TV’s Most Hopeless, Angst-Ridden Romantics

If you always secretly wished that The West Wing was a lot more soapy, then mark your calendars for Sunday night, when a new show called Political Animals premieres on USA. At the heart of this fun new series is the Hammond family, a political dynasty in the vein of the Kennedys, who are every bit as flawed and riddled by scandal. There’s also a clear homage to the Clintons happening here. Sigourney Weaver’s Elaine Barrish is basically Hillary Clinton with a much better stylist; meanwhile, Ciarán Hinds as two-term president and general good ol’ boy Bud Barrish is cut from the same cloth as Bill. As in real life, the on-screen relationship between this fictionalized version of the couple is hard to comprehend. Like Carla Gugino, who plays the family’s nemesis, journalist Susan Berg, we can’t help but wonder why a woman as strong as Elaine would put up with a cheating husband — but then, she’s far from the first TV character to let her heart rule over her head. Click through for a roundup of some of the most hopeless, angst-ridden romantics in recent television history.

Elaine Barrish in Political Animals
The object of her obsession: Bud Hammond
Classic quote: “I stayed because I loved him… [I left] because after 30 years, in that moment, exhausted from the campaign, I finally had the strength to.”

When we first meet former first lady Elaine Barrish Hammond, she’s campaigning for president and married to Bud Hammond, a womanizer who closely resembles Bill Clinton — charming in his public life, but a total philanderer in his private life. After failing to secure the Democratic party nomination, Elaine (who’s viewed as a cold opportunist by the public) decides that she wants a divorce that very night. The next time that we see her, Elaine is the Secretary of State, while Bud has become a bit washed up, trading on his celebrity to score dates with TV stars half his age. But here’s the rub: It’s obvious, at least in the pilot, that Elaine still has strong feelings for Bud, and he’s to ready to exploit the hold that he has over her to get back in the game. “All anybody ever talks about is your ambition,” he tells her. “They never talk about your heart — I don’t know why they don’t see it, ’cause it’s all I ever saw… That, and you were the foxiest piece of ass that I’d ever laid eyes on… still are.” With lines this smooth, it seems like if Elaine isn’t careful about separating her personal life from her political one, she’s doomed to repeat past mistakes.