So I had the chance to check out the pilot episode of Political Animals. I’ve randomly been coming across some good reviews about it so I had to see it for myself. This turned out to be further proof as to why I should never trust just anyone when I am suggested to watch something.
I do like the idea. I always keep an eye out for political shows probably because I’ve had a great experience watching The West Wing. This one is no West Wing.
Apart from the good premise, what I have come to realize is that a big part of what makes this show good and what makes it bad is its characters and its actors because script-wise, it was just too full of cringe-y material. And because I’ve learned that a show is not only about the script, I try to look at other aspects and in this case, what’s left to judge is its characters and its actors. Let me just summarize by chart what I will be talking about in the next few paragraphs:
I think that in the midst of this close to catastrophic and too trying hard of a series, we have a few people who almost saves it. There’s Carla Cugino, a reporter who is after truth and after relevant news and not after gossip. Then there’s Sebastian Stan, the homosexual druggie son of Weaver’s political family and Ellen Burstyn, always a favorite. She plays the drunk and never-fearing grandmother.
I find it particularly interesting that the good actors in this whole thing are those that play the most cliched characters. Maybe that’s failure on the part of the show runners for they don’t know how to handle the supposedly more uniquely conceptualized characters.
What I love about the three is that they are just amazingly convincing and believable showing emotion so effectively that I have grown attached. Almost well enough for me to stick around for a next episode. Almost.
The most terribly done was in the character of James Wolk. I can’t tell if it is overacting on his part or it’s just terrible direction, terribly written or maybe it’s a combination of all three. I particularly cringed most in his scene in the Situation Room. In here, Sigourney Weaver as the Secretary of State was disrespected because she wasn’t informed of an issue she was supposed to be informed in. My god was that a pain to watch. He reacted as if someone stabbed his mother right in front of him. And that was definitely not how the set up was put into context. That scene, the characters and the emotions were just not at par or on the same level as each other, it was unsettling to watch.
Then the Undecideds. I don’t know if it’s because I have high respect for both Sigourney Weaver and Ciaran Hinds (I’m a pretty big fan of HBO’s Rome) but they had their moments. Then those where they missed the mark. I’m sure they become more likable in the following episodes but I don’t care too much to continue watching. So – I guess I’ll never really find out. But that’s alright coz I don’t care too much to find out.
I will give this show props for a scene I particularly found impressive. It was at the dinner/engagement dinner scene. I like how you could see the internal struggle between appearing very civil (all smiles and laughs and all that) and the hidden angers within the family. They show Cugino well as the outsider, noticing what’s really going on beyond what they try to appear during the whole dinner. I also find it quite interesting how there is an attempt to foreshadow how all-political Wolk’s character is. There was discussion about his wedding and he tries his hardest to please both his wife but at the same time, he’s still trying to take into consideration how best to appear with the press (since he’s all-political and everything).
The bad trumps the good. With more good characters, they are overshadowed by the bad one. That plus the messy script and cringe-full of other things. In one episode they reveal these things: drugs, homosexuality, bulimia, and so many other things that could have been stretched out a season. Because now, there’s no suspension of disbelief.
Overall, I won’t give this show another shot. I’ll just keep an eye out for Cugino, Burstyn and Stan after this show fails or after they realize it will fail and they move on to better gigs.