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Opening Arguments

BHO's TV shows

Probably shouldn't read too much into this, but it is interesting: When President Obama settles in for a little TV watching, he prefers "anything edgy, with hints of reality":

By his own accounts, Mr. Obama is drawn in his spare time to shows like HBO’s “Game of Thrones” and “Boardwalk Empire,” the kind of heavy, darkly rendered television that echoes the sadness and strife that make up so much of his workday.

These days, when Mr. Obama retreats to the White House residence after a long day on the other end of the colonnade, he is working his way through the DVD box set of AMC’s “Breaking Bad,” the award-winning TV drama about a drug-dealing high school teacher.

[. . .]

Friends say Mr. Obama is also keenly awaiting the new season of the Netflix show “House of Cards,” which starkly depicts a dysfunctional Washington — a theme that must seem all too familiar. At a meeting of technology executives last week, Mr. Obama jokingly lamented his own inability to maneuver the halls of Congress in the way of Kevin Spacey’s character, Frank Underwood.

It might seem surprising to some that the president would seek out edgy stuff, especially efforts depicting the dysfunctional Washington he has become so familiar with? Shouldn't he be seeking escapist fare that helps him forget all that for a while, or even programs with an uplifting message.

But I think it's natural to look for programming that reflects your own reality or at least tries to depict it, however imperfectly. I've always looked for movies and TV shows about journalism. I think I watched every episode of "Lout Grant," even though the fantasy world of big-city reporting it depicted was nothing like my own experience and despite the fact that by the time it aired Ed Asner was a well-know raving liberal lunatic.

And while what they watch on TV may tell you something about people, we should be careful about the judgments we make:

It may be a fool’s errand to psychoanalyze anyone — let alone a sitting president — based only on the books he reads or the music he listens to, or the television shows he watches.

Since leaving office, Bill Clinton has said he liked “24,” Fox’s terrorism cliffhanger, and — you guessed it — ABC’s “Scandal,” a political thriller set in Washington. Ronald Reagan, a former actor, once offered to appear on his favorite show, the sitcom “Family Ties.” (His offer was rejected.) Franklin Roosevelt was said to like Mickey Mouse cartoons in an era long before cable made TV edgy. George W. Bush was said to not be a particular fan of television, but made exceptions for A&E’s “Biography” and a variety of sports programs.

Two of my favorite shows are "Bones" and "The Big Bang Theory." What would you make of that? Maybe I'm drawn to violent death and psychoptathic murderers, but, hey, I can laugh about it.

I wonder what Abraham Lincoln would have watched.