Television has been smitten with Washington, DC, in the last couple decades, as viewers have embraced the city’s intrigue, secrecy and satirical possibilities.
Last year, some of these long-running DC political programmes came to an end, including ‘Scandal’, ‘The Americans’ and ‘House of Cards’, while ‘Veep’ and ‘Homeland’ prepare their final seasons. ‘Murphy Brown’ returned to her news desk for just 13 episodes. But ‘Madam Secretary’, ‘Designated Survivor’ and ‘Jack Ryan’ continue on.
We’ve mapped out the fictional world of televised Washington from the 2000s, picking 15 main locations. (We ignored shows that are less overtly political, such as ‘NCIS’.) You can visit most of them: Take a meeting in Lafayette Square, a la ‘Scandal’s’ Olivia Pope, or channel ‘Madam Secretary’s’ Elizabeth McCord with a behind-the-scenes peek at the State Department.
— CIA headquarters
The intelligence service’s Langley, Virginia, campus has been a prominent setting in a slew of television dramas, including ‘The Agency’, ‘Alias’, ‘Homeland’, ‘Covert Affairs’ and ‘Jack Ryan.’ Sadly, though understandably, the headquarters — even its Starbucks — is off-limits to the general public. Bonus: Fox’s animated show ‘American Dad’ is set in Langley Falls, Virginia, which appears to be a combination of Langley and nearby Great Falls.
— Falls Church, Virginia
In the Cold War-era spy drama, Elizabeth and Philip Jennings (Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys) are KGB agents who raise their children in a house in Falls Church and run a travel agency in DC’s DuPont Circle as their cover. The show also has several Easter eggs for Washington-area fans, including original 1980s TV ads from the Jhoon Rhee Institute and Don Beyer Volvo.
— Jack Ryan’s strange bike commute
On this Amazon show, the CIA analyst Jack Ryan (John Krasinski) appears to have the most picturesque — but nonsensical — bike commute. Every morning, he rides past the Capitol, Jefferson Memorial and Lincoln Memorial. The problem is the route presumably starts after his workout at the Potomac Boat Club in Georgetown and ends in Langley, Virginia — meaning he would pass by none of the above. Cyclist fans instead will want to explore the Capital Crescent Trail, which Ryan would probably take if he were real. (Amazon.com chief executive Jeffrey Bezos owns The Washington Post.)
The tough-as-nails newscaster Murphy Brown (Candice Bergen) is known for having candid chats — and impromptu singing sessions — at her tony Georgetown town house. The set (in California originally and New York for the new version) is reportedly modelled in part on journalist Diane Sawyer’s Manhattan apartment. If Brown’s home existed in the real world, it probably would be on Dent Place, a two-block stretch of historic, multimillion-dollar homes.
— 1 Observatory Circle
Vice president turned president turned ex-president Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) called 1 Observatory Circle home for the political satire’s first three seasons. Located on the grounds of the 72-acre Naval Observatory, the 33-room, Queen Anne-style home has been the vice-presidential residence since 1974. Although tours of the house are not available, viewers can visit the Daughters of the American Revolution’s headquarters downtown to see where fake White House scenes from Seasons 1 and 5 were shot.
— State Department
Every week, the shrewd Secretary of State McCord (Tea Leoni) is faced with a new international crisis. Fans who want a glimpse of where she solves them can schedule a free, 45-minute weekday tour of the State Department’s diplomatic rooms by phone or online.
— Lincoln Memorial
For TV characters, the memorial often provides a backdrop for scenes of hope, inspiration or reflection. ‘The West Wing’s’ President Bartlet (Martin Sheen) visits the statue for a moment of solace after a funeral. ‘Madam Secretary’s’ McCord contemplates a presidential run from the steps. And ‘Parks and Recreation’s’ Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) coaches April Ludgate (Aubrey Plaza) on her career while sitting on a bench near the Reflecting Pool. The memorial is open to the public 24 hours a day.
— Lafayette Square
Many covert meetings on the popular political drama are, as fixer Olivia Pope would say, ‘handled’ on a bench in this park just north of the White House. Pope (Kerry Washington) is often summoned there by frenemy Cyrus Beene (Jeff Perry) to solve the latest presidential mishap. Although the show is filmed in Los Angeles, you can get a Pope-like photo op at the Bernard Baruch Bench of Inspiration — named after a statesman who, like Pope, advised presidents behind the scenes.
— The White House
The executive mansion, Oval Office and the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room — not to mention that exterior establishing shot — are fixtures in many D.C.-based political shows, including ‘The West Wing,’ ‘Scandal,’ ‘House of Cards,’ ‘Designated Survivor,’ ‘Veep,’ ‘1600 Penn,’ ‘Commander in Chief’ and ‘State of Affairs.’ To roam the ‘People’s House,’ request a tour through your congressional representative.
— National Museum of Natural History
Temperance ‘Bones’ Brennan (Emily Deschanel) and Seeley Booth (David Boreanaz) work as forensic specialists at the prestigious Jeffersonian Institute’s Medico-Legal Lab — a fictional riff on the Division of Physical Anthropology at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. ‘Bones’ is largely based on books by forensic anthropologist Kathy Reichs, who attended American University and started her career at the museum. Head up to the second floor to see the Bone Hall, which has more than 300 vertebrate skeletons on display.
— National Gallery of Art West Building
‘House of Cards’
On a bench by Thomas Eakins’s ‘The Biglin Brothers Racing’ painting of two restless rowers, congressman Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) delivers a warning to reporter Zoe Barnes (Kate Mara) in the pilot: ‘We’re in the same boat now, Zoe. Take care not to tip it over.’ (Spoiler alert: She tips it.) In Episode 9, the pair has another intense exchange, in front of Mary Cassatt’s ‘Little Girl in a Blue Armchair.’ The paintings reside in Galleries 68 and 86, respectively — but the scenes were shot at the Baltimore Museum of Art and paintings digitally added later.
— J. Edgar Hoover Building
The fictional characters who work at the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s headquarters have ranged from the paranormal investigators Fox Mulder and Dana Scully (David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson) in ‘The X-Files’ to the counter-intelligence agent Stan Beeman (Noah Emmerich) on ‘The Americans’ to criminal mastermind turned consultant Raymond ‘Red’ Reddington (James Spader) on ‘The Blacklist.’ Fans can arrange a tour of the agency’s education Centre, which reopened in 2017, through their congressional representatives.
— ‘Cathedral Heights’ Metro station
‘House of Cards’
Frank has a momentous confrontation with Zoe in this fictional subway stop during the ‘House of Cards’ Season 2 premiere. The scene was actually filmed at Shot Tower/Market Place subway station in Baltimore — locals will notice it lacks the DC Metro’s proper signage and stone benches. ‘Homeland’ features its own fake Metro stops — ‘Meridian Hill’ and ‘Farragut Station.’ If you want to visit a real stop portrayed on TV, go to the Archives-Navy Memorial-Penn Quarter station, where Barnes and Underwood clandestinely meet in Season 1.
— 127 D St. SE
The short-lived political satire on Amazon is loosely based on this two-bedroom Capitol Hill row house that served as a crash pad for lawmakers for over three decades. Tenants at various points included Sens. Charles Schumer, D-N. Y., and Richard Durbin, D-Ill.; former congressmen George Miller, D-Calif., Bill Delahunt, D-Mass., and Marty Russo, D-Ill.; and Leon Panetta when he was a California congressman.
— The Capitol
Beyond its presence on C-SPAN, the Capitol makes a cameo in shows such as ‘House of Cards,’ ‘Veep,’ ‘Scandal’ and ‘Alpha House.’ It made an especially impactful appearance in ‘Designated Survivor,’ where it was blown to smithereens during the president’s State of the Union address. Visitors can view the real and intact building by arranging a tour through their congressional representative or the Capitol Visitor Centre.