10 TV picks: US politics

As the race for the White House comes to a climax, it’s time to talk politics as we turn our attention to the American political landscape.

Deeply serious, profoundly funny - and occasionally both - these 10 TV picks variously examine the state of America today, analyse what might happen next, and also cast an eye back to political scandals past.

Live coverage of the US presidential election results begins on Tuesday at 10pm on Sky News and 11pm on ITV.

Spitting Image - Britbox

The satirical puppet show made a triumphant return to Britbox last month and transferred to its old ITV home - for one night only - for the election.

The show, which originally ran from 1984 to 1996 on ITV, has already been commissioned for a second series after a record-breaking start on the streaming service.

A two-part election special, the first aired on ITV with a second exclusive to Britbox. It was an entirely fitting climax to four years of Trump in the White House - and almost as comical as the real thing.

‘A welcome return … has lost none of its savagery or willingness to shock.’ The Guardian

Agents of Chaos - Sky Documentaries

Alex Gibney’s two-part documentary is a startling examination of Russian interference and what really happened in the 2016 US presidential election.

One of the most important - and prolific - documentary makers of our time, Gibney looks at the impact of Russian ‘troll farms’ on social media and talks with key figures from Trump’s 2016 campaign.

Asking questions that go to the heart of our democracy, Agents of Chaos is fascinating and terrifying in equal measure

What they say: ‘The forces that once set about determining the outcome of an American election … are alive and well. That recognition is the burning heart of this documentary so affecting in its passion and extraordinary in its conception.’ Wall Street Journal

The Last Leg: US Election Special - Channel 4

The election results are given the Last Leg treatment in this special edition of the Channel 4 show with Adam Hills, Josh Widdicombe and Alex Brooker.

They will be joined by special guests Richard Osman and Ed Balls to put a smile on your face whatever the election result (and your political leanings).

Hard to believe but it’s been eight years since The Last Leg began as a spin-off from Channel 4’s coverage of the London Paralympics. In that time it has become a much-loved Channel 4 institution.

What they say: ‘Often tasteless, sometimes awkward, always funny.’ The Guardian

Muslim in Trump’s America - ITV

Film-maker Deeyah Khan travelled to the US to find out what it’s like to be a Muslim in America in 2020, a time of rising conspiracy theories and hate crime.

An intimate look at the ‘daily struggles of keeping faith with both Islam and the American Dream’, it is the second of the Emmy award-winning director’s two films for ITV’s Exposure strand about Donald Trump’s America.

The first, America’s War on Abortion, investigated one of the most divisive issues in US politics. Both are available to watch now.

What they say: ‘Fascinating … Deeyah Khan delves without fear into a subculture of resentment, weaponry and Islamophobia.’ Financial Times


Last Week Tonight with John Oliver - Sky Comedy

John Oliver is the satirist from over here who is doing rather well over there.

More than rather well, in fact, his much-acclaimed Last Week Tonight with John Oliver on HBO becoming required viewing for anyone who wants to make sense of the last seven days.

Brave, intelligent and hilarious, these are not easy laughs, and it’s all the more important for it.

What they say: ‘John Oliver has been on ferocious form … his methods are forensic.’ London Evening Standard

President Trump: Tweets from the White House - Channel 4

Whether he serves one term or two, Donald Trump’s years in the White House will be remembered for many things, and one of them is his use of social media.

Trump uses Twitter like no other president or politician to bypass traditional media and talk directly to his supporters (and suffer the mockery of his opponents).

This Channel 4 documentary traces his presidency in terms of this extraordinary social media output.

What they say: ‘Franklin D Roosevelt addressed the US via radio broadcasts known as “fireside chats”. It’s doubtful that many Americans have taken similar succour from the tweets of Donald Trump.’ The Guardian


A Big History of America - Channel 5

With Americans going to the polls to choose their next president, there is surely no better time to catch up with the ‘story so far’.

And what a story it is, as told in this feature length documentary charting the extraordinary history of the US from uncolonised land to global superpower.

In between came the Pilgrim Fathers, independence, the gold rush, civil war and the abolition of slavery. But what will the next episode bring? 

‘A tale filled with contradictions, as we witness how this “land of the free” has had its history blotted with racial inequality and oppression.’ Radio Times

The Russell Howard Hour - Sky One

No-one tackles the week’s news with quite the same puppyish enthusiasm as Russell Howard.

Now into its fourth series on Sky 1, The Russell Howard Hour looks back on the previous seven days with guest appearances and in-depth interviews.

This week it’s a US election special airing just one day after the results are due to be confirmed, giving his unique take on what it all means for America … and the world.

What they say: ‘More than 24 hours since voting ended in the US presidential election, Russell Howard bounds into view to sort through the aftermath.’ Radio Times

All The President’s Men Revisited - Discovery

Robert Redford narrates this Discovery documentary casting new light on Watergate and the way the scandal was brought to screen to Oscar-winning effect.

Redford not only starred in the 1976 movie alongside Dustin Hoffman but was also instrumental in bringing the story to the screen.

All The President’s Men features new interviews with the people who committed the crimes, the people who pursued them, and the people who portrayed them.

What they say: ‘Redford and his crew stylishly manage to cut through the recollections of the major players in a way that seems new.’ Washington Post

The Kennedys: Money, Murder and Marilyn - Channel 5

Is there a ‘Kennedy curse’? That’s one of the questions asked by this documentary exploring the extraordinary rise of the Kennedy clan, along with the deaths, accidents and scandals that have afflicted it.

The Kennedys: Money, Murder and Marilyn features rare archive and new interviews with JFK’s friend and confidante Priscilla McMillan, JFK’s nephew and Teddy Kennedy’s sone Patrick and Bobby Kennedy’s daughter, Kathleen.

And it ends by asking what lies in store for the next generation of the Kennedys.

What they say: ‘From the assassination of JKF to sex, drug and drink scandals, America’s ‘royal family’ has rarely been out of the spotlight during the last 70 years.’ Radio Times

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