Washington on TV: Political Comedies and Dramas That Flopped

Tonight, Tea Leoni comes back to primetime TV in CBS’ new political drama, Madam Secretary. While shows set in Washington, D.C. are certainly having a moment, Leoni’s fans should take heed that many political series have gotten canned right out of the box. Will Madam Secretary be a hit or join other D.C. scripted shows that didn't get our votes?

HBO's K Street, chronicled D.C.'s backroom deals but never connected with wide audiences. Geena Davis won a Golden Globe for her role on ABC's Commander In Chief, but acclaim couldn't prevent the series' cancellation. Browse through our list of Washington-based shows that couldn't hold their own in a field of fierce contenders.

1600 Penn, NBC

In 1600 Penn, the dysfunctional Gilchrist family moves into the White House. However, the clan’s prestigious new digs can’t stop unwanted pregnancies, bumbling idiocy, and social mishaps. The series, which starred Josh Gad, Bill Pullman, and Jenna Elfman, premiered in December 2012. It received poor reviews and low ratings, finally getting canceled in May 2013.

Commander In Chief, ABC

Commander In Chief starred Geena Davis and premiered in 2005, taking the top spot in its timeslot at 9 p.m. on Tuesdays. The series centered on President Mackenzie Allen, the United States’ first female leader. The show saw a steep ratings decrease when American Idol’s latest season began midway through its run, with viewers jumping to Fox’s primetime lineup. Commander had three different showrunners before it was canceled in May 2006. However, Davis’ performance was praised and she won a Golden Globe for Best Actress in a television drama in 2006.


David Alan Grier starred in DAG, a sitcom about one of the First Lady’s Secret Service agents. The hackneyed script couldn’t save the comedy, which also featured Delta Burke as the president’s wife. The show debuted in November 2000 and was canceled after one season.

Women Of The House, CBS

Burke also starred in 1995’s Women Of The House, a spin-off of Designing Women. The comedy saw Burke’s character, Suzanne Sugarbaker, assume her late husband’s U.S. congressional seat. The show also featured a pre-Breaking Bad Jonathan Banks and a pre-Everybody Loves Raymond Patricia Heaton. All that talent wasn’t enough to the carry the show, which only aired for four months.

K Street, HBO

Unless you love power plays among Washington’s lobbyists, K Street wasn’t the show for you. The HBO series, created by Steven Soderbergh and produced by George Clooney, was an ambitious project that featured real political operatives alongside actors. The seamless blend between fiction and real life worked for viewers inside the Beltway, but never got wider traction. The show was canned in November 2003 after one season.

That's My Bush!, Comedy Central

Ahead of the 2000 presidential election, South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone wanted to try out a political parody. They came up with That’s My Bush!, which premiered in 2001. The series hammed up traditional sitcom tropes and applied them to the new president’s life in the White House. Though the show got stellar reviews and opened strong, it saw its audience dip. The series reportedly was too expensive for Comedy Central to continue producing and was canceled after eight episodes.

Mister Sterling, NBC

Josh Brolin was NBC’s titular Mr. Sterling, an optimistic senator trying to shake up the status quo. Despite its trite premise, the show got decent reviews. Its Friday night time slot may not have helped Mister Sterling bring in viewers and it got the ax after 10 episodes in 2003.

First Monday, CBS

Joe Mantegna played a moderate Supreme Court justice in First Monday. The show’s title referred to the high court’s opening session day and the series explored the drama that came with tough cases. Apparently, audiences weren’t interested in the judicial branches’ inner workings. The show ran for 13 episodes before CBS dropped it in May 2002.

Charlie Lawrence, CBS

[caption id="attachment_435354" align="alignnone" width="615"]Nathan Lane on 'Charlie Lawrence' [Photo Credit: CBS/Getty Images][/caption]

Nathan Lane couldn’t translate his Broadway magic to broadcast television in 2003’s CBS series. The sitcom had a groundbreaking premise, with Lane playing a gay actor who becomes a U.S. congressional representative from New Mexico. However, the show tanked and was soon yanked from CBS’ lineup in June 2003.

The Lyon's Den, NBC

The Lyon’s Den starred Rob Lowe and followed the shady doings of a D.C. law firm. Lowe’s character, the son of a high-profile senator, gets tapped as a partner of the prestigious firm. He soon draws the ire of the firm’s jealous lawyers who try to hunt down any political dirt to steal his thunder. The show premiered soon after Lowe left The West Wing, but the series couldn’t stay afloat. It aired from September through November 2003.

[Photo Credit: Getty Images/ABC]