There is something about Senators and even just mere candidates for the Senate that television writers can’t resist. Far more so than mere Congressmen and perhaps even as much or more than Presidents, the Senator is a regular visitor to TV land. Not quite as prevalent as Mayor, of course, but then not every town has its own Senator. And when a Senator does arrive on a TV show, watch out. Because that show is likely to be about anything from murder to romance to deals with the devil.
Kolchak: The Night Stalker
Well, you should know right away that if a Senator–or in this case a likely Senator in advance of the upcoming election–shows up on “Kolchak: The Night Stalker” that he is going to be trouble. Even more trouble than the clowns who actually sit in the Senate in whatever year this is that you are reading this. Robert Palmer is running for Senate and doing well, but there’s a problem. He sold his soul for the opportunity. Okay, so this TV Senator sold his soul for advancement into the Senate. And Joan Crawford was strict with her kids, so what else is new?
A few years before Kolchak ran up against the wannabe Senator with a more morally problematic backer than most Republican candidates for President–well, maybe just as morally problematic–Hal Holbrook arrived in D.C. as an idealistic young Senator. Sen. Hayes Stowe constantly found himself in confrontation with the Old Guard in the Senate as well as powerful businessmen with influential connections all over the Capitol. Yeah, it was fiction then and pure fantasy now.
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
If it worked with Jimmy Stewart in the title role on the big screen, surely it would work for Fess Parker on the small screen, right? Everybody’s favorite big screen Senator–well, not mine–Mr. Smith was refashioned into a half-hour sitcom in 1962 for the actor who found amazing success playing former Congressman Davy Crockett. Not quite so much with Mr. Smith. But then again, who could possibly have made anyone forget Jimmy Stewart?
The episode “Candidate for Crime” presents another candidate for Senate pretty much willing to do whatever is necessary to ensure not only that he gets elected, but eats his cake too. If by cake you mean his wife’s pretty young secretary. When his campaign manager comes up with a great plan to boost Nelson Hayward’s chances of actually getting into the Senate, it comes with a price too high for Hayward to accept. So, instead, he keeps things going with the secretary and offs the campaign manager. Too bad we don’t have more guys like Columbo working in the press as well as the police department.
Grandpa Goes to Washington
Remember the Man who used to hang around with that Chico fella? Well, he showed up in Washington in 1978 in this hour-long comedy about a maverick Senator. No, that not guy. Senator Joe Kelley was a real maverick, not just some suited stooge acting like he didn’t vote with his party 98% of the time. “Grandpa Goes to Washington” and drives a VW, He also finds relief from the pressures of Washington idiots through the drums. You can tell just how much of a maverick Senator Grandpa really was by how he put action behind his words to bring honesty to the Capitol and clean up the mess that had been made of it.
A short-lived series that commenced with the disappearance of the wife of Senator John Allen Nelson. The creators of “Vanished” clearly had great plans to make of it something along the lines of “The X-Files” in which the disappearance of a George Senator’s wife would merely be the jumping off point to delve deeply into an ever-widening conspiracy. What that conspiracy might entail would never be known, however, because the show took its title a little too literally a little too quickly. Of course, the biggest mystery was probably why anyone would bother including a Senator from Georgia in a conspiracy.