16 July, 2012

Review - Political Animals 1.01: Pilot

I could do this review in a more traditional manner, but instead I’m going to give you what I think are the top three reasons to watch (or hopefully keep watching) Political Animals.

The basic gist: The Barrish/Hammond clan is a slightly fictionalized version of the Clintons. Bud is a Southern, good ol’ boy, former President who cheated on his wife while in office. Elaine, his ex-wife, became Governor of Illinois after serving as First Lady (despite the scandal) and attempted to run for President herself, but lost her party’s primary. She then took the Secretary of State job in her opponent’s administration. Hopefully, this all sounds familiar. They also have two sons: Doug, who serves as Mom’s right hand man/adviser; and T.J., who was publicly shamed when he came out as a teen in the White House and is now battling substance abuse issues. Also, Elaine’s mother (played by Ellen Burstyn; channeling Jessica Walter’s Lucille Bluth and Mallory Archer)is along for the ride.

1. Hillary Fandom!- If, like me, you still stare longingly at your Hillary ‘08 campaign memorabilia and await the day when our fearless lady leader will return to the arena of Presidential candidacy, then this show is for you. Basically, it is Hillary fanfiction: all the characters you know and love (plus a few extra for fun) thrown into stories that would be unlikely to happen in reality, and that allow you to mess with the social, political and international structures of the world without causing a political firestorm or WW III.

2. Sigourney Weaver- who is killing it as Elaine Barrish! Yes, the fact that the character is based off of one of the most well-known and public figures in American politics probably helps; but If no one believes she’s a Hillary-esque character then the whole show fails. Weaver seems to be doing a pretty good job of bringing the confidence and emotion that makes the character believable and sympathetic. Halfway through when resident journalist Susan tells us that Elaine gave the valedictorian speech at her law school graduation to the tune of a ten minute standing ovation; I believed it based on her actions and personality.

3. It’s a mini series and it’s light and fun- Were you planning on catching up on all 47 episodes of Breaking Bad this summer? Finally going ahead with that comprehensive The Wire re-watch? No problem! As of right now there are only six episodes planned; so you’ll have plenty of time for your usual summer binge marathons or whatnot. Also, nothing in this show will tax your viewing mind so much that you can’t process anything else.

Thoughts on the future- Keep up the dialogue! One of the things that surprised me was how snappy the dialogue was (especially for USA Network fare). The lines were funny, without being too obvious; and none of the more serious stuff was preachy or melodramatic. I’m hoping lines like: “the Middle East is the diplomatic equivalent of Ikea instructions”, were not pilot gems that will disappear in future episodes. I worry about the show’s characterization of foreign leaders/diplomats. The Russian Ambassador dude in this episode seemed lifted right out of Dr. Strangelove and I fear the episode in which we meet the crazy Iranian leader who kidnapped the journalists, or the show’s equivalent of Kim Jong-un (think 30 Rock). Also, the current President guy (in the show!) is not very compelling, which makes it seem odd that Elaine lost to him. I honestly can’t remember much at all about the scenes he was in except for the fact that he looks like Richard from Lost with less eye liner.

I give it a 90 out of 100


  1. I did like the pilot in part because the show has a different premise than most USA network shows.

    I thought it was well acted and interesting.

  2. Finally watched it... it is better than NEWSROOM.