John Hanlon Reviews


5 Presidents HBO should tackle next

Posted in: General  |  By: John Hanlon  |  May 21st, 2016
Presidents HBO should tackle next

Over the past few years, HBO has taken on a variety of political subjects including some of our nation’s most well-known presidents.

All the Way, the network’s latest production which premiered last night, focused on the presidency of Lyndon Baines Johnson (check out our full review here). Before then, the highly-acclaimed 2008 HBO miniseries John Adams told the story of our nation’s second president and more than two decades before that, HBO’s Truman told the story of our nation’s 33rd President. The channel clearly has the power and the ability to offer presidential history lessons to many viewers. With that in mind, we came up with a list of five U.S. presidents that the pay channel should tackle next.

We already know that HBO is already working on a mini-series about Andrew Jackson so we kept that controversial Democratic President off the list.

John Quincy Adams: HBO has already offered a miniseries about the father so one can only hope that the network would eventually offer a biography on the son.

Adams is in an interesting political figure in many respects. According to, he was appointed  “U.S. minister to Holland” by President Washington and was later appointed Minister to Prussia by his father. He went on to become a member of the Massachusetts State legislature, a U.S. Senator and Secretary of State.

His eventual election to the presidency was very controversial. According to, “For the first time in U.S. history, however, no candidate received a majority of electoral votes, and the election was decided by the House of Representatives.” Adams was only elected to one presidential term but he went on to serve in the House of Representatives and, according to that same site,“served as a leading congressman for the rest of his life, earning the nickname ‘Old Man Eloquent’ for his passionate support of freedom of speech and universal education, and especially for his strong arguments against slavery…”

Woodrow Wilson: The 28th President of the United States is well-known to many politicos but few films have offered a compelling glimpse into his life.

According to, the progressive Wilson won his election with a mere “42% of the popular vote” and used his victory to support “a graduated Federal income tax,” “a Federal Trade Commission to prohibit unfair business practices,” and a law forbidding child labor. Interestingly enough too, he campaigned for re-election hoping to keep the United States out of World War I (His campaign slogan, according to, was “He kept us out of war.”) After his victory though, America was soon in the middle of the fighting. He was an unlikely wartime president and one whose policies have lived on over a generation after his death,

Calvin Coolidge: An ideological opposite of Wilson in many ways, the 30th President of the United States was a well-known conservative leader.

The former Governor and Vice President became our nation’s leader upon the sudden death of President Harding. According to, Coolidge “was a pro-business conservative who favored tax cuts and limited government spending.” His administration was marked with great success (the Roaring Twenties were a truly bustling time) but soon after he left office, the country faced the Great Depression.

The effects of Coolidge’s presidency are still being debated today so a HBO film could explore his administration’s work and legacy in vivid detail.

Dwight D. Eisenhower: It’s true that there have been some notable films about the 34th President including the 1979 mini-series Ike and the TV movie Ike: Countdown to D-Day but few films have really delved into Eisenhower’s political career.

After leading the D-Day invasion, Eisenhower was so enormously popular that both political parties wanted him as their presidential candidate. He became the Republican nominee and as president, according to, he “managed Cold War-era tensions with the Soviet Union under the looming threat of nuclear weapons, ended the war in Korea in 1953 and authorized a number of covert anti-communist operations by the CIA around the world.” Additionally, he “strengthened Social Security,” and “created the massive new Interstate Highway System”

The president’s enormous achievements often brought the nation together, something that today’s leaders could learn something from.

George H.W. Bush: One of our nation’s most well-respected leaders, Bush has never been the subject of a movie about his presidency or his commendable life achievements despite the fact that there’s so much to cover.

One of the most qualified men to occupy the Oval Office, the 41st President was recently the subject of Jon Mecham’s biography Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush. Before becoming president, Bush was a veteran of World War II who  went on to be elected to the Congress. He later became an Ambassador to the United Nations, an envoy to China, Director of the CIA and then was Vice President for two terms. Bush had one of the most impressive presidential resumes ever and as president, he went on to successfully lead the Gulf War.

His story really deserves the biopic treatment and one hopes that HBO will be willing tackle that subject and some of these other political leaders.