Monday, April 08, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—Political Animals (2012) **

TV-14, 6 45-min. episodes
Creator: Greg Berlanti
Directors: Greg Berlanti, Bethany Rooney, Michael Morris, David Petrarca, Tucker Gates
Writers: Greg Berlanti, Molly Newman, Phil Klemmer, Brian Peterson, Kelly Souders, Speed Weed, Geoffrey Nauffts, Nicholas Wootten
Starring: Sigourney Weaver, Carla Gugino, James Wolk, Sebastian Stan, Brittany Ishibashi, Ellen Burnstyn, Ciarán Hinds
Guest Starring: Dylan Baker, Dan Futterman, Adrian Pasdar, Roger Bart, Meghann Fahy, LaMonica Garrett, Eric Mabius, Vanessa Redgrave, Chris Ellis, Madchen Amick, Wes Chatham, Ming Lo, David Monahan, Linda Powell, John Bedford Lloyd, Blair Brown

I think I decided to finish “Political Animals” in order to prep myself for Netflix’s “House of Cards”. I watched the first episode when it aired last summer. I liked what I saw; my wife didn’t. We didn’t try it again, but it was sitting there in my DVR, the five remaining episodes. I spent the winter catching up on a lot of shows—“The Walking Dead”, “American Horror Story”, “Louie”, “Archer”, “The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret”. Some of these were via Netflix, some were on my DVR. After I finished all those off, I couldn’t just let “Political Animals” sit there anymore. I’d consumed so much television over the winter months that it seemed a shame just to delete them, so I watched them.

“Political Animals” aired on USA Network, where the tag line is “Characters Welcome.” It was one of those shows that seem to be popping up more regularly, where the network hasn’t really decided whether to commit to a regular series or keep it a limited series. I think that’s because more and more US cable networks are modeling their business practices after the BBC. Anyway, pre-airing promotions seemed to indicate it was intended to be an ongoing series, but before each episode USA expressly pointed out that this was “a limited series event.” The finale seemed to suggest that the creators hoped to be renewed. It won’t be.

Anyway, what about the show? While I enjoyed the first few episodes, as the series went on I became more interested in USA’s programming plan for it. Not that I wanted it to be renewed, but I can’t help but think the lack of any sort of solid plan for its limited nature must’ve made it difficult on the creative side. A side effect might’ve been my waning interest due to the increasingly absurd developments in the plot. The finale had me hoping for more episodes, however, that is until the last five minutes. The tacked on happy ending was preposterous and showed just how clueless the show was in terms of insight into its subject matter.

It followed the exploits of a female Secretary of State, who had lost the primary to the current president. Her ex-husband is a former president and an unabashed philanderer. Is any of this sounding familiar? Sigourney Weaver is perfect as the Madam Secretary and Ciarán Hinds does a pretty good Bill Clinton. But, the rest of the family is far too interesting to be plausible in this cut from life set up. The soap operatic developments eventually collapse on top of the story’s premise and it all becomes overtly unbearable to watch after a while. There was great potential here, but they pushed too hard to get that renewal if you ask me.

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