After weeks of partisan sniping, the public finally gets to judge
And while Baltimore is one of the biggest beneficiaries of this trend, our local productions aren't the only political players coming to the small screen.
So why the burst of politically themed programming this year?
While our being in the midst of a presidential election cycle might seem like a contributing factor, there was nothing approaching this level of political drama,
No, this looks more like TV reacting to a major issue in national life — media responding to a troubled spot in the national psyche. This is pop culture that matters.
Think of the burst of programs, such as
What some of Hollywood's best and brightest are reacting to this year is what some of them see as a state of crisis in Washington — the out-of-control partisan fighting that has resulted in gridlock at the very time that millions of Americans are looking to Washington for a way out of an economic trough that has left them jobless or owning homes that are hopelessly underwater.
"We try to pose it as questions in the film," Roach says. "Is this the best we can do in terms of leaders today? … Where are the Abraham Lincolns and Kennedys and Reagans of today?"
Iannucci says of D.C. politics today, "You know, everything is so ground to this kind of standoff. It's kind of a depressing dynamic, but I find it interesting."
No one lays out the link between the troubled state of American politics and the new shows like Frank Rich, an executive producer on "VEEP" and one of the nation's most widely respected cultural critics.
"From the time I started to get involved with this show, which is late summer of 2010, Washington has gone from being contentious and somewhat dysfunctional, but still a little optimistic about a new president, to completely dysfunctional and complete gridlock," Rich said.
"So here is this show ["VEEP"] that has very strong views, but they are not partisan views," he added. "Here is this show that, I think, through talent and luck ... has hit the moment where the country is just fed up with both parties at a level that is hard to imagine in my lifetime. And this show captures it."
There's a silver lining for Baltimore and Maryland in the nation's economic misery and political gridlock: Most of these shows need to have some of sense of Washington in their look and feel to be effective. And Baltimore, because of its architecture, an aggressive state film office and incentives, has convinced Hollywood that it is the cost-effective way to do Washington.
"VEEP" spent three months here in 2011, and will in all likelihood be back again this year if it is picked up for a second season by HBO. Look for the premium cable channel to make that call within days of the April 22 debut.
When it comes to politics these days, the nation's pain has been Baltimore's gain.
Hollywood's packed ballot
• "1600 Penn": Baltimore native Jason Winer, director and executive producer of
The series features a dysfunctional family, but this one lives at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Pullman plays the president, with Gad as his eldest son. Amara Miller (
It is supposed to. The closer such politically themed productions can get to what we think we know about real-life Washington, the greater the buzz in most cases.
• "VEEP": On April 22, HBO will launch the first season of this weekly half-hour political satire starring
Filmed in Baltimore last year, the series created by Iannucci ("In The Loop") takes a satirical look at the life of a former U.S. senator (Louis-Dreyfus) who suddenly finds herself vice president of the United States. The series is about the office and what it does to people: "The fact that she's so near to power, and yet so removed from power — yet could be in total power," Iannucci says.
• "House of Cards": The first original production from distribution giant
The 13-episode series stars