Ratings haven’t been great for three episodes that aired so far, but if a well-written political drama with hints of humor and compelling story lines interests you it is easy to catch up with On Demand technology.
The story gives an insider’s view of a first family after they leave the White House, more specifically the former first lady played by Sigourney Weaver. Once her husband’s presidency is finished, which included several sex scandals and a very high approval rating, she decides to take up her own political agenda and run for president, only to be beaten in the primary election. Once the candidate who beat her wins the presidency, he appoints her Secretary of State.
Sound familiar? You’d have to be living in solitary confinement not to see the similarities with the Clintons. There is one big difference though. When Weaver’s character, Elaine Hammond, loses the race in the primary election, she files for divorce that very night.
As the top diplomat in the country, Hammond has a lot to deal politically and inside of her own family. As one character in the White House jokes, trying to figure out what Iran will do next is akin to looking at instructions from IKEA. Plus she’s dealing with a tough journalist out for blood played by the wonderful Carla Gugino who has had a love/hate relationship with the former first lady. All in a day’s work.
But that’s minor compared to what is going on inside of her family. She has a gay son, outed in the White House as a teen during her husband’s presidency who has never come to terms with the spotlight, another son who is so rigidly perfect that his fiancé develops bulimia, and ex-husband who has taken up with a television star half his age.
The writing and acting in this ensemble are quite good. And if the story lines as I’ve described them indicate in any way that there is a soap element to the show, I stand corrected. There is drama, comic relief and snarky comments galore – the best belonging to Elaine’s mother, played by the still stunning Ellyn Burstyn – but there is no soap factor.
There have been plenty of movies and television series that have given us a peek behind the curtain of politics, and also plenty that give us a look at the media, but “Political Animals” combines both with a refreshing twist. If anything, it’s a nice break from the political nightmare that’s about to unfold on all of us during the upcoming presidential race.
With the limited selections of summer viewing, it’s also a nice change of pace from the reality show madness that controls the television dials. The USA Network offers a few other alternatives that will please your palate as well.