For me, one of the few “must see” shows on TV at the moment is series six of Homeland, currently running on Sunday evenings on Channel Four. I find the parallels with real life fascinating.
For those of you who don’t watch it, the main storyline involves a newly elected (female) US President who comes into conflict with the intelligence services. In particular, rogue CIA boss Dar Adal (a marvellously malevolent performance by F Murray Abraham) wants to discredit the President elect because she refuses to endorse his hard line policy on Iran. Opponents of the new President undermine her credibility by bombarding the media with a series of highly personal “fake news” stories.
Any of that sound familiar? After all, one of the first things Donald Trump did after entering the White House was to publicly criticise the CIA. Trump is also no stranger to fake news, as we saw in his speech which made reference to a nonexistent terrorist attack in Sweden.
TV dramas which mirror the contemporary political scene are nothing new. In the early 2000s The West Wing centred on President Jed Bartlett, a Democrat played by Martin Sheen. It seemed obvious that in Bartlett the writers had created the sort of highly ethical and liberal President that they wished Bill Clinton had been.
On this side of the Atlantic our political TV shows have tended to focus more on comedy than on straight drama. In both Yes Minister and The Thick of It idealistic politicians found themselves outsmarted and manipulated by the cynical civil servants who really run things. It would be fun to know what Malcolm Tucker, the entertainingly unprincipled spin doctor from The Thick of It, might think of the Trump administration. I suspect that he might have a grudging admiration for The Donald.
I’m looking forward to the latest episode on Homeland on Sunday. I’m also hoping that someone will tell Sean Spicer, Trump’s Press Secretary, that “The Thick of It” isn’t a training video!