dockery.
‘Chief of Staff’ (2019)
Moving away from Western politics, “Chief of Staff” is led by “Squid Game” star Lee Jung-jae as the titular chief of staff of the South Korean National Assembly Jae Tang Joon. Like Carrie and Frank in “House of Cards,” Jae pulls strings from behind the scenes to ascend to higher power.
However, Jae isn’t the only one determined to achieve his political ambitions. The show, hailed for its depiction of power struggles within South Korean politics, ran for two seasons, and alongside Jung-jae, it starred Shin Min-a and Kim Kap-su.
‘Scandal’ (2012 – 2018)
While it may no longer be as easy for politicians to hide their scandals, given the advancement of technology and social media, Olivia Pope and her team still rise to the occasion to sweep everything under the rug.
“The Crown” dramatizes several vital moments of Her Majesty’s rule.
‘Homeland’ (2011 – 2020)
However, Carrie (Claire Daines) is immediately convinced that Nicholas is no longer for America. Instead, she thinks he’s a spy working for al-Qaeda, set on exacting a terrorist attack under al-Qaeda’s order.
‘Madam Secretary’ (2014 – 2019)
A CBS drama thriller, “Madam Secretary,” follows Téa Leoni as Elizabeth McCord, a former CIA analyst thrust into a political position of power as Secretary of State. Politics is uncharted territory for Elizabeth.
‘Political Animals’ (2012)
“Political Animals” is a compelling mini-series following an unlikely duo, a journalist and a divorced Secretary of State, working together to unearth the damning secrets of kingmakers and the leaders they exalt.
‘The Crown’ (2016 – 2023)
A biographical drama chronicling the 66-year reign of the late Queen Elizabeth II, an influential figure of the 20th century and leader of the British monarch, “The Crown” dramatizes several vital moments of Her Majesty’s rule.
From her romances and rivalries to those of her descendants, “The Crown” earned well over 100 awards for its depiction of Queen Elizabeth II’s history, including 21 Primetime Emmys. Claire Foy depicts the young Queen, with Olivia Coleman and Imelda Staunton portraying her older versions.
‘Veep’ (2012 – 2019)
Heavy is the head that wears the crown, a lesson that former Senator Selina Meyer learned the hard way when she became Vice President of the United States of America. The political comedy sees Selina enmeshed in chaos as she handles her new duties.
And while she believes “Politics is about people,” she’s pretty frank about most of the ones she’s met: “A lot of ’em are [expletive] idiots.” Another multi-Emmy-winning series, “Veep,” starred Julia Louis-Dreyfus as the hilarious new VP alongside Tony Hale, Reid Scott, and Matt Walsh.
‘The Politician’ (2019 – 2020)
“The Politician” sees Payton Hobart, a teenager with ambitions of becoming a US President one day, attempt to influence politics at Saint Sebastian High School. And from the get-go, as he runs for student body president, things go awry.
Besides a storyline and action sequences that leave audiences on the edge of their seats, “Bodyguard” received great praise for its portrayal of PTSD. Alongside Madden, the cast included Keeley Hawes, Sophie Rundle, and Vincent Franklin.