Before we elected Celebrity Apprentice star Donald J. Trump to the Oval Office, TV presidents had only The West Wing’s Jed Bartlet (Martin Sheen) to measure themselves against.
It wasn’t much of a contest -- only 24’s David Palmer (Dennis Haysbert) came close -- which may be why most TV presidents are no longer even trying to win the popular vote. It’s enough just to get our attention.
As HBO’s Veep returns Sunday for a sixth, side-splittingly cynical view of life inside the Beltway, we hail Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ (now former) President Selina Meyer and other current TV commanders-in-chief.
President Trump, who knows a thing or two about grabbing focus, probably doesn't have time to watch his fictional counterparts. But what if he did? Here's what might interest him.
Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus)
Where to find her: 10:30 p.m. Sundays, HBO.
Known for: Inflated ego, foul mouth, chronic ineptitude, and, now, after having been rejected by both the American people and Congress, for lasting only a short time in an office to which she was never elected.
What might interest (or annoy) Trump: In Veep-world, Meyer, not he, was the 45th president. (She started out the show as vice president.) Louis-Dreyfus has won five Emmys in a row for playing the character (the actress also has an Emmy apiece for Seinfeld and The New Adventures of Old Christine). Trump has complained of never having won for The Apprentice. And then there’s the shot Louis-Dreyfus seemed to be taking in her acceptance speech last fall, when she apologized for the 2016 political climate, saying, “Our show started as a political satire -- now it feels like a sobering documentary.”
What any politician might admire: Meyer's resiliency, and her long stretch of good luck. Until she lost the presidency at the end of last season, Veep was a show where, as writer for the Atlantic once noted, "no bad deed goes punished."
Fitzgerald Grant III (Tony Goldwyn)
Where to find him: 9 p.m. Thursdays, ABC.
Known for: His long affair with onetime aide Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington), who helped steal the presidency for him and with whom he once dreamed of retiring to Vermont. Survived assassination attempt, White House divorce. Won reelection but lost son. Oh, and he once murdered a Supreme Court justice.
What might interest Trump: Fitz is a Republican who has had his trials with the far right and has tried to move his party closer to the center.
What any politician might admire: The president's ability to control otherwise smart women (and not a few men) with his puppy-dog eyes.