Political Animals

Season 1 Episode 1


Aired Sunday 10:00 PM Jul 15, 2012 on USA
out of 10
User Rating
55 votes

By TV.com Users

TV.com Episode Review


    The Political Animals Premiere: Meet the Hammonds

    Political Animals is ambitious and awesome (awesomely ambitious?), but at its core, it's really just a story about a family.

  • Episode Summary

    In this series opener, the US Secretary of State tries to protect a shocking family secret all the while dealing with an Iranian hostage crisis.

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    • Irresistible leading trio, empathic relationships, feminism-driven story but stereotyped characters and questionable production (Spoiler-free)

      One actress to rule them all, Sigourney Weaver. The more I grow up the more I'm into politics but without her I would probably have ignored the miniseries. Now that I've seen its pilot I won't say that not giving Political Animals a chance would be a foolish mistake because it has some flaws. Otherwise this first installment shined in many departments so in the end it's really about what you expect from a show and which mistakes you're not ready to forgive.

      Lady Weaver is really the ultimate acting chameleon. She can become anyone and the characters she has played have become icons and changed the life of millions of people around the globe. Don't worry, she has plenty of scenes respectful of her inspiring talent. From thundering anger to contagious hilarity the palette of emotions she developed would make an interesting painting if you splashed all its dual colors on a canvas. Her character, Elaine Barrish, instantly grew on me because her profile felt realistic enough to make me care about her story. Contemporary and feminist. A valley of intelligence and beauty. Of course it's impossible not to compare her to Hillary Clinton but if you're interested by foreign cultures other names like Sgolne Royal should pop up in your head, and the reason will be obvious once you have seen the pilot.

      Around Elaine gravitates plenty of other characters, some are perfect matches when others couldn't be more stereotyped. Among the last we have the gay son, addicted to drugs The list of clichs is long but he has an excuse, his twin brother. Seriously ? As for a blogger she reminded me too much of Willa from Dirt, played by the gorgeous Alex Breckenridge, so let's hope she's not just one dimensional. However their respective roles are minor so they shouldn't ruin your experience. In fact each time Carla Gugino and Ciarn Hinds enter the stage you instantly forget about what went wrong a second earlier. The first already had my vote because I found her quite convincing in Threshold. Here she's a reporter named Susan Berg and I absolutely loved her dynamic and chemistry with Sigourney. From their complex mind games to well designed costumes most of their scenes are televisual diamonds. Sadly the only one that disappointed me was their last as it featured majestic animals behind bars and I found Elaine's metaphora way too literal. There was definitely room for improvements in order to make it memorable because it's what all great pilots require. Still the truthful moments they share, the one on the plane felt like a self-help session, are what you will remember. As for Hinds, Julius Caesar in Rome, my heart balances between skepticism and subjectivity. In the one hand the character he portrays, Bud Hammond, made the episode more entertaining but in the other hand if it wasn't for Elaine I would have definitely thrown him into the clichs trash. However they made a believable couple and the part featuring the bodyguards was brilliantly staged and delivered exactly what you would expect from a miniseries titled Political Animals.

      It leads us to the production quality because it's actually one of the show weakness. Apparently they didn't have the resources, time and budget, to polish all scenes as they would have wanted. Some are cinematographic when others, in the garage or at the zoo, are immersion breakers. Therefore it prevents the viewers from fully diving into their screen for more than an hour. Otherwise despite all these cons the pros should be numerous enough to convince part of the audience to watch all six episodes. I don't know yet if I'll be part of them but I'm sure of two things, Elaine Barrish's destiny intrigues me and Sigourney Weaver is an extraordinary womanimal !

      Note : This review was first posted on Kritikenstein, my weblog.moreless
    • A predictable series of false notes

      I don't like dumb TV, but what I really don't like is dumb TV masquerading as smart TV, which is why I so particularly didn't like the debut of Political Animals. The show wants you to think it's a smart show about politics, but it's actually a dumb soap opera full of two-dimensional characters.

      I began to have a bad feeling during Weaver's interview with the reporter, who was absurdly hostile. This proved even more aggravating when it turned out she was supposed to really be an okay person, even though her behavior was clearly that of an incompetent and unethical reporter. I saw almost every plot point coming ahead of time; this is a show that zigs exactly when you think it is going to zig, zags whenever you think it's going to zag.

      Not only is it predictable, but it is predictable based on lowest common denominator predictability; you can predict most shows once you get the feel of them, but my predictions for this one were always that it would do the dumbest, most obvious thing possible, and I wasn't wrong once.

      The show also hammers every point home; after Weaver leaves someone she slept with, she adjusts her skirt in a way that screams out, "I just had sex," and while it's a minor moment, it is indicative of the show's approach, which is to make sure with every gesture and meaningful glance that we understand exactly what is happening, with no nuance or ambiguity. It is like a paint-by-the-numbers landscape in which all the colors have already been filled in; badly.

      I will not watch this show again.moreless
    • Promising yet flawed start

      I felt at times that the show was *trying* to be edgy with the excess sex and the swearing just for the sake of it. I'm not at all against those things; I just don't think it added to the plot in any substantial waymost of the time. It was often more distracting than it was engaging. That said, Sigourney Weaver was fantastic as was Ellen Burstyn and I loved the complex relationship between Elaine and Susan. By far the best part of the show. And while I agree that the portrayal of TJ (the gay son) was a little stereotypical (the drugs, the anonymous sex, the 'stylist' routine) I also found much of it believable, given his character's circumstances. And I felt there was a real humanity to his pain, which made it forgivable. He was actually the character I found most compelling, besides Elaine and Susan. All in all, it wasn't perfect, but it was definitely worth watching, and I will be tuning in next week for sure.moreless
    Roger Bart

    Roger Bart

    Barry Harris

    Guest Star

    Meghann Fahy

    Meghann Fahy

    Georgia Gibbons

    Guest Star

    LaMonica Garrett

    LaMonica Garrett

    Agent Clark

    Guest Star

    Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


    • TRIVIA (0)

    • QUOTES (20)

      • Elaine: I did read your book about the impending fourth wave of feminism. Not bad.
        Susan: No one read my book.
        Elaine: Well maybe it was the title. When Bitches Rule.
        Susan: I was trying to reclaim the word.
        Elaine: Might have impacted your sales, after all never call a bitch a bitch, us bitches hate that.

      • Margaret: I know who you are honey, don't waste your time. They never let me talk on the record anyway, I'm either too drunk or too honest, or god forbid both.
        Susan: We're off the record tonight is just for, color.
        Margaret: Oh just for color. Well tell me do you have a boyfriend?
        Susan: Yes I do.
        Margaret: Is that right I always thought you were a lesbian. But you sure know how to throw yourself together unlike my daughter, but then she has stregnth of character, and your just a rotten little thing. Makes a living saying really smart and really nasty things about people. But, you got a boyfriend, how bout that. You must give one hell of a hummer lady.

      • Elaine: Thomas, Susan Berg has the story she knows about last December. She agreed not to run it if we let her cover me this week, so we stopped her but.
        TJ: It's okay, it's okay occupational hazzard right? Comes with being a Hammond. They only love us when they're not busy hating us.

      • TJ: I didn't get all the gay genes but I got the style one.

      • Elaine: Are you two actually drinking already?
        Margaret: TJ started it. He say's that you can't make Margarita's with Jack Daniels.
        TJ: Turns out you can and it's good.
        Margaret: I saw the attendee list why is that bitch Susan Berg coming?
        Elaine: Because that bitch is covering me this week, please do me the favour of not talking to her. Or if you must try not saying things like, the country didn't elect me because they didn't want to sleep with me.
        Margaret: It's true.

      • Margaret: If I had a rack like her'sI might still be getting laid. You know People magazine says the show actually has them insured.

      • Staff Member: It's the Middle East it's the diplomatic equilalent of instructions from IKEA, none of it makes any sense.

      • Susan: (About Georgia) She is the journalistic equivalent of a weather girl.
        Alex: Claws in. She looks up to you.
        Susan: No, I don't trust her. If Eve Harrington was an actual person today she would look like Georgia. She would bake cupcakes and she would have a blog.

      • Susan: (About Elaine) I forgot what a flaming bitch on wheels that woman is, whatever feud exists she started. I mean on little comment about her epitomising the death of feminism and they banned me from the White House for six year. I couldn't even go to the Easter egg roll, I love the Easter egg roll.

      • Douglass: How'd it go?

        Elaine: You remember what my mother called her?
        Staff Member: A bitch bitch with a capital C.
        Elaine: She undersold it, and I should know being a card carrying member of the club myself.

      • Elaine: What ae you really after?
        Susan: Like any good reporter Madamme Secretary I want the truth. Why did you ask you ex husband for a divorce that night? Was he too much political baggage for you to recreate yourself in the face of such a set back? Or did you just think your political career was over so you no longer had to tolleratehis rampant infidelity? Were you surprised at the publics reaction to the split, that the President was suddenly dispised for the same repugnant sexual behaviour the country use to find rougish and cute? But you were suddenly beloved after having been viewed so long as a cold and calculating political animal. And lastly do you regret staying with him for so long, was it worth it? You didn't get the grand prize, the gold glittering tiara of the Presidency.

      • Elaine: Did you enjoy the ass grab Victor. Good, because the next time you touch me, I'm gonna rip off your tiny shrivelled balls, and serve them to you in a called borsch soup. (In Russian) I wil f-- your shit up. Do you hear me?

      • Susan: Any truth the the rumour that you turned down veat position and asked for stated?
        Elaine: I'm on record as saying I did not wanna be Secretary of State.
        Susan: But you said yes.
        Elaine: I'm old fashioned that way, when the President asks you to serve, you serve.

      • Susan: So that was it after 32 years of marriage you were compelled to ask for a divorce the night you conceded the nomination.

        Elaine: It's not news that journalists have accused me of divorcing my husband for political gain, It's just, they don'tusually work for the nations leading paper Miss Berg.
        Susan: When he was President you stayed, you left when you lost your shot at the Presidancy it's a fair assumption that politics had something to do with it.
        Elaine: You won a Pulitzer in your twenties for covering his affairs did you not?
        Susan: I did.
        Elaine: Im curious, what is it like launching you career by stepping on the throat of someone elses marriage?
        Susan: His adultary was a story, I covered it.
        Elaine: No Pulitzer to speak of since though.
        Susan: No.

      • Elaine: (About Bud) It's okay Sam if I wanted to assassinate him I would've done it years ago, in his sleep.

      • Margaret: I need a drink. Just give me two fingers with a little Diet Coke, I have to watch my figure.
        TJ: Come on you're a hottie Grandma.
        Margaret: All you homo's love me. It's the rich straight guys I'm worried about.

      • Girl: Why can't you run again Mr President?
        Bud: Would if I could honey. Would if I could.

      • Elaine: Although we wee not successful in securing the nomination, this campaign has had so many victories, and I want to say something to the young women and little girls who joined our cause. Please don't be discouraged by my loss, as sure as I stand here and because I stand here. One day one of you will be the President of the United States of America, and that is a day this woman plans on living to see.

      • Male Reporter: That sound of the Hammond family now entering the ballroom. First is Douglas Hammond with his girlfriend Anne. Douglas taking a leadership role in his mothers campaign, some say he has quite a future of his own in politics, and of course directly behind them is Thomas refered to as TJ in Hammond circles. Everyone kept waiting for his homosexuality to be an issue but no, it never was. The Governor's mother is now entering the room always a fixture in a Hammond campaign, dating back to both of Bud Hammond's successful runs for the Presidancy. If you can'thear anything that's because Bud Hammond just entered the room, man they love this guy. Former Preseident Hammond got himself into trouble in the last six months, calling to question, Garcetti's competancy for the job. The Governor's theme song signallling her entrance. This kind of enthusiasm is usually reserved for her husband,but it's not his name they're shouting now.

      • Andrea Mitchell: (Opening news address and voiceover) What as day for American politics, former First Lady, Governor of Illinois and canidate for President of the United States, Elaine Barrish Hammond, just minutes from addressing the packed ball room at the Radcliffe Hotel in Chicago. There'snot much you can say about the Governor that hasn't already been said. She's been called everyhting from a feminist liberal icon to an opportunistic closet conservative. Cold and Ambitious to warm, charming and unfairly maligned. But no matter your opinion you have to admire what she's accomplished, domocrat or republican, man or woman, watching the room it's impossible not to feel a sense of history today.

    • NOTES (3)

    • ALLUSIONS (1)

      • Susan:If Eve Harrington was an actual person today she would look like Georgia.

        This is a reference to the character of Eve Harrington as played byAnne Baxter in the 1950 film All About Eve.