Candidates’ TV picks? ‘The West Wing’ and ‘The Wire’ dominate, but no ‘Boss’ or ‘The Good Wife’

Ok, this wasn’t the weightiest of questions to ask Chicago area folks running for office. But their replies offer glimpses into their influences, thought processes, personal stories and politics.

SHARE Candidates’ TV picks? ‘The West Wing’ and ‘The Wire’ dominate, but no ‘Boss’ or ‘The Good Wife’
Martin Sheen playing President Josiah Bartlett in ‘The West Wing.’

Martin Sheen playing President Josiah Bartlett in ‘The West Wing.’

GPN

If you’re running for political office in the Chicago area next year, your favorite TV show of all time might be “The West Wing,’’ the award-winning political drama that left the air in 2006.

Running a close second might be “The Wire,” a portrayal of life on its grimmest side.

“The West Wing” was “very well made and had a huge influence on my view of the local and federal legislative process,” Kimberly Neely DuBuclet, a Metropolitan Water Reclamation District commissioner who is running for re-election, wrote on a Sun-Times’ candidate questionnaire.

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U.S. Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, a Democrat from the northwest suburbs, also is a big fan of the show.

It “portrays a president and a White House devoted to lifting up all Americans and seeking to unite us,” he wrote.“It shows the frustration often inherent in public service, along with the great satisfaction in accomplishing important goals for our nation.Plus, it was simply great TV.”

In questionnaires we sent to dozens of state, county and federal office-seekers and incumbents, we asked them to name their favorite TV show of all time. It wasn’t the weightiest of questions, we know. But their answers sometimes offered helpful glimpses into their influences, thought processes and personal stories.

“The West Wing” appears to have been named most frequently — even as responses to our questionnaires continued to trickle in over the weekend. And “The Wire,” a well-crafted cable series set in Baltimore that ran from 2002 to 2008, fared especially well, too.

Jamie Hector played the character of Marlo Stanfield, a drug dealer, on “The Wire.”

Jamie Hector played the character of Marlo Stanfield, a drug dealer, on “The Wire.”

Paul Schiraldi Photography

“‘The Wire’ ... teaches viewers about the flaws in our criminal justice system, public schools, and our political system,” wrote Kevin Olickal, who is running for state representative in the 16th District for a seat now held by fellow Democrat Yehiel “Mark” Kalish. “There is nothing like it.”

Illinois state Rep. Theresa Mah, a Democrat who is running for re-election in a district that includes Pilsen, Chinatown and Back of the Yards, said she liked “The Wire’’ because “it provided a lot of insight into issues that large, diverse cities shaped by poverty and racial inequality deal with, much like the city I call home. The characters were not uni-dimensional, and you got to see the humanity even in environments wracked with poverty and violence.”

Bill Conway, a former prosecutor running in the Democratic primary for Cook County state’s attorney, an office now held by Kim Foxx, also listed “The Wire.’’

“It’s the first show of its kind to accurately portray the interconnectedness of the problems facing a major metropolitan city like Baltimore,” he said. “Also Michael B. Jordan, Idris Elba, and Wendell Pierce. Enough said.”

It makes sense that a pair of landmark big city dramas with political overtones would rank at the top among office seekers. But another TV show in that vein that candidates obviously could have mentioned — but did not — is “Boss,” an above-average 2011-2012 series starring Kelsey Grammer as an immoral Chicago mayor. Or even “The Good Wife,” a 2009-2016 drama partially set in the Cook County state’s attorney’s office.

Nor did anyone name “The Sopranos’’ or “Boardwalk Empire” — two shows with notoriously flawed anti-heroes as lead characters. So that’s good, right?

And none of the various Dick Wolf-created Chicago shows — “Chicago Med,” “Chicago P.D.,” “Chicago Justice” or “Chicago Fire” — got a nod from anybody in our early responses. We’re split on whether this is good or bad.

Two comedies from back in the 1970s, though — “MASH” and “Good Times” — got multiple votes.

The original cast of “MASH” included Alan Alda (in the driver’s seat) and (from left) Larry Linville, Loretta Swit, Wayne Rogers, Gary Burghoff and McLean Stevenson.

The original cast of “MASH” included Alan Alda (in the driver’s seat) and (from left) Larry Linville, Loretta Swit, Wayne Rogers, Gary Burghoff and McLean Stevenson.

File photo

Patrick W. “Pat” O’Brien, a Republican candidate for Cook County state’s attorney, was among those who singled out “MASH” as a favorite, in part because the show reminded him of an old job — working in the state’s attorney’s office.

“The characters in the show were able to find a way to thrive and find humor in a violent and chaotic setting,” O’Brien wrote. “The conflicts and challenges of the characters mirrored the 1970s when I was first in the state’s attorney office. Despite disagreements and personality differences amongst characters, they were able to work together and become a surrogate family, and do good for others. The show gave me hope for our own situation then and now.”

Patricia D. “Patti Vasquez” Bonnin, a Democrat running for state rep in the 19th District, learned similar lessons from “MASH.”

“As a child, it taught me how to deal with trauma and the unspeakable horrors of war with humor and heart,” she wrote.

“Good Times,” the 1970s situation comedy set in the Cabrini-Green public housing development, also tackled serious subjects. That was the appeal for both Illinois state Rep. Kam Buckner, D-Chicago, and state Rep. Thaddeus Jones, D-Calumet City.

John Amos and Esther Rolle starred as James and Florida Evans in the comedy series “Good Times.”

John Amos and Esther Rolle starred as James and Florida Evans in the comedy series “Good Times.”

CST

“Good Times” dealt with “the traditional tumult of inner-city life, violence, poverty, security, etc.,” Buckner said, but the show’s creators “did a masterful job of showing that there were more things that made them similar to the traditional families you see on television than things that made them different.”

Jones said “Good Times” reminded him of what it was like growing up poor in a family of 13 children in south suburban Ford Heights, especially after his father died.

“We didn’t have much food, much money and much promise for a bright future,” he wrote. “Some of us made it, and some of my brothers and sisters became victims of the same system that I am fighting to protect residents in my district from.”

Also receiving multiple mentions was “Star Trek” — another TV show unafraid of weaving in serious messages.

“There are moral lessons, it takes you away from reality for a while, and it’s fun,” said Democrat Jim Malone, a Carpentersville village trustee who is running for state rep in the 66th District.Many times it shows the way humans should behave and gives hope for the future of mankind.”

Leonard Nimoy, as Mr. Spock, and William Shatner, as Capt. James T. Kirk, starred in “Star Trek.”

Leonard Nimoy, as Mr. Spock, and William Shatner, as Capt. James T. Kirk, starred in “Star Trek.”

File photo

James “Jimmy” Garfield, a Chicago Democrat running for 12th District state representative, said “Star Trek” creator Gene Roddenberry’s intent “was to show humanity as our best selves. So many of the stories are about the crew encountering scenarios that look at issues of today and show where we, as a society, can do better.”

The 1990s comedy “Martin,” starring comedian Martin Lawrence, got at least a couple of mentions.

Chicago Democrat Anthony Clark, who is challenging longtime incumbent U.S. Rep. Danny K. Davis, said he liked the show’s “combination of outlandish slapstick comedy and nuanced exploration of the friendship among its Black main characters.” And Chicago Democrat Gerard Moorer, who is looking to unseat Illinois state Rep. Jawaharial “Omar” Williams in the 10th District, called Lawrence “a comedic genius.”

Plenty of other shows, ranging from “Game of Thrones” to “I Love Lucy,” were mentioned by just one or two candidates. Sometimes the attraction was an implicit public policy message. Other times, it was a highly personal matter.

Nidia Carranza, a Democrat running for the Illinois House in the 3rd District on Chicago’s Northwest Side, wrote that she’s a big fan of “Breaking Bad,’’ the 2008-2013 show about a mild mannered chemistry teacher who turns to making and selling meth when his health insurance fails to cover his cancer treatments.

“A problem I can relate to,” Carranza wrote, “though my solution is a little less drastic — running for public office!”

Jacob Meister, a Democrat running for clerk of the Cook County circuit court, said the 1970s comedy “Soap,” a parody of daytime soap operas, made a big impact on him.

“As the first TV series to include openly gay characters, ‘Soap’ helped me in my early teens to understand what it meant to be gay,” Meister wrote. “At the time, the airing of ‘Soap’ created an intense political backlash from the religious right. . . . In large measure, that debate inspired me to later become active in the LGBTQ civil rights movement and helped shape the person that I am today.”

Republican Laura Curtis, a North Aurora village trustee who is running for an open state rep seat in the 49th District, wrote that she’s a fan of the TV comedy “Modern Family” because the show “features families who accept and love one another in spite of all personal flaws. I appreciate the fact it shows the importance and benefits of strong families and loving each other no matter what.”

We especially enjoyed the response from Adam Broad of Buffalo Grove, who’s running in the Democratic primary in the 10th Congressional District, hoping to unseat incumbent Brad Schneider.

The original Monty Python troupe (from left): Eric Idle, G. Aham Chapman, Michael Palln, John Cleese, Terry Jones and Terry Gilliam.

The original Monty Python troupe (from left): Eric Idle, G. Aham Chapman, Michael Palln, John Cleese, Terry Jones and Terry Gilliam.

File photo

“All-time? ‘Monty Python’s Flying Circus,’” Board wrote. “I must’ve been 12 when I first saw it. Would fall out of my chair laughing, rolling on the floor and holding my sides. I remember it being on WTTW Channel 11 on Sundays at 10 p.m., followed by ‘Image Union,’ which is how I saw the Organic Theater version of ‘Bleacher Bums,’ another favorite with Dennis Franz and Joe Mantegna. I can still get my wife to crack up when I put on my [Chicago accent] and bellow out ‘Tonight we’re goin’ to da House of Sweden!’”

The Editorial Board posed a slightly different question to candidates for the Illinois Supreme Court. We asked them to name their favorite courtroom-based film, television show or book.

A Dick Wolf-created show, “Law & Order,” got some love there.

“The show explains the difficulty in finding witnesses and getting witnesses to testify,” wrote Justice P. Scott Neville, Jr., who is running for re-election. “The show is realistic because the state does not always win.[‘Law & Order’] is a good show for a layman to watch in order to learn how our justice system works.”

Looks like we’ve got a lot of TV viewing cut out for us.

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