8 memorable portrayals of presidents on classic TV
Shatner was a founding father.
Television shows love to weave tales of time travel, political intrigue and spycraft. It's no wonder some presidents are going to show up here and there. While most series tend to invent their fictional American leaders, a few showcase former presidents. Even sitcoms get in on the action.
Let's take a look at some of the memorable portrayals of presidents from the 1960s and early '70s.
Austin Green as Abraham Lincoln
The Twilight Zone "The Passerby" (1961)
In the prior season, Lincoln plays a key part in the memorable "Back There," which features Russell "The Professor" Johnson as a man who encounters John Wilkes Booth back in time. Lincoln has far more screen time and dialogue in "The Passerby," a season three episode set during the Civil War.
Vaughn Meader as John F. Kennedy
The Ed Sullivan Show (1963)
Comedian and impressionist Meader sold a boatload of his Kennedy parody album The First Family in 1962. It even won the Grammy for Album of the Year in early 1963. Around the same time, he took his shtick to Sullivan. In the skit, an unseen Jackie asks her husband, "I noticed that you didn't touch your salad… Would you tell me why please?" To which JFK responds, "The fault doesn't lie in the salad as much as in the dressing being used on the salad."
James Gregory as Ulysses S. Grant
The Wild Wild West "Night of the Inferno" (1965)
Super agent James West was on "His POTUS's Secret Service" in this brilliantly fun steampunk caper. Gregory played a fictional politician in The Manchurian Candidate, and eventually ended up on Barney Miller.
Roy Engel as Ulysses S. Grant
The Wild Wild West (1966-1969)
Engel took over the role permanently after the premiere episode and popped up in a handful of episodes over the season as Jim West's boss.
Ford Rainey as Abraham Lincoln
The Time Tunnel "The Death Trap" (1966)
If you're going to have a show about time travel, Abe Lincoln is bound to show up at some point. All you need, really, is the hat, the beard and some height. Doug and Tony are transported to February 1861, to a barn where conspirators plot to kill the President.
Lee Bergere as Abraham Lincoln
Star Trek "The Savage Curtain" (1969)
Leave it to Star Trek to find a way to get Genghis Khan and Honest Abe together in outer space. This late episode also features Colonel Green, the red-jumpsuited character than gave his costume to Mork.
William Shatner at John Adams
Swing Out, Sweet Land (1970)
Undoubtedly, some Trekkie has a T-shirt supporting a fictional campaign ticket of Kirk | Spock in '66. (That being 2266, of course.) It's not to hard imagine what Shatner would be like as POTUS. Dramatic, certainly. The actor portrayed a founding father in this costumey TV movie, alongside Lorne Greene as George Washington.
Will Geer as George Washington
Bewitched "George Washington Zapped Here" Parts 1 and 2 (1972)
Like most sitcoms, Bewitched got a little weird in its final season — and that's for a show about witches in the suburbs. Esmeralda accidentally makes our first president appear when helping Samantha with her schoolwork. The casting of Will "Grandpa Walton" Geer was spot on, at least.
Image: Sony Pictures Television
SEE MORE: 11 FICTIONAL PRESIDENTS FROM CLASSIC TV
Let's take a look at some made up POTUSes, too. READ MORE