Aug 12 2013
When I first heard about Political Animals, I was skeptical because I’ve already been through the fatigue of going through mediocre television shows in the past year. However, I can never shy away from political shows like The West Wing and House of Cards. My father served three consecutive presidential administrations for a foreign government, and that was the life I knew with him. I thought that this show was cancelled when I stopped hearing things about. I assumed it was bad and my first impression was that it seemed like a carbon copy of Geena Davis’ late show Commander in Chief. I was wrong on both counts because Political Animals was made for a limited run as a miniseries and it was different from Davis’ cancelled show.
I spotted this show recently on Netfelix’s dashboard and I gave this show a shot. I didn’t regret watching one episode, because it made me binge watch the entire thing. I promised myself that I would sleep at 12 midnight, but instead I slept way past my bedtime trying to find out what happens next.
Political Animals is more than just a show that aims to show you the power play and drama that goes inside the White House. Lead star Sigourney Weaver aptly describes the tale as: “”very much about families who have been in the White House and the price they’ve paid for being in the White House and the fact that families who have been in the White House often try to get back in the White House or continue to try and get in the White House.” A story that closely resembles Hilary and Bill Clinton’s time during and after the White House. While it may only be inspired by the famous family, Political Animals crafts a similar tale well with performances that are both genuine and moving.
While the rest of the cast had ‘okay’ or good performances, it was Sigourney Weaver and Ciaran Hinds who moved me the most and shined the brightest. They played the former first lady and President respectively in the show. I have loved Weaver since Alien and she’s been long established as one of Hollywood’s greatest actresses. I’m also a fan of Hinds since I first saw him on Rome as Julius Caesar. As a dynamic, they were able to convey the complexities of their relationship through their interactions. Hinds plays the part of Bud Hammond, a former president mired with sex scandals, but it’s hard to despise him. I was convinced that Elaine Barrish, played by Weaver, was the love of his life. There was one scene where he tells her to leave him because he knows that he will break her heart again. However, Elaine can’t find the courage to do so because of her genuine love for him and her fierce drive to serve the country.
Ellen Burstyn is without a doubt a great actress. If you haven’t seen Requiem for a Dream, it’s a great film by Darren Aronofsky that showcases her undeniable talent. She plays the role of Barrish’s mother well, but we don’t get to see much of her to be completely swept away. Carla Gugino plays the role of reporter Susan Berg who has criticized Barrish for several years. Gugino’s performance is good but not memorable. However, I liked the character and how she matures into realizing that sometimes what she thinks as the truth is not often the case. I found it interesting because we always have journalists who think they know better. Sometimes they do, but there’s also times when they don’t. Berg realizes that all her opinion pieces on Berg were more of brash judgments instead of thoughtfully written critiques. Just because they think of themselves as the heralds of the truth, doesn’t mean they always are.
I loved watching the show because it wasn’t all about power play like in Netflix or a look at how the White House operates in the West Wing. This was a more personal story about a family, and the White House mostly acts as a setting. You get the idea that these characters genuinely want to change America with their vision. There’s the story line about Barrish wanting to be President, but it isn’t a game of thrones for them the entire time.
I was disappointed to hear that the miniseries won’t lead into a full-season. The story lines were open-ended and some were left unresolved. Political Animals definitely held a lot of promise. The show ended in a way that hinted that there was a lot more excitement to come. However, nothing can change the fact that it was an enjoyable show and I suggest watching it on Netflix if you have the time.
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