sigourney weaver

Political TV Fever!

I seem to be gaining a growing interest in politics…well at least TV politics. What started as a mild curiosity last summer, has quickly turned into a full fledged political TV addition. I’ve increasingly found myself drawn to political dramas and dramadies (dramatic comedies), and keep my radar on high alert at the sign of a potential new series.


The West Wing
: I’ve just finished the second season; I know, I know I’m about 7 years too  late. But in my defence I was about to turn 8 when the series originally aired so I’m going to say I wasn’t exactly in their target demographic! This show has been really refreshing to watch. Its definitely more of an adult drama through its tone and writing and I appreciate the lack of love triangles, the use of older actors (not old!) and the focus on politics as the source of drama. I know the series has been highly praised by political science professors and critics alike and its really not hard to see why, the show comes off as a smart drama with intellectual ideals. I will admit there are times when the show comes off as a bit preachy however I commend Sorkin for using a devout religious democrat (President Bartlet) and a smart, eloquent republican (Ainsley Hayes) rather than resorting to common stereotypes. I also commend Sorkin for not resorting to stereotypes against the Middle East, the original run was during 9/11, or cheap republican comebacks against George Bush, the entire series took place during his presidency. I’ll likely do a more in depth post on the series (just started season 4!), so expect that in the near future.

Scandal: If you’ve read my most recent entries, you’ll notice that many of them seem to be Scandal related. The protagonist of the series is Olivia Pope, a crisis manager, and her complicated love triangle with the first family. Because Olivia works in crisis management, the show deals with more salacious events rather than the seemingly everyday events portrayed in The West Wing.  While I appreciate that Shonda has chosen a republican as her presidential protagonist, he seems to have some very democratic views. Fitz was a governor from California, a state which is recent years has been more on the democratic side, his chief of staff is an openly gay male, and he hasn’t appeared to have a deep sense of faith by any means. Really the only republican sense we’ve had from him is his connection to ‘Big Oil’ (Hollis Doyle). I seem to have a love/hate annoyed relationship with this show. In my opinion the writing has vastly improved from the long winded repititious soliloquy filled pilot episode. The show has a stronger focus on the personal rather than the workplace (which is completely fine!) however there is a growing amount of drama for dramas sake rather than to extend the storyline. For instance take the revelation of Olivia’s father; while part of my weekly must-see television the series is quickly venturing into soap opera territory.


Political Animals:
A 6 episode mini-series that originally aired last summer on USA. I did a previous post on my thoughts on the pilot episode.  The series follows  Elaine Barrisch (Sigourney Weaver), a once presidential candidate, who is now Secretary of State, trying to make a name for herself in politics away from her promiscuous husband Bud Hammond(Ciarán Hinds). Bud just so happens to be a former president himself (Hilary and Bill Clinton anyone?). Sigourney Weaver and Ciarán Hinds are just a drop in the bucket in naming the well known actors involved with the series. While I do wish the series had been renewed for a second season, with the heavy hitting cast I wouldn’t be surprised if funding or scheduling were the issue. The main focus of the show is the turmoil surrounding the Hammond family, however we do get to see a fair bit of politics when Elaine Barrisch is in her element.

VeepAn HBO comedy series I started watching a couple weeks ago. Veep follows Selena Myer (Julia Louis- Dryfus) a fictions vice president and her senior staff. I find the series to be a refreshing take on politics, most likely due to the lighter nature of a comedy vs an hour long drama. While the entire cast is well portrayed, in my opinion the scene stealer is Gary Walsh, the vice president’s personal aide, portrayed by Tony Hale. Gary is extremely loyal, Selena’s confidante and carries a briefcase which he nicknames Leviathan! The series currently airs Sunday at 10 and its in its second season.

The Newsroom: Another series I began watching last summer (the new season begins airing on July 14th!). The series revolves around the fictional news network Atlanta Cable News (ACN) and their attempt to change the way the news is presented. After a very public tirade, Will McAvoy (a news anchor played by Jeff Daniels) returns to work to find a new executive producer, his ex-girlfriend MacKenzie McHale (Emily Mortimer) who criticizes the way he had previously been anchoring the news. She tells Will (who is currently leading in the ratings), that instead of reporting the actual facts he is just trying not to step on anyone’s toes. The changes they have made to the fictional station are brilliant. Will acts as both an educator and as judicator, both educating the public on real news issues while holding politicians and big-wigs to the words that they’ve promised. While this isn’t a show about politicians per say, given the setting at a cable news station its almost impossible NOT to mix politics and the news. The show is quite different from the West Wing, while the tone is very much the same, we don’t see any representation of the White House. Similarly to Political Animals, I did a post last summer on my thoughts for the complete first season; you can read it here.

This week in TV: Political Animals Pilot Episode

If you’re still on the lookout for some great summer TV, you may just be in luck. Political Animals is a 6 part mini- series that just aired its pilot episode on Sunday over on USA, and here on Bravo in Canada. Now just as the title of the series obviously states, this is a political drama. In all honestly I’m trying to think of other political dramas that I have been a fan of but am coming up blank, this isn’t typically a genre a gravitate towards. Mostly, I guess, due to my lack of interest in American politics (which should be understandable considering I’m not an American 😉 ).

Political Animals has a stellar cast, I kind of watched this on a whim and was immediately stunned by all the heavy hitters on the screen. Sigourney Weaver, Ciarán Hinds, Adrian Pasdar, Carla Gugino heck even Dylan Baker made a cameo!  Now mind you there has only been 1 aired episode but nonetheless I don’t want to give too much of the plot away.

In the pilot episode we meet Elaine Barrisch (Sigourney Weaver), a once presidential candidate who is trying to make a name for herself in politics away from her promiscuous husband Bud Hammond (Ciarán Hinds). Bud just so happens to be a former president himself (Hilary and Bill Clinton anyone?). After losing the election Elaine accepts the position of Secretary of State which is where we meet her now. We also meet their two sons Doug (James Wolk), a seemingly political golden boy and Elaine’s chief of staff. He has an impending wedding and it is referenced multiple times in the episode that Elaine must be too busy planning the event  than to uphold her political duties (a false assumption mind you). Then there is Doug’s twin brother TJ (Sebastian Stan) an outwardly gay man who can’t seem to keep up with the pressures of being a member of the Hammond family. Rounding out the main cast is Susan Berg (Carla Gugino), a news reporter who has spent much of her career trying to undermine Elaine’s political attempts and whose biggest news story to date has been her coverage on Bud’s numerous affairs.

Although I feel that the writing could have been sharper, the pilot delivered some great zingers such as:

Never call a bitch a bitch, us bitches hate that.

He’s not your floor manager at Chili’s; he’s the President of the United States!

 I feel that this miniseries has some great potential, I like that all of the characters are likable but seem to have that hidden bag of bones buried in their closet.  I’m hoping this gets turned into a full fledged series but for now I’ll have to settle for 5 more episodes. However with a cast of such established actors I know that this project must NOT have come cheap.

For those of you unable to find the pilot episode in your local listings, the official Political Animals youtube page has uploaded the pilot episode (in its entirely) here. I’ve noticed quite a few shows using this practice and all I can say is 2 thumbs up! It’s a great way to give people a taste for your show while gaining some extra publicity. Below is a promo (shot mock-interview style!) where you meet many of the main cast. Overall I would say to give this series a shot, while not the most original concept I’m very intrigued how far the writers will be able to develop the story in such a limited amount of time.