USA, Sundays 10/9 Central
Jul 14, 2012 Web Exclusive
This six-part series from Greg Berlanti (Dawson's Creek, Brothers and Sisters) and Laurence Mark (Dreamgirls, Jerry Maguire) plays like a politically themed reality show. Political Animals is centered around Secretary of State Elaine Barrish (Sigourney Weaver), who is also a former first lady and a failed presidential candidate. Too harsh, too straight-laced, and too stiff, Weaver's portrayal of the unlikeable Elaine is on point—a bit of a polished Hillary Clinton with slightly better dress sense. Her style is partially credited to her substance abusing gay son, TJ (Sebastian Stan) and her rigidity, as well as her political leanings, are inherited by her straight son, Douglas (James Wolk). This quest for perfection carries over to Douglas' bulimic Japanese fiancée Anne (Brittany Ishibashi). Bud Hammond (Ciarán Hinds), Elaine's ex-husband, also the ex-president, now attached to a Sophia Vergara-like actress, is the best liked by the public, despite his philandering ways. Stealing the show is Elaine's mother, Margaret (Ellen Burstyn). Often inebriated, Margaret speaks her mind through a potty mouth—as much as basic cable allows anyway—hitting the mark every time. The thorn in every family member's side is driven journalist Susan Berg (Carla Gugino), who has far too much face time with the family and matches Elaine in her ambitious aspirations.
Everybody has an agenda on Political Animals. This agenda isn't always clear to the viewer as each character is so self-serving they are putting on a different act for any individual with whom they come into contact. Furthermore, every one of them is working overtime to keep up appearances by making sure their skeletons stay in their respective closets. Politics are not the primary concern on Political Animals. Sure the word "Iran"—the most popular political buzzword of the day—is thrown around to justify the show's title, but when political figures make an appearance, it's generally in personally compromising positions, not political ones.
It is the ladies of Political Animals that are propelling the show with their accurate depictions of sharply defined characters. The gentlemen of the show, bordering on melodrama, are responsible for providing the frothy tabloid fodder. It is this combination—as well as choice Ellen Burstyn moments—that will keep you invested in the six installations of the show. Still, being pit against Breaking Bad (which also airs on Sundays at 10 p.m.) is going to be the real challenge for these Animals. (www.usanetwork.com/series/politicalanimals)
Author rating: 6/10
Average reader rating: 8/10