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Falls Church Stars in an Episode of NCIS: Hollywood's Obsession with the Nation's Capital

'Boring' Beltway makes for lots of fodder in TV dramas and comedy.

"NCIS" actors Mark Harmon (Leroy Gibbs) and newcomer Emily Wickersham ("Ellie" Bishop), in a scene. The show often mentions areas in and around Northern Virginia. Photo courtesy of CBS
"NCIS" actors Mark Harmon (Leroy Gibbs) and newcomer Emily Wickersham ("Ellie" Bishop), in a scene. The show often mentions areas in and around Northern Virginia. Photo courtesy of CBS
A new CNN poll out shows most Americans think the current Congress is the worst in history. One thing Washington is doing right? Providing plenty of fodder for Hollywood.

You can't click on the TV these days without hearing about bits and pieces of the Beltway mentioned on fictional shows such as ScandalNCISHouse of Cards, Covert Affairs, Criminal Minds, Veep and Homeland.

The shows are based on scandal, crime and corruption and some of the do-gooders and in-fighting at the real White HouseHomeland Security, the CIA, FBI, NCIS and Congress. Here's a look at some of the programs:

  • The characters on Criminal Minds work for the FBI and are based in Quantico, Va., home to the real FBI Academy and its Behavioral Science Unit, which "focuses specifically on criminal human behavior in an attempt to better understand criminals—who they are, how they think, why they do what they do—as a means to help solve crimes and prevent criminal activity." 

Criminal Minds began airing on CBS in 2005 and airs re-runs on the A&E Network (the cable channel in the news for the Duck Dynasty flap). The show recently filmed its 200th episode which will air in February. The headquarters — in real-life and on TV — is in Quantico, south of the Beltway off of I-95 South, about 45 minutes from Falls Church.


The show is transitioning this season after losing cast member Cote de Pablo (Ziva David); the new cast member actress Emily Wickersham plays NSA analyst Ellie Bishop. In its 11th season, the program airs Tuesdays on CBS. The show is still going strong with 19 million viewers. Diehard fans can find re-run marathons airing on USA Network.

  • We're guessing President Obama is a fan of Netflix' House of Cards, starring Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright, who play a husband and wife who live on Capitol Hill. It follows the doings of House Majority Whip Frank Underwood, played by Spacey. Obama joked about the TV series earlier this month. After being asked about doing a cameo for the series, Obama said that he wished "things were that ruthlessly efficient," The Hill reported.

"It's true. I was looking at Kevin Spacey, I was thinking man, this guy's getting a lot of stuff done," Obama quipped at a meeting of tech execs. House of Cards was adapted by Beau Willimon, who worked on Capitol Hill, from a BBC series. Season 2 of House of Cards premieres Feb. 14.


  • Scandal, whose star Kerry Washington was recently nominated for a Golden Globe, is partially based on Judy Smith, a real-life "fixer" in DC. The show's creator is Shonda Rhimes, who Obama recently appointed as a trustee for the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

Although The Washington Post reports that fake backdrops account for Washington scenes in the show, Kerry Washington herself showed up in Northern Virginia this fall to campaign for then-Democratic candidate for governor, Terry McAuliffe. 
The show began airing in 2012 on ABC and begins new episodes in October 2014.

  • Covert Affairs, which airs on the USA Network, follows the professional and personal life of Annie, played by actress Piper Perabo, a CIA officer (aka "agent.") Her "cover" — she works at the Smithsonian. Producers are Doug Liman and David Bartis, a 1982 grad of McLean High School. The two also produced "Fair Game," about former CIA officer Valerie Plame. The show has done actual filming in the area. One episode mentions Reston, and another mentions a cabin in Virginia.

Covert Affairs, which ended with a bang, with guest star Gregory Itzen (who some will likely recall as the disgraced President Logan on 24), is set to return to television in summer 2014.


  • Although it was based in Los Angeles, one of the all-time Washington-related TV shows — 24 — is set to return in 2014 with 12 episodes. 24: Live Another Day is set to begin filming next month, and will air on Fox, debuting in summer 2014. 

Examiner notes that Kim Raver (Audrey) and William Devane (Secretary of Defense Heller) will return to the series with star Kiefer Sutherland as Jack Bauer. According to SpinoffOnline, Mary Lynn Rajskub (Chloe) will also be back. The show last aired in 2010. One of the old episodes was based near "the port of Alexandria." 

Tell us: Does Hollywood accurately portray the Washington area? Are you a fan?

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