Two cable hours this week go way, way back to look at the story of electoral politics in America.

For the History Channel, with its tongue-in-cheek “How They Won: The Seven Secrets to Winning the Presidency,” that means all the way back to Washington, Adams and Jefferson.

TV Land, of course, has a different perspective: Its “Prime Time Politics” starts with Truman, Eisenhower and Kennedy, the first chief executives to appear before a mass TV audience.

The first special is hosted by Mo Rocca, the lanky, compulsively quippy funster who, since leaving “The Daily Show” last year, has popped up in shows as different as Bravo’s “Things I Hate About You” and VH1’s “I Love the “90s.”

Here, he wields an ax, undergoes a makeover and interviews the usual political experts, all in the interest of determining exactly what separates the winners from the also-rans.

Secret No. 1? “Be the Common Man.” If, for instance, you’re a congenitally overprivileged Yalie, make sure you’re seen in cowboy boots or hunting gear often enough to obscure your preppy past.

As Rocca illustrates, the trick is at least as old as William Henry Harrison’s 1840 campaign. The son of a wealthy Virginia planter, Harrison promoted himself as a cider-drinkin’, log-cabin-dwellin’ good old boy – and won.

No. 2 is “Have a Ne’er-Do-Well Brother.” It worked for Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter and, way back when, Thomas Jefferson.

Rocca wittily explores five other necessities: a good dog, good hair, mudslinging, money and a great theme song.

If you like this sort of thing, don’t miss folk legend Oscar Brand performing that John Quincy Adams oldie, “Little Know Ye Who’s Coming,” a song predicting dire consequences if anyone but Adams was elected. Note to modern political songwriters: “Satan” and “hatin”‘ make a great one-two punch.

“Prime Time Politics,” like most TV Land originals, spends too much time in overly familiar territory: “M*A*S*H” and Vietnam, “Maude” and abortion, Bill Clinton donning shades and playing his sax on “The Arsenio Hall Show.”

More interesting is a 1992 “Cheers” cameo by the junior senator from Massachusetts.

Leaving their favorite Boston bar one night, Norm (George Wendt) and Cliff (John Ratzenberger) see John Kerry on the street and, star-struck, stop to chat. The senator is gracious enough until he realizes that his constituents have mistaken him for a local news anchor.

As Rob Reiner, one of Hollywood’s most political animals, observes, recent decades have seen not just the blurring but the obliteration of the line between entertainment and politics.

Still, it’s frankly amazing to see the hour’s clip from then-first lady Nancy Reagan’s 1983 appearance on “Diff’rent Strokes.” Her polished performance in a “just say no”-themed episode is a reminder that not one but two former actors occupied the Reagan White House.

History Channel

How they won: The seven secrets to winning the presidency – 9 p.m. edt Tuesday, repeated 1 a.m. Tuesday and 1 and 7 p.m. Nov. 1

TV Land

Inside tv land: Prime time politics – 10 p.m. edt Wednesday, repeated 1 a.m. Tuesday, 11 a.m. Thursday, 5 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday and noon Sunday

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.