USA’s “Political Animals” is the only large profile, big names, known faces, high budget TV series to be premiered on American TV this summer. And it’s packaged in self-contained, mini format, six installment package.
Meet Elaine Barrish (Sigourney Weaver), former First Lady and Democratic presidential hopeful who lost her primary bid to become party nominee. To the guy who later offered her position of Secretary Of State in his new office. Elaine recently divorced Bud Hammond (Ireland’s own Ciarán Hinds), ex governor, former President Of US of A, self-appointed “most popular Democrat since Kennedy had his brain splattered against Dallas concrete” and a man known by the whole world as inappropriate womanizer with long record of extramarital affairs. If you are still not getting the hint who the writers pointed their pen at don’t worry, it won’t be more than 10 minutes before Bud will spell it out for you and introduce himself as “42nd President of USA”. This however, is as far as the authors of “Political Animals” venture into “based on true facts” territory.
Everything else in life of Elaine and Bud is pulled out straight from generic 1980ies telenovela. They have two sons. Non identical twins. Doug (James Wolk) is the good son – bright future of the family type. Politically engaged, with intelligent and charming fiancée, helping “the cause” by being Elaine’s Chief Of Staff. T.J (Sebastian Stan) on the other hand is a bag of soap opera clichés black sheep stereotype. Emotionally torn, self destructive attention seeker with aspirations never reaching beyond new night club projects and curing rejections with series of promiscuous gay encounters and multi substance abuse. Predictably, the more Secretary Barrish tries to repair broken world outside, the more her own family falls into disrepair fueled by megalomaniac cleavage diver Bud, sibling rivalry and never tiring press attempting to dig up any dirt they can find. So it’s even more surprising when Elaine decides to follow “keep your enemies closer” motto and take festicious reporter Susan Berg (Carla Gugino) on permanent tow in an unprecedented attempt to turn snarling press dog into her own pet.
The man behind “Political Animals” is the writer for “Dawson’s Creek” and “Brothers And Sisters”. And the show never lets you forget that. This mini series falls closer to “Dynasty” than “West Wing”. There are moments during 72 minute first episode where it’s on the brink of cutting into proper political drama, but each time it quickly reminds you where it hails from. It’s not going to leave “All Presidents Men” punch mark on you. It will show you what life of political elite looks like if Washington was “Everwood”. Surrounded by almost anonymous in their disconnected appearances uninvolving characters the main leads Sigourney, Carla with supporting help of brilliant as ever Ellen Burstyn (portraying Elaine’s mother) plow bravely through soapy dialogue interrupted only by random appearances of Bud and his bizarre rants delivered with caricature southern accent. Served with a mash up of real life international events worthy of closer focus (but used only as a background story propelling device) the uneven plot full of unsurprising twists is spilled out of the screen like there were 22 episodes in a series, just for the adventures of the troublesome son alone. The episode ends with a cheesy cliff hanger worthy of a Venezuelan telenovela fading for a weekend break. With a cast this strong, this show deserved to reach dizzy heights of Sorkin political dramas, instead, it will barely do as a summer filler. For no more than 6 episodes.
On your screens via USA channel on Sundays, Canadian simulcast on Bravo.