Would you vote for these 11 fictional presidents from classic TV?
Some had superpowers, some inexplicably held office for decades. All rise for President Mike Brady.
Washington, D.C., is a common setting in modern television. Binge-ready series such as Scandal, House of Cards, Veep, The West Wing and Designated Survivor feature fictional presidents. We could list dozens of make-believe leaders from the modern era, but at MeTV we like to roll back the clock.
Decades ago, mock Commanders in Chief were far less common. James West worked for Ulysses Grant on The Wild Wild West, while even the surreal world of Batman — like Get Smart — established that LBJ was boss. (Fun fact: He was voiced by Van Williams, a.k.a. the Green Hornet, in the 1966 Batman movie!) Perhaps TV shows feared insulting the Oval Office.
When a POTUS did pop up in a show, it was often Abe Lincoln, who can be seen in memorable episodes of Star Trek ("The Savage Curtain") and The Twilight Zone ("Back There"). In the 1960s, a fictional prez seemed to only pop up in science fiction about the future.
Here is a small selection of some favorite fantasy leaders from television's past — and a couple famous sitcom characters who "ran" in the '70s.
1. Cliff Barnes on 'Dallas'
Do you remember the series finale? In "Conundrum" we get that old television trope of the dream sequence, in which J.R. dreams he was never born. In the vision, Cliff is VP when the President suffers a stroke, thus giving the Ewing rival the highest office in the land.
2. Mike Brady in 'The Brady Bunch in the White House'
Okay, so this is a modern made-for-television movie that lovingly spoofs the original series, but we are fans of the Bradys moving to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Who is Veep? Why, Carol, of course. Naturally, the plot revolves around continued attempts to impeach the couple.
3. Steve Bryant on 'The Man from U.N.C.L.E.'
Okay, technically Senator Steve Bryant is merely running for President in "The Candidate's Wife Affair," but we include him for two reasons. First, as one advisor notes in the episode, the election is "in the bag." We can assume he became POTUS in the world of U.N.C.L.E. Two, the San Francisco–set episode features a ton of historically fascinating stock footage from a political convention, we assume the 1964 Republican Convention in California's Cow Palace, including a big balloon drop. Richard Anderson, who previously portrayed Lt. Steve Drumm on Perry Mason, guests as Bryant.
4. Henry Talbot MacNeil in 'Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea' and 'Lost in Space'
Now here is an interesting bit of trivia. Irvin Allen connected his two sci-fi series in a subtle way, placing the same President in both franchises. MacNeil (Ford Rainey) pops up in a handful of Voyage episodes, but is only seen briefly at the beginning of Lost in Space, delivering an address. There's just one minor continuity problem — Voyage takes place in the 1970s and '80s, while Lost in Space kicks off in 1997. There are seemingly no term limits in the Allen universe!
5. James Norcross in 'Super President'
It's an eagle… It's Air Force One… It's SUPER PRESIDENT! This Saturday morning cartoon ran in the late 1960s, depicting a POTUS who could change his molecular composition. He was voiced by Paul Frees, who also played on the other side of the Cold War, as Boris on Rocky and Bullwinkle.
6. William Lyons Selby on 'The Outer Limits'
In the second episode of the eerie anthology series, "The Hundred Days of the Dragon," the Chinese develop technology to alter the faces of sleeper agents, molding them like clay. Selby is killed and replaced with a spy during his campaign for the Oval Office. The doppelganger wins the election. Sidney Blackmer, who played the president here, was known for portraying Teddy Roosevelt in seven (!) films.
7. Richard Pryor on 'The Richard Pryor Show'
On his sketch comedy series, Pryor pretended to be the first black president of our nation, the 40th President. Presumably he beat Reagan. In a skit he plays the character very straight, and promises to send some Miles Davis and Charlie Parker records into the cosmos.
8. Richard Bluedhorn Stratton on 'Silver Spoon'
You know him better as "Ricky." Yes, early in season two, perhaps remembered as "the Jason Bateman era," Ricky daydreams he is the President of the United States. He was a stressed-out student body president just looking to settle a crisis by imagining himself in the Oval Office. Meanwhile, real-life political opponents have long accused each other of being born with silver spoons in their mouths.
Image: Sony Pictures Television
9. Samuel Arthur Tresch on 'Mr. President'
The nascent Fox network had a surprising ratings success in its first season. The new channel scored with Married... With Children and The Tracey Ullman Show (the birthplace of The Simpsons, remember). Alongside those series was this sitcom with George C. Scott, who seemed long overdue to play Commander in Chief, especially after Patton.
10. The Bunkers from 'All in the Family'
Occasionally, fictional characters break out into the real world to run for President. Jokingly, we assume. As McGovern and Nixon were battling it out, America's "foist" television family, to use the heavy Queens accent, printed up a series of button, including this Edith pin-on. Others proclaimed "I'm a Dingbat for Bunker" and "Another Meathead for Bunker." We're betting he got some write-in votes.
11. The Fonz from 'Happy Days'
Not to be outdone, Fonzie himself ran to lead the U.S. of "Aaaaaayyyyy!" four years later. His party affiliation was not clear that election, but in the episode "The Not-Making of a President," the Fonz was revealed to be an Ike supporter. In 1976, Gerald Ford even got in on the action with a button that read "Vote Fonzie - Happy Days Are Here Again."
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