The favorite television shows of American presidents
Find out which POTUS prefers 'Gilligan's Island,' 'M*A*S*H,' 'Family Ties' and more.
Top image: AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite / Insert: CBS Television Distribution
The president has more important things to do than watch television. Still, even the leader of the free world needs to unwind with a sitcom from time to time.
From the early days of the medium to the modern age of a million choices, the POTUS has occassionally weighed in with his TV tastes. Digging through biopgraphies and profiles, we can get a peek of the viewing habits of presidents 34 through 44.
Here are some of the favorite shows of American leaders.
1. Dwight D. Eisenhower: 'The Phil Silvers Show'
When you run the country, missing an episode is not a big deal. Early in The Phil Silvers Show's run, White House Press Secretary James Hagerty sent a message to the network: "The Old Man missed last night's show." Naturally, a print of the episode was quickly shipped to the POTUS and war hero.
Image: AP Photo
2. John F. Kennedy: 'Maverick' and 'The Jack Benny Program'
According to the book The Kennedy White House: Family Life and Pictures, 1961-1963, the only known "light fare" that JFK viewed in the White House was the James Garner Western and Jack Benny's groundbreaking comedy series. This fact is repeated in the biography A Day in the Life of President Kennedy by Jim Bishop, which claimed Kennedy made time in his schedule for Jack Benny.
Image: AP Photo / Wally Fong
3. Lyndon B. Johnson: News, Westerns
LBJ's film tastes are on record in the LBJ library. The man loved Westerns, especially The Seachers. We can speculate that he caught Gunsmoke from time to time. We do know for certain that the Texan had three televisions set up side by side, so that he could watch the news broadcasts of all three networks simultaneously. The TV triptych setup inspired Elvis to do the same in his Graceland home.
Image: AP Photo/Charles Gorry
4. Richard Nixon: 'Gilligan's Island' and 'Kojak'
Nixon was a fan of the castaways. It has been reported that the president, who was also a big fan of the movie Patton, adored Gilligan's Island. We wonder who his favorite character was? No. 37 also enjoyed Kojak, according to the World Almanac of Presidential Facts and the book What Jefferson Read, Ike Watched, and Obama Tweeted.
Image: AP Photo / Insert: Gilligan's Island
5. Gerald Ford: 'Movin' On'
In the 1970s, there was a craze for entertainment about trucking and C.B. radio culture. From 1974–76, NBC hit the highway with Movin' On, a tale of two men and a big green semi. Star Claude Akins would go on to appear in B.J. and the Bear, too, another trucker TV favorite.
6. Jimmy Carter: None
Carter does not seem to be a big fan of television. The only pictures you might find of the former Georgia Governor by a television is on election night as results pour in.
Image: AP Photo/Suzanne Vlamis
7. Ronald Reagan: 'Family Ties'
"All right, who did this?" Alex P. Keaton asks, holding up his defaced Bush '88 campaign poster in the season seven opener of Family Ties. The Michael J. Fox character was one of the more prominant Republicans on 1980s television, a big supporter of Nixon and Reagan. It's no wonder Reagan himself recipricated the love by making Family Ties his must-see TV.
Image: CBS Television Distribution
8. George H.W. Bush: 'Murder, She Wrote'
According to the book George H. W. Bush: Character at the Core, the Angela Lansbury mystery was the "favorite 1980s and '90s TV show" of George and Barbara. Perhaps this was because the fictional murder hamlet of Cabot Cove was not far from the Bush vacation home in Kennebunkport, Maine.
Image: NBCUniversal Domestic Television Distribution
9. Bill Clinton: 'Grey's Anatomy,' 'Blindspot'
There is no shortage of options here. Clinton has name-dropped many television series in interviews and profiles. He has mentioned everything from Grey's Anatomy and Boston Legal to — more recently — the NBC thriller Blindspot and the Cinemax action series Strike Back.
Image: AP Photo/Bob Strong
10. George W. Bush: 'Biography'
W. enjoyed taking in an episode of A&E's Biography series. He seems to have a taste for sci-fi, too. According to an anecdote, Karl Rove once stated that he and Bush 43 found Babylon 5 to be a cut above the rest.
Image: A&E Television Networks
11. Barack Obama: 'M*A*S*H'
Obama has named M*A*S*H his top series of all time. Hard to argue with that. In 2015, he was particularly enamored with another hospital series, The Knick.