LDV Weekend Meme: five favourite political TV dramas

It’s Sunday, sunny and the elections are over – so why not indulge in the latest LDV meme: what’s your favourite political TV drama? Mine, in reverse order:

5. State of Play – tense and taut, journalism mixed with politics. Fab writer (Paul Abbott), wonderful cast (David Morrissey, John Simm, Kelly McDonald, Bill Nighy), great drama.

4. A Very British Coup
– slightly dated, but still enjoyable, Chris Mullin’s story of a socialist Labour government doing battle with the British establishment in the ’80s is both funny and plausible. Sublime performance by Ray McAnally as Sheffield steel-worker Harry Perkins.

3. The House of Cards – the famous coincidence of the first series airing simultaneously with Margaret Thatcher’s dramatic downfall earned the show’s place in telly folklore; but it stands the test of time, and Ian Richardson’s menacing portrayal and asides to camera (“You might very well think that, I couldn’t possibly comment”) is mesmerising.

2. GBH – fantastically written by Alan Bleasdale and quite superbly acted by Robert Lindsay, Michael Palin and Lindsay Duncan, this is the definitive British political drama, capturing perfectly the interplay of cock-up and conspiracy, high and low politics, and good and bad intentions which govern this country.

1. The West Wing – quite simply the best written and best acted drama series ever broadcast. (If you ignore Season 5 anyway). Most of us owe our scant knowledge of the US political system to TWW, which somehow managed to make even the dryest of legislative process into gripping, witty, perceptive dialogue. Here’s one of my favourite clips, from Democrat President Bartlet’s TV debate with Republican challenger Governor Ritchie – enjoy:

And I’m tagging all Lib Dem bloggers, but especially last week’s Golden Dozen bloggers: Alex Wilcock, Nich Starling, James Graham, Mark Valladares, ‘Costigan Quist’, Caron Lindsay, Lisa Harding and Jonathan Calder.

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This entry was posted in LDV meme.


  • matt severn 14th Jun '09 - 5:34pm

    I would put the West Wing at number five on the list. Its far too cheesey and schmaltzy, full of politicians acting magmanimously.

    A Very British Coup for the acting and House of Cards for the plot.

    We need more programmes of this quality.

  • Ruth Bright 14th Jun '09 - 6:48pm

    Stephen – surely you’re not old enough to remember 2, 3 and 4?

    What about ‘Our Friends in the North’? If you can forgive Daniel Craig and Christopher Eccleston in calamitous 70s hairdos.

  • Nothing ‘knocks this lot into a cocked hat’. That’s riduculous.

    The Wire is political, in the widest sense of the term. It acts questions about the role of institutions, targets, urban deprivation, the war on drugs etc. And it asks these questions with both a subtlety and a power that has not been matched.

    Edge of Darkness, I agree, is also more impressive than a Very British Coup if you like a healthy dose of Old Labour paranoia.

  • Sorry- acts = asks. Too early in the morning!

  • Malcolm Todd 15th Jun '09 - 9:20am

    What was wrong with Season 5 then?

  • Tom Papworth 15th Jun '09 - 1:53pm

    I watched A Very British Coup recently and laughed until tears ran down my face.

    The whole survival of the socialist Labour government that Chris Mullin fantasised into being in 1987 rested on the Prime Minister doing a deal with the Russians whereby the Soviets lent the UK tens of billions of pounds in exchange for requiring the US to pull its forces (notably the strategic bomber bases) out of the UK. This tactic saved the supposedly-bankrupt UK from having to go to the IMF for a bail-out and accept anti-socialist spending cuts.

    A year after this was filmed, however, the Warsaw Pact collapsed in bankruptcy.

    A Very British Coup was utterly naive fantasy that provides a telling insight into the minds of the die-hard socialist left in the early 1980s.

  • Tom Papworth 15th Jun '09 - 1:55pm

    My apoligies for the length of the sentence in paragraph 2.

    Or should I say, the length of the sentence that was paragraph 2.

  • Series 5 of the Wire was still great. Indeed, it asks very important questions about the viability and role of the newspaper and its part in our democracy.

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