The West Wing: This series provided two election episodes. Early in season 4, President Bartlet (Martin Sheen) was elected to a second term. Shocker, I know. However, the season 7 election, between Democrat Matt Santos (Jimmy Smits) and Republican Arnie Vinick (Alan Alda) wasn’t quite so easy to predict; a 2006 New York Times article claimed that the writers were planning on having Vinick win, but the death of actor John Spencer (who played Leo McGarry, the Democratic VP candidate) changed all that. In truth, the fictional America of The West Wing would have prospered under the leadership of either candidate, both of whom were intelligent, inspiring, and dedicated public servants. (Just like in real life, right?)
Benson: Like everyone else in the world, I stopped watching after season 1– but apparently the show stretched on for seven whole seasons. During that time, former butler Benson DuBois (Robert Guilluame) somehow moved up the ladder to become Lieutenant Governor. Ultimately, season seven ended with an election-themed episode pitting Benson against his boss, the bumbling Eugene Gatling, for the position of Governor. And the winner? No one even found out. The writers left it as a season-ending cliffhanger– not anticipating that NBC would cancel the show during the summer.
Seinfeld: As part of the ongoing “retirement condo intrigue” storyline, Morty Seinfeld– who had been previously impeached as condo president– now sees Kramer as his ticket back to the top; Kramer will run for president of Morty’s condo, but it will only be a “puppet regime”; Puppetmaster Morty will be pulling the strings behind the scenes. Everything falls apart when the voters turn on Kramer, after he tries to bribe them with faulty tip calculators (some of which don’t even have numbers).
Mama’s Family: No, I wasn’t a fan. (Was anyone?) But since it was on Saturday nights back when I was in junior high, I feel I ended up watching quite a few episodes, simply because I had nothing else to do. In any case, I vaguely remembered Mama (Vicki Lawrence) winning some sort of election. A Google search confirmed it: in a special two-parter, Mama did, in fact, unseat the mayor. (Why do I remember the details of a 30-year-old Mama’s Family episode but I can’t remember to stop at the store on the way home and get Tide, even though my wife reminded me just ten minutes prior?)
Cheers: To make a point about lame-brained candidates, Frasier (Kelsey Grammer) convinces Woody Boyd (Woody Harrelson) to run for Boston City Council. Of course, Woody wins– although the series came to an end before we got to see what that would mean for the city of Boston.
Parks and Recreation: In season 4, the indomitable Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) ran for City Council of Pawnee and narrowly beat out the impossibly stupid Bobby Newport (Paul Rudd). The “underdog candidate” storyline provided so many great moments– for example, the use of Gloria Estefan’s “Get On Your Feet” as Leslie’s campaign song. But they let one moment slip: Why oh why did they include Bradley Whitford in an episode– and not put in a scene with Rob Lowe?
Of course, we’re sure left out a bunch of shows. Let us know which ones. And while you’re at it, let us know what is your favorite election-themed episode? Vote now!