5. Lisa Simpson (Yeardley Smith), “The Simpsons”
It’s still pretty incredible that “The Simpsons” accurately predicted a Donald Trump presidency all the way back in the 2000 episode “Bart to the Future.” Back then, it was an absurd joke — sure, Trump had been threatening to run for years, but there was no way he’d be elected president, right? Right? The episode, which aired during “The Simpsons” Season 11 (the show is now entering its 29th season), shares a vision of the future, in which Bart Simpson is an unemployed slacker while Lisa Simpson is the president of the United States — grappling with a budget crunch her administration inherited from President Trump. “We did predict President Trump but you remember the episode he’s followed by President Lisa Simpson, so you have that to look forward to,” executive producer Al Jean said recently during “The Simpsons” Comic-Con panel.
4. Mackenzie Allen (Geena Davis), “Commander in Chief”
Mackenzie “Mac” Allen became the first female president on ABC’s “Commander in Chief,” but only through succession. The show, which opened to strong ratings, followed Allen as she was sworn in to the post from the vice presidency after the sitting president dies. Here’s the rub: Allen was an independent vice president on a Republican ticket. The dying president asks her to resign, as does the rest of the Republican party. But she doesn’t, and is elevated to president. The right-wing Speaker of the House, played by Donald Sutherland, isn’t exactly happy. Rod Lurie (“The Contender”) created “Commander in Chief,” but as ratings started to dip, Steven Bochco, and then Dee Johnson, were brought in to save the series. “Commander in Chief” was canceled after 18 episodes.
3. David Palmer (Dennis Haysbert), “24”
Dennis Haysbert was such a convincing president on “24” that the actor has said that he believed the show might have helped elect Barack Obama as the nation’s first African-Amercian Commander-in-chief. Here’s what we know for sure: Haysbert as President David Palmer was so convincing — and audiences found him so trustworthy — that Allstate Insurance hired him as their spokesperson. As a candidate for president, Sen. David Palmer was marked for assassination, until Jack Bauer saved the day in Season 1. Palmer is a strong-willed, decent and skilled president who survives an attempted coup; another assassination attempt; a nuclear bomb and the nefarious schemes of his ex-wife Sherry.
2. Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), “Veep”
After years of being humiliated as the vice president, Selina Meyer unexpectedly is named POTUS at the end of Season 3 of “Veep.” But it ultimately wouldn’t last long.
Meyer is elevated after the president resigns toward the end of his term, but her election campaign is already underway. This being “Veep,” her entire campaign is bungled and undermined, including by her own VP candidate, Sen. Tom James (Hugh Laurie). Ultimately, the Electoral College vote is tied – sending things into a further frenzy. Just when it looks like Tom will be named president, it instead goes to Laura Montez. But in one final act as president, Selina actually manages to broker a free Tibet. But again, this being “Veep,” Montez takes credit. But by the end of Season 6, the world knows that Selina was behind the Tibet deal with the Chinese government, and she is once again running for president.
1. Josiah Bartlet (Martin Sheen), “The West Wing”
For better and for worse, Aaron Sorkin treated his White House occupant like a superhero. Raining down Bible verses on bigots, questioning God, and assuming unofficial father figure roles, Bartlet showed he could hold is own in a war of words at a time when the country who was watching him was in a conflict of its own. Bartlet helped the show became a persistent TV drama favorite, which in turn created a greater sense of awareness for the office itself. A term like POTUS would never have reached cultural saturation had the person on the show it was referring to not been worthy of remembering.