Has the 2016 presidential election left you feeling like you’re in some alternate-reality television show? From the rise of businessman–turned–reality TV star–turned–Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump to dark horse Bernie Sanders giving eventual Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton a real run for her money in the primaries and on, the political surprises of the past year have been relentless.
To commemorate this Election Day and provide a little escapism, Rotten Tomatoes has rounded up 17 fictional TV presidents since William Jefferson Clinton’s administration.
Josiah “Jed” Bartlet (Martin Sheen)
The West Wing (1999–2007) — Bartlet was the left-leaning antithesis to the real-world POTUS voted in after Clinton, George W. Bush. Sure, the Bartlet administration was rife with scandal and intrigue — not the least of which involved invoking the 25th Amendment to temporarily step down as president — but armed with series creator Aaron Sorkin’s elevated speech and wisdom, Bartlet time and again proved that doing the right thing was the best thing, even in the most difficult of times.
Glenn Allen Walken (John Goodman)
The West Wing (2003) —
In one of the series most jolting twists, the president transfers his powers to Republican House Speaker Walken after Bartlet’s daughter is kidnapped by terrorists and he is unable to make sound decisions.
Matthew Vincente Santos (Jimmy Smits)
The West Wing (2007) —
The final episodes of The West Wing saw Democratic nominee Santos of Texas elected president in a close to the cream-of-the-crop in primetime political dramas. It’s said, in fact, that the character was modeled after a pre-POTUS Senator Barack Obama.
David Palmer (Dennis Haysbert)
24 (2002–2004) —
Assassination attempts, marital trouble, and familial turmoil plagued Palmer throughout the course of his two-year stint as president. He was wise to drop out of the race in 24’s third season, but that wasn’t enough to save him from assassination come season 5.
Allison Taylor (Cherry Jones)
24 (2008–2010) —
The Fox series depicted a black president before one was elected to office in the real world. It also depicted the election of woman. Incidentally, Taylor is said to be based on Hillary Clinton, despite aligning with the Republican party.
Mackenzie Allen (Geena Davis)
Commander In Chief (2005–2006) —
This short-lived drama depicted the United States’ first female president as one who ascends to the presidency from the position of vice president after the untimely death of her predecessor.
Paul Garcetti (Adrian Pasdar)
Political Animals (2012) — Elaine Barrish (Sigourney Weaver) may have lost to Garcetti as the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee, but he was gracious enough to tap the former First Lady as his Secretary of State. While the drama this USA miniseries’ drama is driven by those around him, President Garcetti still proves himself a smart capable POTUS before his death via plane crash in the show’s finale.
Fitzgerald Grant III (Tony Goldwyn)
Scandal (2012–2016) —
In this case, believe everything you hear, because President Grant has proven over the last four years of Shonda Rhimes’s soapy Scandal to be capable of just about anything. How else would the hit series live up to its namesake?
Conrad Dalton (Keith Carradine)
Madam Secretary (2014–2016) —
As the former director of the CIA (and former boss to Téa Leoni’s Dr. Elizabeth McCord), Dalton boasts an impressive résumé. Unfortunately, he’s probably known best for his bowties instead of his brains. Still, he’s wise enough to tap McCord as his secretary of State after her predecessor dies in a plane accident, so he’s doing something right.
Marcus Robbins (Mark Cuban)
Sharknado 3 (2015) —
The Sharknado franchise may not be fresh with the critics, but it’s a guilty pleasure that makes it hard not to come back for four rounds and counting, and it’s in part thanks to camped-up cameos from the likes of Cuban.
Constance Payton (Alfre Woodard)
State of Affairs (2014–2015) —
The great Alfre Woodard as the first black woman to hold the office of president wasn’t enough to save this Katherine Heigl–starrer, but the short-lived series’ political intrigue and scenery chewing are worth a watch.
Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey)
House of Cards (2014–2016) —
As perhaps the most manipulative and conniving POTUS ever brought to the screen, Underwood is the Cersei Lannister of fictionalized American politics: You would never want to be under his command, but it sure is fun watching him orchestrate his sociopathic symphony.
Matthew Ellis (William Sadler)
Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (2015–2016) —
President Ellis of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been subject to assassination attempts, abductions, and more — but Iron Man and the gang always arrive in the nick of time.
Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus)
Veep (2014–2015) —
An unfit vice president does not a fit president make. Such was the case in season 3 and season 4 of HBO’s Veep, which had VP Meyer stepping up after the president resigns. It made for a viewer’s delight, but her run only lasts eight months before a reelection kicks her out of office for good.
Tom Kirkman (Kiefer Sutherland)
Designated Survivor (2016) — Previously a low-ranking Cabinet member as the nation’s Housing and Urban Development secretary, President Kirkman became the newest addition to the fictional presidents’ canon this fall with Designated Survivor. And as any good TV series should, Kirkman was inducted under the most dramatic circumstances possible after a terrorist attack kills the President and the rest of his Cabinet.
Richard Graves (Nick Nolte)
Graves (2016) — Graves is also new to the world of fictional presidents. He joins Epix as a former commander-in-chief. Twenty years after his maligned two-term presidency comes to a close, Graves tries to make amends for his damaging politics through high-profile charity work in this dark political satire.
Olivia Marsdin (Lynda Carter)
Supergirl (2016) — How cool is it that Carter (known for playing Wonder Woman from 1975–1979) has returned to the DC Comics universe on The CW’s Supergirl as President Marsdin? Hopefully she’ll return for future episodes as the whip-smart — and possibly alien? — leader of the free world.